DreamWorks Animation had a very entertaining show and tell for its 2010 slate today. The animation powerhouse showed extended scenes of the Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt voiced “Megamind,” a nice chunk of “Shrek Forever After” and an almost completed full cut of this March’s “How To Train Your Dragon.” And while all three were entertaining and fun to watch, the best part of the event came when “Dragon” stars Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson sat down to chat during a reception afterward.
Friends for 25 years, the Scottish duo met when they both met while studying at the University of Glasgow. Ferguson joked that Butler used to listen to his stand up act while they were in college and now he plays his sidekick in movies. “He’s the real star,” Ferguson says humbly.
“Dragon” centers around Hiccup, a young Viking voiced by Jay Baruchel who can’t live up to the warrior mantle of his father and village leader Stoick (Butler). Ferguson plays Gobber, Stoick’s longtime friend who runs the weapons armory where Buttercup works. The Viking’s village is regularly attacked by numerous different kinds of dragons and they have learned to stop all of them except for one in particular — the night fury. Hiccup eventually captures a fury — soon named toothless — and learns they might not be as vicious as his fellow Vikings believe.
Butler and Ferguson said they had the chance to record with Baruchel at one time, but that overall it’s been a pretty long process. Butler has been recording and re-recording every month or six weeks since “300” debuted in March 2007 and Ferguson has been on board for a year and a half. Needless to say the results are pretty impressive. The movie is embargoed from a full review at the moment and some shots were not completed, but its certainly up there with “Kung Fu Panda” as one of DreamWorks Ani’s best films. “Dragon” features beautiful character animation (gorgeously lit by none other than Roger Deakins), some genuinely perilous moments and this pundit may have been close to being a tad verklempt at the end. In fact, while the movie is clearly it’s own animal, er, dragon, it feels closer in town to a Pixar film than of DreamWorks previous releases. That’s not to say it’s trying to be one, but there is an artistic seriousness here the filmmakers pull off that takes it to another level (you could say the same for the stop-motion “Coraline” for instance).
The rest of the conversation with Butler and Ferguson was a bit to bawdry to be repeated here (perhaps due to the fact it wasn’t being recorded), but I was able to ask Ferguson his thoughts on the current Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien fiasco.
Ferguson, who has hosted “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” since 2005, finds it ironic that he and Letterman are being lauded for their stability, but overall seems to be over the whole mess. “I feel like an AIG executive,” Ferguson joked. He added that there’s something wrong about all these white millionaires complaining about their shows and money.
We couldn’t agree more…it appears many in the industry are getting sick of it. So, with that in mind, back to the movies. Here are some quick thoughts on the other two projects DreamWorks previewed.
Director Tom McGrath the voice behind the penguin Skipper in the “Madgascar” movies and the co-director of both introduced about 10-15 minutes from the beginning of the movie explaining this is a superhero tale from the point of view of the villain. Will Ferrell voices Megamind, who turns out to be an Alien kid who was dumped in a prison courtyard and turned to the bad side, Brad Pitt is the Elvis-inspired do-gooder Metro Man and Tina Fey is Roxanne Ritchi, the news reporter and Metro Man love interest that has been kidnapped as part of Megamind’s plots so many times that McGrath says the pair have developed a rapport similar to a long married and squabbling couple. The scene we were shown found Metroman wowing the crowd at the opening of the Official Metroman Museum (looking like a shrine) until Megamind shows up with his latest nefarious scheme. He’s kidnapped Roxanne – yet again — and Metroman races to find her at an abandoned observatory. Except, she’s really not there. Almost stunned himself its all falling into place, the bumbling Megamind seemingly kills – defeats (it’s unclear) Metro Man and, um wins. The clip ended and McGrath said the rest o the story finds Mega realizing it’s not so much fun when you don’t have an adversary and he ends up creating one to entertain himself in Titan voiced by Jonah Hill (also a voice in “Dragon”). The animation was definitely in the very early stages, but there were certainly some laugh out loud moments. Here’s hoping they don’t make the mistake of playing too young. The older and hipper this movie is, the better it could do overall.
“Shrek Forever After”
New director Mike Mitchell introduced the 30 minute semi-finished, non-3D clip that sets up the fourth and final “Shrek” movie. It turns out, right before Shrek rescued Fiona in the first installment, her parents, the King and Queen of Far Far Away, almost signed their kingdom over to Rumpelstiltskin in order to save her from years of imprisonment. Still smarting from that loss (Rumpel makes his deals in magic contracts), he’s been looking for a way to seek revenge ever since. Meanwhile, like many fathers, Shrek is tiring from the repetitive daily schedule of raising three kids, er, ogres and — for lack of a better word — de-mmasculinization as a non-threatening ogre. When Rumpelstiltskin offers him a chance to live one day in a world where he’s hated and feared (his dream) all he has to do is give up one day of his life when he was a baby — little did he know that turned out to be his birthday. With no Shrek, the King and Queen sign the contract to free Fiona, Rumpel gains control of Far Far Away and history is forever changed (get that?). These scenes were funny, but a bit darker than you’d expect. Thankfully the animation was pretty spot on as more and more detail has been added to the Shrek world. It will be curious to see how the complete project turns out when it opens on May 21.
One thing is clear, with Pixar taking 2010 off, animation belongs to DreamWorks and they have every intention of delivering the goods.