Arriving at the Cineplex is DreamWorks Animation “The Croods,” the so-called “world’s first modern family.” Make no mistake about it, “The Croods” are not your grandparents or parents “Flintstones” modern Stone Age family. As the lyrics to “The Flintstones” theme song go, “From the town of Bedrock, they’re a page right out of history.” “The Croods” are living in 3D animation pondering some of the age-old questions of “what is the point of all this? And “what are we doing this for?
DreamWorks latest animated project is a comedy adventure that follows Grug Crood and his family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime. For co-writers and co-directors Chris Sanders and Kirk Di Micco they too have been on a journey of a lifetime promoting their new project from the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival to press junkets in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Denver.
The dozens of radio, television and print interviews are nothing new for the dynamic animation duo, but there is increase pressure this time around for the studio’s latest film to succeed and succeed big at the weekend box office. DreamWorks “Rise of the Guardians” failed miserably upon its release last November prompting the studio to layoff several hundred workers.
Given Sanders and to a lesser extent Di Micco’s track record, “The Croods” should breathe new life into animation at the House of Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen. Sanders’ “How to Train Your Dragon” in 2010 earned an Academy Award nomination for DreamWorks, prompting production on two not yet released sequels as well as sparking a television series on the Cartoon Network, tons of merchandising, a Broadway-style ice skating show on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and the over-the-top arena spectacle which is currently on tour around the globe.
Prior to arriving at DreamWorks, Sanders was responsible for writing and directing “Lilo and Stitch” for the Walt Disney Studios as well as serving as a writer on many of the contemporary Disney animated flicks like “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin.” Di Micco worked on the 1998 movie “Quest for Camelot” and 2005’s “Racing Stripes.”
“The Croods” was Di Micco’s idea ignited more than nine years ago when he began working on the concept with actor John Cleese. It was originally going to be a stop-action motion picture from Aardman Animation, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, but Di Micco credits DreamWorks boss Katzenberg with pushing the project toward 3D.
And while the project changed production formats, the pair claims the heart of the movie has always been “family.” Di Micco says it is about “what it means to take risks in order to really live.”
Full of vibrant color, funny characters, dazzling animation, it is also a heart-warming tale that Sanders admits was full of emotional themes “that were gigantic. The biggest I ever, ever come across.”
“The Croods” is rated PG and features the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, and Cloris Leachman. And just like in Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch,” Sanders has a voice role in “The Croods” as Belt, a part that developed over time. Sanders adds that “we not only didn’t intent for him (Belt) to speak, which is actually something he shares with Stitch, but we really didn’t think he was going to move around at all.” The animator/writer/director says the character was really “just a belt. But as the film developed, he really became a bit of a star.”
The release of “The Croods” also marks the first in DreamWorks recently inked deal with 20th Century Fox to distribute its movies. After parting company with Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks is hoping that some of the success of 20th Century with its “Ice Age” franchise and other animated features like “Rio” will catapult its new movie to the top of the box office heap.