DreamWorks Animation screened 25 minutes of its upcoming Yeti feature, “Abominable” (September 27), along with its third short, “Marooned,” at the Annecy Animation Film Festival on Tuesday. And, for good measure, the studio also trotted out rough footage and the first trailer from “Trolls World Tour” (April 17, 2020), in which Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) step into a musical troll war with rivals from rock, country, cool jazz, classical, and funk. IndieWire got an earlier sneak peek at the Glendale campus.
“Abominable,” co-produced by Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, is a gorgeous-looking adventure about a teenage girl named Yi (Chloe Bennet), who discovers a child-like Yeti on the roof of her Shanghai apartment while playing the violin. Yi then embarks on a quest with two friends to reunite the magical creature she calls Everest (which controls nature as an expression of beauty) with its family in the Himalayas. They’re pursued by the evil millionaire Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson).
Directed by Jill Culton (“Open Season”), “Abominable” was inspired by her loving, non-verbal rapport with her large Bloodhounds and Great Danes and her desire to have a strong female lead as a role model to kids: “She’s strong and independent and not afraid to get dirty and leaps before she looks,” she said. “And the personality of the Jin character [Tenzing Norgay Trainor] is a role reversal as a boy who doesn’t want to sleep outside and get dirty. It’s actually a very modern look at society.”
In collaborating with Pearl Studio, which was very involved in design, Culton had a team of artists to help with every detail of the city, even down to cultural behavior. “There’s a scene at the end of the movie where the family sits down for dinner and we see the mannerisms of how the tasks move back and forth, and how much food should be on the table,” she added. “That added authenticity and we wanted to be careful that nothing pulled the Chinese audience out of the movie.”
The most colorful and visually arresting scene was also one of the most demanding: Yi, Everest, and her friends are carried over by a giant wave of flowers in a wondrous display of the Yeti’s powers. “The effects team had to come up with something creatively challenging from scratch,” Culton said. “They tried different water simulations with different textures on top, and, then, Max Boas, our production designer, came up with the idea of using sea foam that sprayed off the top of the flower pedals and that become the wave. And then we could build a lot of the green stems underneath, and that would give us the texture as they’re surfing through it.”
Meanwhile, in “Marooned,” a crusty old robot, C-0R13, stranded on an abandoned lunar outpost, tries desperately to return to earth with the help of a trusty mini-robot, only to discover there’s not enough battery power for both of them to make it back. “There were two ideas that inspired ‘Marooned,’” said director Andrew Erekson (story artist on “Captain Underpants”). “The first was, I liked the idea of a character being stranded on a desert island, but not in a traditional island setting. I was trying to think of a different take on that and I came up with the moon. The second thought I found intriguing was the idea of a character sacrificing their ultimate desire so someone else could benefit. That notion was something I felt most of us could relate to.
“The challenge was to make something look a little different than what we’ve seen in the past. I wanted to capture more of an impression of the world rather than a realistic one. Animation, as an art form, gives you the opportunity to stylize and caricature your world which, ironically, can be more believable than realism,” Erekson added.
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