Netflix and Nickelodeon have formed a multiyear output deal to produce original animated feature films and television series for kids and families based both on the Nickelodeon library of characters as well as new IP.
The deal is an expansion of the existing relationship between the companies, which has already brought several titles to Netflix, including animated specials Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling and Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus. Also forthcoming are specials based on “The Loud House” and “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“Nickelodeon has generated scores of characters that kids love, and we look forward to telling wholly original stories that re-imagine and expand on the worlds they inhabit,” Netflix VP of original animation Melissa Cobb said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to continue collaborating with Brian Robbins, Ramsey Naito, and the creative team at Nickelodeon in new ways as we look to find fresh voices and bring bold stories to our global audience on Netflix.”
“Nickelodeon’s next step forward is to keep expanding beyond linear platforms, and our broader content partnership with Netflix is a key path toward that goal,” Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins said in a statement. “The Nickelodeon Animation Studio is home to the world-class artists and storytellers behind some of the most iconic characters and shows ever made, and our head of animation, Ramsey Naito, has been building on that legacy over the past year by ramping up development and production exponentially. The ideas and work at our Studio are flowing, and we can’t wait to work with Melissa and the Netflix team on a premium slate of original animated content for kids and families around the world.”
Turning an online game into a movie has its challenges, but it also provides some room for creativity, said executives who have worked on the films based on the iconic web product Angry Birds.
“When you have a project based on a book or comic book series, so much of that has been defined,” said producer John Cohen. “Everything is set in a mythology, and you’re translating it into a movie and trying very hard not to veer from what’s already been created. But with Angry Birds we’ve had this amazing opportunity where not a lot had been defined.”
Cohen and co-director Johnny Rice attended a special event for the home entertainment launch of The Angry Birds Movie 2 Nov. 9 at the Los Angeles Zoo. The sequel was available Oct. 29 on digital and debuted Nov. 12 on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Joining the returning cast, which includes Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Peter Dinklage, are Leslie Jones (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Rachel Bloom (TV’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Sterling K. Brown (TV’s “This Is Us”) and Eugenio Derbez (Dora and the Lost City of Gold).
In the sequel, a new threat emerges that puts both Bird and Pig Island in danger. Red (Sudeikis), Chuck (Gad), Bomb (McBride) and Mighty Eagle (Dinklage) recruit Chuck’s sister Silver (Bloom) and team up with pigs Leonard (Hader), his assistant Courtney (Awkwafina), and techpig Garry (Sterling K. Brown) to forge an unsteady truce and form an unlikely team to save their homes. Jones stars as Zeta, a new villain threatening the islands.
“We’ve got a lot of new characters; of course, the Leslie Jones Zeta character is a big new character,” said Rice. “She’s bigger than life in every way. Leslie brought a voice to the character that is just incredible. She really stands out in the movie as a huge force. And it’s kind of interesting as that’s the way our story works as well. She’s a force that comes into the world, into the birds’ world and the pigs’ world that just changes everything.”
“Our other big new character is Silver, voiced by Rachel bloom, and Silver is actually Chuck’s sister,” added Cohen. “Chuck, the Josh Gad character, is the bird who moves very fast. Everything about him is quick. He talks fast. He moves fast. And we started to ask ourselves, well, if he had a sister who shares the DNA, what would she be like? Silver’s superpower is that she thinks fast. And so she is hypersmart and is an engineering major at Avian Academy, which is the college on Bird Island. And when the birds and pigs come together in the movie and have to team up to fight these mortal enemies and for the very first time have to work together, Silver ends up as the leader of the group because she’s just the smartest and kind of the best people person.”
Because the animators are filling out the online game, “we bring our own experiences, our own life experience and attitudes into it,” said Rice. “I really connected with Red on the first one and in the second one as well, where I felt like I totally understood who he was. And the voice actors add a lot to that of course.”
Animators use the performances of the accomplished comedians who play the characters to inform the animation.
