Feature Film

Warner Animation Group’s New Strategy: Rebooting Vintage Cartoon Characters

The last two original animated films that Warner Animation Group (WAG) has released – Storks and Smallfoot – haven’t quite excited audiences the way that the studio had hoped, so the studio is returning to safer grounds: reboots of vintage IP that it owns from the Warner Bros., MGM, and Hanna Barbera libraries.

According to a piece today in Variety, WAG is currently developing no less than seven fully-animated or hybrid features based on classic characters.

This represents a significant shift from WAG’s earlier strategy of developing a close-knit creative “think tank” that would create original filmmaker-driven films. The new reboot strategy is being overseen by WAG executive Allison Abbate, as well as Jesse Ehrman and president of production Courtenay Valenti.

One of the films being being fast-tracked is a hybrid version of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s MGM creation Tom and Jerry, the hyperviolent cat-and-mouse duo who starred in over 160 theatrical shorts between 1940 and 1967, and who have appeared in countless series and direct-to-video projects ever since.

WAG has attached a new director, Tim Story, to Tom and Jerry, which it has been trying to get off the ground for at least a decade. Story, who has directed live-action films like Barbershop, Shaft, and the Ride Along series, will shoot the cat-and-mouse pic in 2019.

According to Variety:

[T]he plan is to shoot in the real world with animated versions of the familiar cat and mouse duo. Sources also say that since Tom and Jerry didn’t speak and relied on physical comedy to draw laughs, this version will stick to that style and not cast actors to voice the duo. That decision should also help add to the international appeal of the film.

Besides Tom and Jerry, here’s a list of all the classic cartoon feature films they’ve currently got in development:

  • Scooby Doo animated (Chris Columbus as creative producer; Tony Cervone directing)
  • Space Jam 2 hybrid (Ryan Coogler producing; Terence Nance directing)
  • Wile E. Coyote vs. Acme hybrid (Chris McKay developing the film)
  • The Jetsons (Matt Lieberman/Conrad Vernon developing the film)
  • The Flintstones
  • Wacky Races

Image by Gabriel Lima.

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