2013 marks the launch of DreamWorks Animation’s new distribution deal with Twentieth Century Fox Film and, on Tuesday morning, ComingSoon.net attended a special event at the Culver City studio. Amping their output to three films a year, DreamWorks Animation showed off a preview of what next year has to offer, including The Croods, Turbo and Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Moving in reverse release date order, director Rob Minkoff introduced a first look at Mr. Peabody & Sherman, beginning with a teaser trailer of sorts.
Opening with classic animation of the characters from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” the scene pulls back to reveal the young Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) watching the cartoon on a monitor in the WABAC machine. He tells Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) that the characters look awfully familiar and Peabody explains that that’s what they both looked like in 1959. Now, Peabody says, they’re going to have to travel to the future and the year 2013.
“What’s there?” Sherman asks.
“Our movie,” Peabody retorts as the logo comes up.
“Our movie begins with a typical time-travel adventure,” Minkoff says, “with Peabody and Sherman traveling to the French Revolution to meet Marie Antoinette. When Sherman wanders off in search of cake, the pair wind up on the wrong side of the peasant uprising.”
Although the animation was still in a very rough stage, a lengthy scene was showcased in which Peabody has been captured and sent to the guillotine. Although Sherman is quite worried, Mr. Peabody doesn’t break a sweat and easily escapes his captors, taking himself and his boy on a chase through the sewers, pursued by Robespierre who, after catching up to the duo, engages in a swashbuckling match with Peabody.
Stylistically, the film seems to be very much in tone with the original “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” with Burrell and Charles matching the original characters’ voices perfectly and the comedy aiming for a a very specific balance between Peabody’s dry wit and Sherman’s youthful naivete.
The scene ends with the duo returning to present day and to Peabody’s high rise penthouse where Sherman has to prepare for his very first day of school.
“Mr. Peabody and Sherman have always done everything together,” Minkoff says, “But that’s all about to change.”
The next scene gives us a look at Sherman’s first day of class (with a temp soundtrack featuring Mark Mothersbaugh’s Rushmore score). Happy to be there, Sherman is fitting in quite nicely and seems to know all the answers in his history class (he has, after all, experienced most of the events firsthand). Sherman’s knowledge is not appreciated, however, by Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter), the class’ former top student.
Skipping ahead a bit, we learn that Penny and Sherman got in a fight and that Mr. Peabody has been called in to speak with the principal. It seems that, after Penny called Sherman a dog, he bit her. There we also meet Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney), a Nurse Ratched-style disciplinarian who tells Peabody that the school will be investigating whether or not a dog makes for a suitable parent.
“What is Mr. Peabody to do?” Minkoff continues. “He decides to invite Penny and her parents over for dinner to try to broker a peace. But while Mr. Peabody is busy entertaining the Petersons, Sherman is off trying to break the ice with Penny and things aren’t going so well.”
Sherman winds up telling Penny about the WABAC and, after they sneak of his room so she can see it, Penny insists that they travel somewhere (or, rather, somewhen).
“Mr. Peabody has the Petersons eating out of the palm of his hand when Sherman returns alone,” Minkoff explains, “Peabody asks Sherman quietly, ‘What happened to Penny?’ and he explains that he lost her in ancient Egypt. Mr. Peabody and Sherman set off to rescue Penny and thus begins our time-traveling adventure that will see our characters go to places and times such as the Italian Renaissance and the Trojan war. But time travel is a dangerous business and what ultimately hangs in the balance is the fate of the entire universe.”
As the presentation moves on to Turbo, director David Soren takes the stage.
“Turbo is an ordinary garden snail who has dreams of racing glory,” he says. “The movie itself is a mash-up of superhero and racing genres but, at its heart, it’s an underdog story in the vein of classics like ‘Rocky,’ ‘The Karate Kid’ and, my personal favorite, “Breaking Away.’”
The first scene shown is the film’s opening. Beginning at a racetrack, we pull back to find that Turbo (Ryan Reynolds), is actually watching a television broadcast late at night in a house where he can climb in an open window next to the garden where he lives. Totally caught up in the excitement of the sport, Turbo pretends to be a racer even when his somewhat grumpy brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti), tells him to stop fantasizing and go to bed.