“Their comedic sensibility and their ad-libs and improvisation do so much to bring that character to life in a way that you couldn’t have even imagined,” Cohen said.
“The animators pay a lot of attention to every nuance in the voice,” Rice said.
“We film the actors to see their mannerisms. Even an eye movement or just a gesture can inform the animation of the character,” Cohen added.
The actors often recognize themselves in the animated pigs and birds that end up in the movie, Cohen said.
Bonus features on the sequel disc include a new mini movie “Live Stream,” DIY activities inspired by the film, behind-the-scenes featurettes with cast and crew, a feature on the birds at the L.A. Zoo, and six Hatchling shorts directed by Rice.
The baby bird Hatchling characters are played by children, rather than adults using child-like voices, which brings an authentic humor to the characters, said Rice and Cohen. The child actors are encouraged to be themselves, which provides for some surprising humor.
“They do the funniest things,” Rice said.
“It’s not ad-libbing in the traditional sense,” Cohen said. “It’s more just the weird things and the surprising things that kids might say and the way in which they would say them. We love to capture real kids’ voices and that’s what’s given the Hatchlings so much charm.”
The Hatchlings in Angry Birds 2 are played by Alma Versano, daughter of Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman); Genesis Tennon, daughter of actress Viola Davis; Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project); Jojo Siwa (TV’s “Dance Moms”); and Sunday and Faith, daughters of Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.
“Most of them it was their first time ever acting, and they were really, really fantastic,” Cohen said.
The DreamWorks Animation film Abominable is coming out on digital Dec. 3 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Dec. 17 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
With the biggest opening for an original animated film this year, according to Universal, Abominable features the voice talents of Chloe Bennet (Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”), Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winner Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story”), Eddie Izzard (Cars 2), Tenzing Norgay Trainor (“Liv and Maddie”), Albert Tsai (“Fresh Off the Boat”), Tsai Chin (The Joy Luck Club) and Michelle Wong (“Scandal”).
The film made $166.6 million at the worldwide box office.
In the story, teenage Yi (Bennet) encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in China. She and her friends Jin (Trainor) and Peng (Tsai) name him “Everest” and embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. The trio of friends has to stay one-step ahead of Burnish (Izzard), a wealthy man intent on capturing a Yeti, and zoologist Dr. Zara (Paulson) to help Everest get home.
Faith and family subscription service Pure Flix (pureflix.com) Oct. 24 will debut a new sitcom “Mood Swings,” starring Donna Mills and Crystal Hunt.
New episodes will be released every Thursday for eight weeks on the $10.99-per-month service (following a free trial).
In the comedy, created by Hunt (“One Life To Live,” “The Guiding Light”), four generations of women are thrown together by circumstance to live under one roof and survive in Los Angeles. Newly divorced from her mega-successful, controlling and philandering husband, Farrah (Hunt) is awarded the couple’s Malibu mansion along with an enormous mortgage and minimal financial support to take care of herself and 8-year-old son Ryder. Recognizing she needs an income, she decides to rent out rooms in her house in order to pay the bills.
In addition to Mills and Hunt, the series stars Robin Riker (“The Bold and the Beautiful,” “General Hospital”), Sophia Gasca (“Ballers”), Christina DeRosa (Bad Moms), Scott Bailey (“The Bay,” “Ray Donovan”) and Jason Earles (“Hannah Montana”) and Dyan Cannon.
The series is written by sitcom veteran Bob Colleary (“Golden Girls,” “The Facts of Life,” “Touched by an Angel”), Danielle Bisutti and Hunt, and directed by Sean Lambert (“The Larry Sanders Show,” “Kickin’ It,” “Grounded for Life”). Hunt is the executive producer.
“We felt there was a need for a great female ensemble comedy,” said Hunt in a statement. “Right now, you can only watch reruns of shows like ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Designing Women’ to enjoy a female-driven show. Our thinking was to embrace the legacy of these programs while adding a modern twist.”
