The most unusual thing about this story is the idea of Warner Bros. getting back into feature animation, something that has not been a great strength of theirs in the past.
As much as I adore “The Iron Giant,” I can acknowledge based on what I know about that process that it is a good thing Warner shut down their feature animation division in ’99. Every now and then, you’ll see a studio get the idea that they should be making animated films so they can get a slice of that financial pie, and they’ll spend a lot of time and money to do so, and inevitably we’ll get one or two movies that cost way too much and underperform, and then the studios get right back out of that business. Remember when 20th Century Fox bought Don Bluth a giant animation studio in Arizona? You know… the one that was supposed to replace the giant animation studio that Bluth ran into the ground in Ireland? And do you remember when that entire thing went belly up about a year and a half later?
Animation requires a genuine devotion to the art form if you’re going to succeed at it. Pixar is Pixar because they weren’t just a vanity division of another company. They were built to create animated movies, and they give that process their full attention. They treat it seriously. They don’t just view their movies as “kid’s films” designed to plug into a release schedule window at a certain date. The reason studios rarely get it right when they try to spontaneously create an animation division is because they don’t understand how hard it is to make a great animated film, and part of that is finding just the right story to tell.
It looks like Warner Bros. has the first part of the process beat, though, because they’re finally planning to turn “Bone” into a film.
Jeff Smith’s epic story is one of the great accomplishments of comic book history, a sprawling fantasy about a family of small bald white creatures who are banished from their home, only to stumble into a valley where humans are being threatened by the Lord of the Locusts, drawing them into a battle. There are rat creatures and dragons and a girl named Thorn, and it is often very funny, always gorgeously drawn, and very, very hard to summarize. Jeff Smith wrote and illustrated the entire series, and his work is remarkable. They’ve tried to make a movie out of “Bone” before, and Smith has stayed heavily involved, determined not to let Hollywood ruin his baby.
I consider it very good news that P.J. Hogan has been hired to direct the film for Warner Bros., and I am curious to see how he adapts his style to animation. Patrick Sean Smith has also reportedly been hired to write the film, and it looks like Animal Logic is involved as producers, along with Dan Lin. Animal Logic is the CGI house behind “Legend Of The Guardians,” the Zack Snyder owl movie, and if they’re going to bring “Bone” to life looking like that, I’m all for it. That’s an exciting thought.
Whatever the case, it’s still early days here, and I hope Warner Bros. does this one right. The fact that they’re not making this all about setting up an in-house studio is encouraging. Instead, they’re partnered with a company that can do this sort of work, and they’ve got the right source material to start.