“Turbo’s a dreamer and Chet’s a realist,” Soren adds, “Turbo’s an outcast in the snail community and Chet’s a respected member of it. They both live in the front yard of a house just over a hill in the San Fernando valley.”
Although the snail characters are very cartoony, the realistic Los Angeles setting is a huge part of the film’s visual style. The next scene exemplifies that, having Turbo look down on fast-moving city traffic, sighing as he realizes that he’s just too slow to be a racer. Suddenly, though, a huge truck rushes past and a gust of wind knocks him down onto the highway. Trying to stay alive, Turbo falls from car to car until he finally falls off the street altogether and onto the hood of a jazzed-up street racer about start a competition in the LA river basin. Turbo falls right through the car and into the engine. When the driver activates a nitrous tank, the snail is nearly drowned in chemicals and finally falls off the car with his body enveloped in a strange blue glow.
Turbo’s powers, it seems, aren’t limited to speed but, instead, mimic a number of car-themed traits. In the next scene, we see them begin to manifest for the first time with Turbo’s eyes lighting up like headlights, blinkers in his shell flashing and an alarm sounding when he tries to back up.
Before he has a chance to fully grasp his new abilities, Turbo (along with Chet) gets captured by the driver of the “Dos Bros” taco truck, Tito (Michael Pena), who takes them both to his after-work hobby, a late night snail race. There we meet quite a few streetwise snail racers like Samuel L. Jackson’s Whiplash, Maya Rudolph’s Burn and Snoop Lion’s Smooth Move.
Although Turbo makes short work of his competition in the initial race, he and Whiplash get into a trash-talking fight and they wind up agreeing to a new challenge: all the snails will race to the top of a nearby neon sign. Turbo thinks it’s going to be a piece of cake and takes off at top speed (to the tune of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”), running straight up a wall and along power lines. When he gets to the sign, however, he realizes that the line doesn’t go all the way. Unsure of what to do, he can only watch as the rest of the snails use their speed to bank off the edge of the line, flying through the air at the sign.
Although he lost the race, Turbo now seems to be in total awe of Whiplash and his gang, having learned that, while he’s got the abilities, they’ve got the experience.
Winding down the presentation was a full 35 minutes of The Croods, introduced by directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco.
“‘The Croods’ is the story of a caveman family that loses their cave,” says Sanders, “and they go on the world’s first family road trip to fine another.”
“This is the last chapter of the cavemen,” continues DeMico. “This is the time when humans left their caves and ventured out forever.”
Set in the fictional “Croodaceous era,” The Croods is decidedly a fantasy world rather than an attempt at a historical one. Each scene is packed with strange, colorful (and often scene-stealing) animals. Many of them are bizarre hybrids like hyena-lizards, giraffe-elephants and ram-ostriches. It’s all so colorful that the film looks more like Avatar than “The Flintstones.”
“It’s a time of great experimentation,” Sanders explains, “It’s like Mother Nature’s R&D period. You’re going to see a lot of animals and creatures that are either on their way to becoming extinct or animals that you’re going to recognize today.”
Emma Stone voices the protagonist, Eep, the daughter of a Nicolas Cage’s Grug and Catherine Keener’s Ugga. Their caveman family also includes Eep’s brother, Thunk (Clark Duke), grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman) and an unvoiced feral baby, Sandy. Eep opens the film with a voiceover alongside 2D cave painting animation, explaining that, in the world of cavemen, new things are taught to be feared and that it’s considered incredibly dangerous to leave one’s cave.
We see the daily routine of the Croods which involves stealing an egg from one of the ram-ostriches and fighting off all manner of beasts to get it back home. One of the interesting things about the character design is that the Croods are often depicted moving like actual neanderthals, slouching and oftentimes placing their knuckles against the ground to move on all fours.
One day, Eep crosses paths with a stranger named Guy (also Ryan Reynolds). Clad in the skin of a warthog, Guy is a more evolved human being who embraces curiosity and has learned to build tools and even fire. He also has a pet sloth who provides quite a bit of pantomime humor.
Naturally, Grug is not a fan of Guy but, after an earthquakes destroys the Croods’ home, the family winds up reluctantly teaming with the newcomer and setting off across a number of colorful landscapes (including a forest filled with land-whales and a dried out coral bed) for a distant mountain in the hopes of making a new home.