Scottsdale Ariz.-based Pure Flix features faith, family-friendly and wholesome entertainment in the United States and Canada, according to the company, with a vision “to positively influence the global culture for Christ through media.”
The animated film The Swan Princess will be released Oct. 29 in a collectible anniversary edition Blu-ray and in 4K HDR on digital from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for its 25th anniversary.
One of the last major theatrically-released films in the U.S. to utilize a hand drawn, hand painted cel animation style, the film went on to receive a 1995 Golden Globe nomination and become the top selling home video title in the United States when first released.
To celebrate the new release, creator and producer Seldon Young is bringing the film back to the big screen for a special Pink Carpet Premiere event showcasing the new, fully remastered version at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood Oct. 24.
“For the restoration and remastering process we retrieved the vintage, vaulted negatives and set to work using the amazing advances in HD conversion technology, to create an even more vivid and stunning film than ever before,” said Young in a statement.
The story is inspired by the German fairytale and ballet about a princess who is swan by day and princess by night. Princess Odette is transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s spell. Held captive at an enchanted lake, she befriends Jean-Bob the frog, Speed the turtle and Puffin the bird. Despite their struggle to keep the princess safe, these good-natured creatures can do nothing about the sorcerer’s spell, which can only be broken by a vow of everlasting love.
The Blu-ray release includes a new featurette entitled “A Look Back, Tease Ahead,” plus a variety of additional archival features.
Roku has announced the addition of the “Kids & Family” service on the Roku Channel, making it easy for children and parents to find a selection of tailored content available for free and through premium subscriptions, according to the company.
In addition, Roku is rolling out parental control features for the Roku Channel.
“We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options,” said Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement, Roku, in a statement. “’Kids & Family’ not only provides a selection of great free, ad-supported content from partners like pocket.watch with ‘Ryan’s World’ and Lionsgate’s ‘Leapfrog,’ but also highlights kids’ entertainment from existing premium subscriptions partners. Parents looking to find great programming for their children will enjoy the ease of going to the Roku Channel as their one place for kids and family entertainment.”
“Kids & Family” delivers a blend of shows, movies, and live linear and short-form video typically found across multiple free and paid kids’ channels and brings them together to watch in a single place, according to a Roku release. In addition to free, ad-supported options, users who have already subscribed to premium subscriptions through the Roku Channel will be able to view subscription-based kids and family content from partners such as Hopster, Noggin and Zoomoo, as well as children’s entertainment from services such as HBO and Starz, directly within “Kids & Family.”
Roku’s in-house editorial team created the “Kids & Family” experience to feature series, movies and entertainment for kids, according to the release. It offers 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes from more than 20 partners such as All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, among others. Programming includes shows such as “Care Bears,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Leapfrog,” “Little Baby Bum,” “My Little Pony,” “Rev & Roll,” “Super Mario Brothers” and “Thomas & Friends”; live/linear streams featuring 24/7 kids programming available from Moonbug, pocket.watch and partners powered by Xumo, including Ameba, BatteryPop and KidGenius; five exclusive episodes of 22-minute series “Ryan’s World” by pocket.watch available directly on the Roku Channel for the first time; and premium subscriptions from Blue Ant Media’s ZooMoo, CONtv, Dove Channel, HBO, Hopster, Noggin, Starz or Up Faith and Family through the Roku Channel, featuring such series as “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer,” “PAW Patrol,” “Peppa Pig” and movies including Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand and Muppets Take Manhattan.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to expand our reach with the quickly growing audience on the Roku Channel,” said Chris M. Williams, founder and CEO, pocket.watch, in a statement. “Family time is often enjoyed in the living room where Roku is so successful and we’re thrilled to bring our biggest creator partners, like Ryan from ‘Ryan’s World,’ into the heart of the home through the new pocket.watch channel.”
