This week’s Ketchup covers ten headlines from the realm of film development news from the last seven days. Included in the mix this time around are stories about such movies as The LEGO Batman Movie, The Little Mermaid, Sherlock Gnomes, Toy Story 4, and the Richard Pryor biopic.
When the animated musical Gnomeo and Juliet was something of a surprise box office hit ($194 million on a budget of $36 million) in 2011, a sequel was quickly announced. Animated movies do however take a while to produce, and so we’re still a few years away from that movie’s release, which is now scheduled for January 12, 2018 (MLK weekend). This week, however, we did learn more about the sequel, which will be called Sherlock Gnomes, as the title character investigates a series of garden gnome disappearances around London. Sherlock himself will be voiced by Johnny Depp, who will make his return to animation, after last providing the voice of the lead character in another 2011 animated movie, Rango. Sherlock Gnomes will be directed by John Stevenson, who previously codirected DreamWorks’ 2008 hit Kung Fu Panda. Elton John, who provided several songs for the first Gnomeo & Juliet soundtrack, will be one of the producers of Sherlock Gnomes, though it’s unknown what his musical contributions will be. Sherlock Gnomes will be distributed by Paramount Pictures, and the studio also announced dates for some other animated movies this week. The sequel SpongeBob Squarepants 3 is now scheduled for February 8, 2019, and the original film Amusement Park is scheduled for March 22, 2019. The voice cast of Amusement Park will include Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Jeffrey Tambor, and Kenan Thompson. Details are being kept tight right now, but it’s a pretty good guess that Amusement Park probably takes place at an amusement park.
Comedian Tracy Morgan is continuing his rehabilitation and return to acting following his horrible 2014 car accident. Tracy Morgan recently hosted Saturday Night Live, and will also costar in the comedy Fist Fight with Ice Cube and Charlie Day. For his next project, Tracy Morgan is in talks to take on the role of comedy great Redd Foxx. If a deal can be made, Tracy Morgan will costar in Lee Daniels’ untitled biopic of comedian Richard Pryor as one of Pryor’s mentors, Redd Foxx. Specifically, Redd Foxx will be portrayed (pre-Sanford and Son) as “a brash comedian who owned a local comedy club and encouraged Pryor to open up in his act and embrace his culture.” Richard Pryor will be played by Mike Epps, and will be joined by Kate Hudson (as his wife, Jennifer Pryor), Oprah Winfrey (as his grandmother), Taraji P. Henson and Eddie Murphy (as his parents). It’s not yet known if Eddie Murphy, who was also a friend of Richard Pryor’s as a young comedian, will also be a character in the movie.
Following last year’s success with Boyhood, the year 2015 has seen much anticipation about which film director Richard Linklater will do as his follow-up. For a while, it had seemed like Richard Linklater would be working with Jennifer Lawrence on a romantic comedy called The Rosie Project, but then both Lawrence and Linklater left that project. It didn’t take long for Linklater to find a new job, working on an adaptation of the 2012 best seller novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by author Maria Semple. Cate Blanchett is now in talks to star as the title character, “an agoraphobic architect and mother named Bernadette Branch who goes missing prior to a family trip to Antarctica.” The book is narrated by her 15-year-old daughter who leads the search to find her mother.
There was something of a miscommunication online this week, leading to reports that pop singer Mariah Carey had been cast as Commissioner Jim Gordon in The LEGO Batman Movie (crazier things have happened). It turns out that Carey will indeed costar in this LEGO Movie spinoff, but it won’t be as such a famously male character. Instead, she will provide her voice as the Mayor of Gotham City, not its police commissioner; it’s not yet known if she will also be singing in the movie. Mariah Carey joins the previously cast Will Arnett (Batman), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl), Michael Cera (Robin), Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), and Ralph Fiennes (Alfred). Warner Bros has scheduled The LEGO Batman Movie for February 10, 2017.
We’ve known for a while now that Pixar and Disney had scheduled a fourth Toy Story for June 15, 2018. That initial announcement came with confirmation that Tim Allen and Tom Hanks will reprise their roles as Buzz Lightyear and Woody. And when the premise was revealed to be about a romance between Woody and Bo Beep, Annie Potts was announced as well. This week, we learned about a new character for Toy Story 4, and it’s going to be a major human character. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood, True Romance) will provide the voice of “a laid-back mom who’s described as a hippie.” Toy Story 4 will be directed by John Lasseter from a script by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.
Earlier this years, the news broke that Matthew McConaughey would be starring in an untitled animated musical from Illumination Entertainment, the company behind the Despicable Me franchise, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and next summer’s The Secret Life of Pets. This week saw the release of character images for the musical, which will be called simply Sing, along with lots of new cast names and character descriptions. Sing will be set in a world of animals (much like Disney’s upcoming Zootopia), and follow the struggles of theater owner Buster the koala (Matthew McConaughey). In an attempt to revive his theater, Buster holds a musical competition, with five strong competitors emerging: a mouse (Seth McFarlane), an elephant (Tori Kelly), a mother pig (Reese Witherspoon), a “gangster” gorilla (Taron Egerton), and a punk rock porcupine (Scarlett Johansson). Other characters will be voiced by Beck Bennett, Leslie Jones, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Jay Pharoah, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, and Peter Serafinowicz. Sing will feature over 85 songs, and wil be directed by Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Universal Pictures has scheduled Sing for December 21, 2016.
In addition to the live action adaptations of fairy tales that Walt Disney Pictures has been making recently, there are also similar projects at other studios. Universal Pictures released Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012, and has also been developing a live action version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. (It should be noted that Disney has not yet announced plans for their own live action version of their 1989 animated movie.) Universal and Working Title’s version of The Little Mermaid seemed to hit a major snag earlier this year when director Sofia Coppola left the project. But now we know that the movie is still in the works. Working Title has hired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who has also directed the movies Love Actually, Pirate Radio, and About Time) to work on a new adaptation draft, though he may not direct. Chloë Grace Moretz, who had been rumored for the title character when Coppola was involved, has now been confirmed for the role. (There are rumors that the casting of Moretz may have been an issue behind the departure of Coppola, who may have wanted a less famous actress.)
It’s long been something of a recurring joke that video gaming is the domain of a certain type of male (though statistics do not support that meme). The issue of gender in the video game industry took a dark turn in the last year during a series of events that has become known as “Gamergate.” It all started when the ex-boyfriend of video game developer Zoë Quinn wrote a negative blog about her, leading to Quinn being the target of harassment and threats (including rape and death). Zoë Quinn related her experiences in an upcoming memoir called “Crash Override: How to Save the Internet from Itself” (September, 2016). And now that memoir has been optioned to become a movie. Former Sony CEO Amy Pascal is the producer behind the project, and she has enlisted Lauren Schuker-Blum (the wife of Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum) to cowrite the script. Scarlett Johansson is reportedly “one of several young actresses who have their eye on the role of Quinn.”
When it was confirmed that 20th Century Fox would not be moving forward on plans for the Alien 5, it seemed like pretty bad news for South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie). Blomkamp had spent much of 2015 hyping his plans for a new Alien movie with Ellen Ripley, until Fox confirmed that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel would actually be called Alien: Paradise Lost. It sounds, however, like someone at 20th Century Fox is still looking out for Blomkamp and wants to continue working with him. Fox has acquired the rights to the upcoming sci-fi novel The Gone World by author Thomas Sweterlitsch, and the studio wants Neill Blomkamp to write and direct the adaptation. The details of the book aren’t yet known, except that it’s a “sci-fi time travel procedural.” 20th Century Fox is also nearing a deal with director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) to take on their Marvel Comics movie Gambit (starring Channing Tatum), which is scheduled for October 7, 2016.
The upside to all of the live action movies that Walt Disney Pictures has been adapting that audiences and critics continue to really like most of them (Cinderella is Certified Fresh at 85 percent, for example). So, with this week’s news, which can be interpreted both ways, there is something of a “bad news” angle to the idea of one of Disney’s planned movies being scrapped. The movie in question is called Genies, which was to have been a prequel to Aladdin, showing how that particular genie ended up in the bottle. However, the news broke this week that Robin Williams’ last will and testament had a 25 year provision preventing his likeness from being used in new films until the year 2039. And that appears to include Disney’s plans for Genies, because “production on the prequel has halted.” There will still be plenty of other live action adaptations of Disney movies in the years to come, such as The Jungle Book, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Pete’s Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, Cruella, Dumbo, Mulan, Night on Bald Mountain, Pinocchio, The Sword in the Stone, and Tink, but… a corresponding movie for Aladdin probably won’t be one of them.