One thing that’s become evident. It’s hard to kill a Smurf. After a sequel that saw its business nosedive next to the original, Sony Pictures Animation is changing course and planning a new take on its Smurfs franchise, tapping Shrek 2 and Gnomeo & Juliet director Kelly Asbury to helm an all-animated film with new designs and environments that will focus on the origins of the annoying blue creatures. The new take will be closer to creator Peyo’s original artwork, and it has been targeted for the August 2015 release. They originally planned a straight trilogy, but apparently they will take a mulligan on a second film which contributed to all the heat Sony Pictures brass received from the likes of Daniel Loeb on a subpar 2013 returns.
EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Asbury is in negotiations to direct Kazorn & The Unicorn for Sony Pictures Animation. Asbury co-wrote and directed 2011 Gnomeo and Juliet for Disney and co-directed Shrek 2 in 2004. Kazorn & the Unicorn follows the adventures of a young man and a unicorn as he seeks to locate a powerful weapon and prove his worth to his true love. Lloyd Taylor is writing the Unicorn screenplay. Sam Raimi, Josh Donen and Russell Hollander are producing. Asbury is already scheduled to work with Sony Animation on Pooch Café, which he is writing. Asbury is also scheduled to direct Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, a live-action/CGI-animated feature for Elton John and David Furnish’s Rocket Pictures. Asbury is repped by UTA and attorney Nancy Newhouse-Porter
Kelly Asbury, who co-wrote and directed Disney’s Gnomeo and Juliet and co-directed Shrek 2, has been hired to write Pooch Cafe for Sony Pictures Animation, the studio announced today. The pic is based on Paul Gilligan’s syndicated comic strip, which features a mutt named Poncho who hangs out at the local Pooch Cafe with his canine pals to discuss the topics of the day. Asbury, repped by UTA and NewhousePorterHubbard, also co-directed the animated Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron. “Kelly’s wit and cinematic sensibility pairs wonderfully with the irreverent characters and wry comedy in the Pooch Café comic strip,” said SPA production president Michelle Raimo-Kouyate, who made the announcement “We’ve been looking for something to do with Kelly, and this was a perfect match.”
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures partners Elton John and David Furnish are launching their most ambitious movie project, one that will tell the story of John’s illustrious musical career. They are teaming with Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall on Rocketman, which they are calling a biographical musical fantasy that will weave together John’s life and his music. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and Furnish will produce. John will be executive producer and will play an active role in creating a film that will follow his life story from a child piano prodigy (who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music) to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era.
Rocketman will mark the second collaboration for John and Hall. When Hall adapted the 2000 feature Billy Elliot for the West End, John wrote the score for a production that moved to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. They’re planning an inventive way to cover John’s life and career: One device will be to feature choreographed sequences using John’s biggest hit songs. Those tunes will be part of the movie package and will drive a story that will cover the rough spots in John’s journey of self-discovery. …
Elton John’s Rocket Pictures And Kelly Asbury Follow ‘Gnomeo’ With ‘Will Gallows And The Snake Bellied Troll’
EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures is re-teaming with Gnomeo & Juliet writer/director Kelly Asbury on Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, a live-action/CGI-animated feature. Based on the first in a series of books by Derek Keilty, the film tells the story of a young cowboy who seeks justice in a world that mashes together fantasy and the Wild West. Andersen Press published the book last March. Rocket Pictures, which is Sir Elton John’s label formed to make family-themed film and TV projects, acquired the feature rights for a film that, like Gnomeo & Juliet, will have strong musical elements. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish will produce, and John will be executive producer.
“It’s a classic cowboy story for kids, set in an amazing world,” John said in a statement. “We think family audiences will love it.” Rocket and Asbury scored a sleeper hit with Gnomeo & Juliet, with James McAvoy and Emily Blunt the lead voices, and new songs by John. The film grossed just shy of $100 million domestically for Disney, and its worldwide gross was just over $190 million. Asbury co-directed with Andrew Adamson Shrek 2 and he also directed Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, both for DreamWorks. Both he and Rocket Pictures are repped by UTA.
Disney just released what it’s calling the “first image” for GNOMEO & JULIET, the greatest love story ever told, starring garden gnomes. Adapted from Shakespeare, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) with classic and original songs by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt: