Many insiders in the animation business may know the names Miracle Mouse or his creator Tom Hignite. A few years back Hignite made headlines (not all in a positive light) when this artist and home designer decided to try to crusade into the animation business and begin production of an animated Disneyesque 2D feature. He began by hiring a staff of ex-Disney and ex-Warner Brother’s artists who had been recently laid-off in the economy of down-sizing large animation studios. Three years into the slow animation process the main funding for Hignite’s studio dried-up as the national market for housing made Hignite downsize his main Home Designing and building business.
Hignite’s micro-studio continued at an even slower pace, now using one remaining ex-Disney artist and a group of free-lancers. The multi-million dollar budget for Miracle Mouse became what seemed like an impossible mountain to climb, but still the process continued on a hope and a prayer. A big benchmark of the project came last Fall when Hignite’s studio had it’s Milwaukee premiere of a highly polished, condensed 27 minute version of the feature. The audience was filled with animation professionals , art students, and the general public. Hignite commented,” it was the most exciting night I could imagine as we got to hear the laughs or applause from a live audience for the first time. The years of work could be for nothing as in 27 minutes, will will know if the film will be a hit or a bust depending on audience reaction”.
Gathering the test audience surveys, and hearing the after-show Q&A comments, the show was a success and , with the newest 115 minute feature’s re-tweaked script in hand, a full feature version of Miracle Mouse-Cranky’s Miracle went forward to the next steps. 4 artists now sit at animation tables in Hignite’s studio and the free-lancers still are in the pipeline. New custom music has been added, and their original animatic’s scratch voice actors have been replaced 10 days ago during a week-long trip to Hollywood California. Hollywood’s Margarita Mix audio studio did the recording of some bigger name stars with were added to the production. This is the first public announcement for the new cast and news of Hignite’s Hollywood working visit.
The lead role of the story’s protagonist was recorded with 95 year “young”, Oscar winning actor Ernest Borgnine. 3 -Time Emmy and Golden Globe award winner(and red-hot star of television’s highly rated Glee)Jane Lynch is the voice of the female lead goose, Mrs. Gander. Hollywood veteran Veronica Cartwright(Alien, Witches Of Eastwick, The Birds) is playing the smaller pivotal part of Mrs. Mole. The original long-time veteran voice-over actors Jeannie Elias and Danny Mann returned to re-voice the re-vamped script as the leading protagonist characters Miracle Mouse and his friend a beaver named Okey Doky. The role of narrator is voiced by 18 year ex-Disney animation veteran Philo Barnhart. Just as Philo’s father Dale had worked for many years alongside as a fixture at Walt Disney’s studio, Philo now a 4-year fixture at Hignite’s studio.
A recent news letter from the Animation Guild advertising a free-lance position for adding a background painter to the project, garnered over 80 interested artist’s replies. In an entertainment world where studios have seen Disney’s last 2D ventures not measure-up to the box office of the latest CGI features, Hignite is hoping that studio brass will realize that when no one is doing a certain type of entertainment vehicle(think The Entertainer in black and white and no dialog/silent movie, or Blair Witch Project), may be just the right path to a break-out, sentimental family blockbuster.
Miracle Studios will continue its’ path toward a finished film, but realizes that unless an investor or studio steps-in to accelerate the feature’s production schedule, the indie route in 2D will take quite some time to get to the finish line. “We are exploring some overseas studio help, but I started this dream by wanting to keep this as an American made film, so I am torn. We are hoping that once the film is in it’s full story animatic version, that the highly polished methods we are using for that unique animatic version will open doors. As you can see from our story panel work, the painstaking quality of the finished illustrations will allow us to enter a larger film festival such as Cannes or Sundance, under the experimental catagory. The higher the visibility, or the more early awards we can garner for the film, the more likely it is that we will be able to interest a distributor”, says Hignite optimistically.