Netflix Animation showcased a bevy of upcoming, diverse projects this week at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival: That included the unveiling of a scene from the anticipated Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio; the world premiere of Oscar winner Chris Williams’ original The Sea Beast, which premieres July 8 on the streaming service; and new footage from Henry Selick and Jordan Peele’s stop-motion Wendell & Wild.
The animation arm has been closely watched since April, when during its first-quarter earnings announcement, Netflix reported it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the quarter and expected to lose an additional 2 million during the second quarter. Since then, its animation business was affected by layoffs and several cancelled projects, such as Meghan Markle’s Pearl.
At the the same time, Netflix Animation is the process of opening a new Burbank facility to house its original feature animation projects.
During Annecy, in addition to del Toro’s Pinocchio (slated for a December release), Netflix featured classic stop-motion with Oscar-nominated Selick (Coraline) and Oscar winner Peele’s Wendell & Wild, which follows scheming demon brothers Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele), who enlist the aid of tough teen Kat Elliot (Lyric Ross) to summon them to the Land of the Living. In new footage screened at the festival, the brothers are wearing stripes in what appears to be a sort of prison, and aim to leave what they consider hell. In a recorded message to festival attendees, Selick said, “I believe animation isn’t a genre onto itself but a way to tell all stories. For me, stop-motion is the most magical way to tell stories.” Wendell & Wild is expected to debut in the fall.
Another planned fall release is My Father’s Dragon, from Oscar-nominated director Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner) and Ireland-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon (Wolfwalkers). Written by Meg Lefauve (Academy Award-nominated for Inside Out) and based on the children’s book from Ruth Stiles Gannett, the story follows Elmer (Jacob Tremblay), who runs away from his new home in the city in search of a young dragon who waits to be rescued. The clip that Twomey (a founding partner in Cartoon Saloon) introduced at Annecy reveals Cartoon Saloon’s distinctive hand-drawn style of animation, as Elmer meets a pair of tigers. The voice cast also includes Rita Moreno, Alan Cumming, Whoopi Goldberg and Ian McShane.
Features coming to Netflix beyond 2022 include Kid Cudi and Kenya Barris’s Entergalactic, which Netflix announced will premiere Sept. 30, 2023, on the streaming service. Helmed by Fletcher Moles, the New York-set story follows a young artist named Jabari (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) as he attempts to balance love and success. Finding the latter brings Jabari a step closer to the former, when moving into his dream apartment introduces him to his new neighbor, photographer it-girl Meadow (Jessica Williams). With the date announcement, Netflix released a new teaser.
Others include Nimona, the movie that started production at Blue Sky Studios before its parent, Fox, was acquired by Disney, which subsequently shut the animation studio. Nimona moved to Netflix, under the direction of Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, and follows a knight who is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and a shape-shifting teen named Nimona. DNEG is producing the animation for Entergalactic and Nimona.
Also not yet dated but showcased at Annecy are Netflix features The Magician’s Elephant, based on Kate DiCamillo’s novel, which marks the directorial debut of Wendy Rogers and follows Peter (voiced by Noah Jupe), who must find a mysterious elephant; and ONI: Thunder God’s Tale, set in a world of Japanese mythology, from creator/showrunner Dice Tsutsumi (an Oscar nominee for 2014 animated short The Dam Keeper).
Among the series previewed at Annecy was preschool series Spirit Rangers, created by Chumash tribal member Karissa Valencia and exec produced by Chris Nee; and My Dad the Bounty Hunter, an action-comedy exec produced by Everett Downing and Patrick Harpin, that follows the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy, whose family on Earth has no idea what he does for a living.