Chris Meledandri‘s Illumination Entertainment is working on a new animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas for Universal Pictures. Pete Candeland is set to direct with Meledandri producing. A writer has not yet been named. The Grinch‘s most recent screen appearance was Universal’s 2000 live-action version with Jim Carrey but Chuck Jones’ animated version from 1966 remains one of the most popular Seuss adaptations. The new version of The Grinch is Meledandri’s third Dr. Seuss project, and Illumination has developed a good relationship with Dr. Seuss author Theodor Geisel’s widow Audrey Geisel who will again serve as executive producer. Meledandri previously made Horton Hears A Who through Fox and Blue Sky Studios and The Lorax via Illumination for Universal.
EXCLUSIVE: After coming right out of the gate with the animated hit Despicable Me and turning it into a sequel and a just-opened 3D theme park ride at Universal Studios Orlando, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has set an untitled feature spinoff based on The Minions as its fifth feature film with Universal. The adorable yellow-colored critters that began as henchmen for Groo in Despicable Me are now leading men (?) for a film Universal will release in 2014.
The film is an original story that will introduce new characters and reprise others that originated in Despicable Me, but the focus is on the antics of the yellow fellows as they interact with human characters. The script is already written by Brian Lynch, and Pierre Coffin will direct and Kyle Balda will co-direct. Coffin co-directed Despicable Me and is helming the sequel with Chris Renaud, and the two of them also do the voices for The Minions. Balda co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax with Renaud for Illumination.
Universal has released a new trailer for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the third film from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. The film opens March 2, 2012.
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have posted the first teaser trailer for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the third film by Chris Meledandri’s Universal-based family film division. Meledandri cultivated a relationship with Audrey Geisel, the widow of Theodor Geisel, when he ran Fox Animation and they turned Horton Hears a Who …
UPDATE, 10:47 AM: Paramount Pictures has confirmed that David Stainton is its new head of animation. The press release is below Deadline’s original break.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 10:23 AM: Paramount Pictures is hiring David Stainton to be head of Paramount Animation, the division it launched during the summer to generate one toon a year starting in 2014. Paramount’s launch coincided with speculation that Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount would have a parting of the ways when the DreamWorks Animation distribution deal ends December 31, 2012. Stainton is a good get. He spent 17 years at Disney, rose to president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and oversaw the studio’s animation facilities in Paris. Most recently, he had been CEO of Henry’s World Media, a family film producer. I’m told that Stainton will report to Paramount Motion Picture Group president Adam Goodman. The studio’s goal is to build a family film/CG animation unit from scratch, the way that Chris Meledandri did with Fox Animation and most recently for Universal with Illumination Entertainment. Paramount’s first homegrown foray into CG animation came with the Gore Verbinski-directed Rango with Johnny Depp. That was a pricey film, but it is looking good in the Best Animated Film category at the upcoming Oscars. Building an animation unit takes time and an executive with vision, and clearly Paramount brass thinks it has found that person in Stainton. Expect an announcement perhaps today.
Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment is continuing to ramp up its infrastructure by bringing two crucial hires onto its leadership team. The four-year-old company made several additions earlier this year, and now, Meledandri has announced the hirings of Brooke Breton as a senior production executive and Kit Giordano as Director of Development. Simultaneously, Kristin Wong-Ward has been promoted into the creative executive role.
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Illuminaton Entertainment have acquired the rights package to make a film based on the 60 Minutes segment Gospel for Teens. Illumination Entertainment’s Chris Meledandri has made the project his company’s first live action family film deal, and he will produce with Escape Artists’ Todd Black. The script will be written by Stephen Belber, who is currently adapting the book Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun, as a potential starring vehicle for Jamie Foxx. Belber most recently sold The Long Run to Sony and Overbrook Entertainment, and he wrote and directed the Jennifer Aniston-Steve Zahn-starrer Management. The rights package was brokered by ICM.
EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment chief Chris Meledandri has hired Ashley Kramer to be EVP of Production and Gail Harrison to oversee Creative Marketing. The move signals expansion plans for the 4-year-old Universal Pictures-based company, whose first release Despicable Me grossed $540 million worldwide. At a time when recent underwhelming results from animation releases like Mars Needs Moms has some second-guessing the animated feature game all the way down to 3D prices, Meledandri is adding executives with the intention of doubling Illumination’s output to two films per year by 2012 or 2013. The company’s next release, the live action/CG mix Hop, will be released by Universal on April 1.
“With Despicable Me behind us, the impending release of Hop, The Lorax in production and a Despicable Me sequel in early stages, it was time to properly scale the company and begin to solidify the team that will lead us as we move forward,” Meledandri told me. “With our output rising from our current schedule of one movie per year, it became imperative that we supplement the staff with additional key executives who can help the company grow. These two new hires are the first of a few key positions we will be filling.”
Meledandri said that Harrison will be helpful in what he sees as a major priority for Illumination: bolstering the efforts of Universal’s marketing team and brand building on each family film release. Part of that is an emphasis on supplying “vast amounts of content generated in the films to exist outside the films themselves.” Meledandri noted that Despicable Me yielded over 15 minutes of extra original content. “Some of it was used for DVD, some for interstitial material that ran on the NBC networks, and some we used in conjunction with our promotional partners,” he said. There will also be a greater emphasis on promotional tie-ins like the one announced this morning by Universal, which tied in Walmart to promote Hop.
As for Kramer’s hire, it signals that Illumination will acquire more projects, but not that many. Meledandri is determined to keep a development ratio of 3.5 projects bought for each one made. “That’s dramatically different from the studio average, and it makes it harder for people submitting projects because we are extremely selective,” Meledandri said. “The good thing is, their chances of a film getting made from something we’re developing is very high.”
Meledandri said when Illumination ups its output, the second film won’t be another 3D CG animated feature. “We can’t make two fully animated films year in and out; we’re not set up to do it and the films are too work-intensive,” he said. “We’ll get to our two pictures per year target from all sources combined. That means one could be stop-motion, a hybrid, or live action that bolsters our steady flow of fully animated films.”
Hop will be released by Universal on April 1st. It’s the second toon from Chris Meledandri and Illumination Entertainment (the folks who gave us Despicable Me). A teaser went out in November, but this is the first full trailer:
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment are teaming with Tezuka Productions to turn the Japanese Manga Pluto into a live action/CG hybrid film. Pluto, which married a beloved Japanese cultural figure with the writer Naoki Urasawa and artist Takashi Nagasaki, has sold 8 million copies in Japan. The series updates characters from the Osamu Tezuka-created Astro Boy and sets the action in a world populated by giant robots and cybernetic citizens. Illumination, formed by former Fox Animation head Meledandri, came out of the gate this summer with a hit in Despicable Me. Meledandri follows with Hop, a live action/CG mix that bows April 2, 2011, with Russell Brand voicing the Easter Bunny. Right behind that is Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, the Ricky Gervais-created Flanimals, a new stop-motion version of The Addams Family with Tim Burton directing, and a sequel to Despicable Me, which has so far grossed north of $360 million worldwide.
Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Game Plan Includes ‘Despicable Me’ Sequel, ‘Minion’ Spinoffs, Dr. Seuss, The Addams Family
EXCLUSIVE: Three years ago, Universal Pictures brass wooed Chris Meledandri away from his president post at Fox Animation to start its first family film unit. Over the weekend, Illumination’s first effort, Despicable Me, nearly doubled …