For years, the Pixar team has talked about their central creative powerhouse – the “Brain Trust” of writers, directors, story artists and more – who help to guide each of their movies through difficult gestation periods. Given the remarkable level of success generated by the process, you’d think every studio in town would have tried it at least once. Well, Warner Bros. is getting into the game with a new attempt to crack the blockbuster animation film and has recruited the likes of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to head up their team.
The think tank will at first be comprised of Lord and Miller with Crazy, Stupid, Love co-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, The Muppets’ co-writer Nicholas Stoller and Bolt/Mr Popper’s Penguins writer Jared Stern.
Interestingly, none of the team – except for Requa and Ficarra – have had really strong attachments to Warners in the past (unlike Pixar’s bunch, which includes veterans John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter), and they’re all free to continue developing projects elsewhere.
The aim apparently will be to release one ‘toon a year at first under Warners’ main banner, kicking off with Lord and Miller’s Lego film next year, Stoller’s Storks (written by former Pixar man Doug Sweetland) in 2015 and Requa and Ficarra’s Smallfoot, which they’re writing from Sergio Pablos’ idea with Pablos himself lined up to direct, for 2016.
“Warner Bros. has an extraordinary legacy in the world of animation, including some of the most enduring characters in cinema history,” Warner Pictures group president Jeff Robinov tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Looking to the future, we have now gathered some of the best and brightest talents in the industry to help us grow and broaden that legacy. Drawing upon their imaginations and inspiration, the studio will produce a slate of new and original animated films that are sure to delight audiences of all ages.”
This all sounds like a sensible plan to us - the proposed team members are all accomplished filmmakers and bring their own quirky sensibilities to the table, and it's about time that someone tried to take a look at what works at other studios and try to outdo them. With Mark Millar now taking a Kevin Feige-like overview of superhero movies role at Fox (albeit perhaps without Feige's clout) and this new move at Warners, it looks like studios are beginning to take a more collective approach to filmmaking - and that could be a good thing for fans.