“Kids & Family” will have approximately 40% of the advertising time of traditional linear television, according to Roku. Lego Systems has signed on as the first advertising sponsor of the service.
“Roku offers a custom experience that will help us connect with our kid and family audiences, who are consuming content on an evolving array of platforms,” said Michael McNally, senior director at the Lego Group, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be the exclusive sponsorship partner in ‘Kids & Family’ on The Roku Channel.”
PIN-based playback controls to the Roku Channel help parents set access limits to content based on ratings within the Roku Channel. If the setting is enabled, a PIN will be required in order to view videos on the Roku Channel based on the content rating.
“Kids & Family” is now available to users of the Roku Channel in the United States and will be available on Roku devices, via the Web and on select Samsung smart TVs that access the Roku Channel.
Adventures of Dally & Spanky, about a real-life dog and pony friendship popularized on the Web, will be released on DVD and digital Sept. 10 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Inspired by the true animal friendship of a Jack Russell Terrier and a rescued miniature horse, the film stars Brenna D’Amico (TV’s “Descendants”), whose father is played by country music star Trace Adkins, and Reylynn Caster (TV’s “American Housewife”) as half-sisters whose animal companions form an unlikely bond.
Elaine Hendrix (The Parent Trap) and Denise Richards (Starship Troopers) also star.
The story follows Addy and Ella, teenaged half-sisters with little in common. When 17-year-old Addy loses her father, she retreats from her family and struggles to deal with his loss. Ella, with her dog Dally, reaches out to create a bond with Addy and Spanky, the miniature horse she’s just inherited from her father. The animals quickly become a dynamic duo thanks to Addy and Ella’s training, and their act quickly goes viral and wins their high school talent show, bringing the girls closer. When the family realizes that the cost to keep Spanky is too high and they’ll have to send him away, Addy submits their routine to a popular TV talent show.
A sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Aug. 6 and Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Aug. 20 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Directed by Emmy winner Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family”), the film continues the tale of lovable farm dog Bailey, as he finds a new destiny, forms an unbreakable bond and learns that some friendships transcend lifetimes. Bailey (voiced again by Josh Gad; Beauty and the Beast, Frozen) is living the good life on the Michigan farm of his former “boy” now grown to manhood, Ethan (Dennis Quaid; A Dog’s Purpose, I Can Only Imagine) and Ethan’s wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger; “C.S.I.,” “Under the Dome”). He has a new playmate, Ethan and Hannah’s baby granddaughter, C.J. (Kathryn Prescott; “24: Legacy”). Everything is great on the farm until C.J.’s mom, Gloria (Betty Gilpin, Isn’t It Romantic, “GLOW”), decides to take C.J. away and chase her own fulfillment in the big city. Ethan asks Bailey to watch over C.J. wherever she goes and thus begins Bailey’s adventure through multiple lives as he, C.J., and C.J.’s best friend Trent experience joy and heartbreak, music and laughter.
A Dog’s Journey features more than 30 minutes of bonus content including deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, featurettes with the cast and composer, and a behind-the-scenes look at the animal performances. The release also includes feature commentary by Mancuso.
The animated adventure Wonder Park will be released on digital June 4 and Blu-ray combo pack and DVD June 18 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
It’s the story of a young girl named June who makes an incredible discovery — the amusement park of her dreams has come to life filled with wild rides operated by fun-loving animals. When trouble hits, June and her misfit team of furry friends begin an unforgettable journey to save the park. Wonder Park features the voices of Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong, among others.
The Blu-ray combo pack includes access to a digital copy as well as bonus content, including the deleted scene “Gus Yodeling”; “The Wonder Chimp Channel”; “The Pi Song Sing-Along”; “Making Noises (It’s Actually a Job?!!)”; “June’s Guide to Wonderland”; “June’s Welcoming Crew”; “Boardwalk Caricatures”; “Drawing Boomer”; “Drawing the Wonder Chimp Pirate”; and “Drawing the Wonder Chimp Princess.”