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My Pitch for an Animated Kids’ Movie

July 10, 2009

iceage2We as humans generally like to believe that we are in control of our own lives, that we are the masters of our own destinies. Occasionally, however, we run into experiences that shatter that illusion. For me, sitting in a theater watching Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was one of these experiences. If I truly had free will, I would never have allowed those 94 minutes to be taken away from me.

Still, the movie did get me thinking. For those of you haven’t seen it (though, judging from the box office numbers, that won’t be very many of you), the plot revolves around a woolly mammoth named Manny (Ray Romano), an expectant father who is anxiously settling into domestic life with his mate Ellie (Queen Latifah). Manny’s best friend Diego, an aging sabre-tooth tiger with some sort of heart condition, feels excluded from Manny’s newly tranquil lifestyle. Meanwhile, Manny and Diego’s friend Sid the Sloth tries to adopt a few baby dinosaurs.

At some point during the film I realized that if these characters weren’t all anthropomorphic prehistoric animals, I easily could’ve been watching an episode of Thirtysomething. And the Ice Age films aren’t the only kids’ movies that revolve around the problems of the middle-aged; you can look to the Night at the Museum and Shrek series for more examples of this trend. This is brilliant. Back in the day, screenwriters working on flicks for children had to actually assume a child-like perspective and come up with situations that children could identify with. Now, instead of doing all that work, writers just project their own mid-life insecurities into their scripts, and apparently the movies still make bank! So, being a film major, I figured I should try my hand at this new template.

Like this, but as a cartoon with Kevin James' voice.  In 3-D.

Like this, but as a cartoon with Kevin James' voice. In 3-D.

My film, Steppe By Steppe, centers around a talking water buffalo named Buffsy (Kevin James) who lives in a Tibetan grassland with his wife Claire (Cameron Diaz) and their two young calves. Buffsy is bored with his job at the grassland office (which will be like a human office but with grassland animals) and dissatisfied in his relationship with Claire, who often argues with him over his inability to pay their grassland bills.

One day, Buffsy is standing by the watering hole with his wisecracking pals Zack the Yak (Zach Galifianakis) and Leppy the Snow Leopard (Chris Rock) when he spies a hot young gazelle named Gazzy (Lindsay Lohan), who is new to the grassland. Although Buffsy is timid at first, he manages to strike up a conversation with Gazzy and is soon meeting with her regularly to graze.

Leppy tries to warn Buffsy about the dangers of infidelity, but is attacked by wolves in mid-sentence and devoured in a wacky slapstick sequence. Buffsy escalates his relationship with Gazzy until she finally agrees to a midnight tryst. However, Buffsy ends up being unable to perform and Gazzy prances away in scorn. When Buffsy returns home smelling of gazelle, Claire takes the calves and migrates north. A grassland doctor (an argali sheep played by Joe Lo Truglio) then tells Buffsy that his mating problem is a side effect of “horn cancer.” Buffsy dies. (Obviously grassland animals wouldn’t have cancer treatments. That would be ridiculous.)

Now, I know this may not sound like a movie kids would enjoy, but remember, the characters are talking animals. Also, we’ll add in some fart jokes and a Jonas Brothers song or something. Plus it’ll be in 3-D. Just trust me, this project is going to be huge. Have your people call my people. We’ll do lunch. Ciao.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Samuel permalink*
    July 10, 2009 2:47 pm

    This is very funny. Also, sorry for dragging you to that terrible movie.

  2. July 10, 2009 4:47 pm

    Surprise, it was my idea. *Never making plans again

  3. Jim Krisvoy permalink
    July 11, 2009 6:55 pm

    Read your response to the Times article, however, 3D, whether you agree with me or not, can be used as an aesthetic medium. Filmakers just have to get used to working with it. It didnt happen in 1983 for a number of reasons, like cumbersome photographic systems, a lot of infighting among 3D suppliers of those systems (dont think from experience that the industry per se trusted any of those suppliers), big problems in projection (many systems used two images within one 35mm frame causing less resolution alopng with illumination problems and sloppy filmaking). The same thing happened when CinemaScope first arrived to dump on twin 35mm 3D – which was just starting to show signs of quality production; gimmicky production or lack of, blurred images, etc. In fact, take a look at MGM’s early Scope effort, THE PRODIGAL, a textbook example of all that could go wrong with lack of experience with the process. In fact, it took the industry a few years to get it really right (one critic cited BECKETT as being the new benchmark for widescreen films). The same will more than likely happen with digital 3D as both a theatrical and home viewing experience, in fact, the technology for the most part works fine, there are more tech improvements – such as higher resolution – on the way – so its really going to be a matter of whether or not Hollywood can get it right. Avatar and most likely, Christmas Carol, may prove my point. However, dont think that being overly conservative in its use, such as with UP!, will help so some of those guys really need to rethink their execution and style. All it requires now is thought and most likely, dumping that premium expense to see these films.

    • Samuel permalink*
      July 12, 2009 2:45 am

      That’s basically what I meant by “very funny.”

      • July 12, 2009 12:46 pm


    • Matt permalink*
      July 12, 2009 1:16 pm

      First of all, congratulations to Jim for posting the longest comment to appear on PLS so far. Second, I will admit that today’s 3D technology seems to work very well and provide very crisp visuals. My issue is that I don’t see how 3D provides filmmakers with any new storytelling choices. When color was introduced to movies, cinematographers were able to use certain hues as motifs, or saturate or desaturate color schemes to fit the visual tone of a scene. As far as I can tell, 3D doesn’t offer any new options other than the option to put a film in 3D. On a narrative level, the extra expense doesn’t seem justified.

      That being said, it’s possible that some innovative director will see possibilities that I’ve overlooked. I am looking forward to seeing whether or not James Cameron can change my mind with “Avatar.”

      Regardless, thanks for posting! We enjoy a good discussion at PLS.


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