Garfield, Riddick Scrap for B.O. Scratch

Garfield, the beloved feline star of a nationally syndicated comic strip, animated specials and a regular animated TV series, hits the big screen for the first time today in Twentieth Century Fox’s Garfield The Movie. However, he’s not the only CG effect to be found in North American theaters this weekend as Universal’s sci-fi thrill ride The Chronicles of Riddick also arrives to take a shot at the No. 1 spot.

For his big-screen debut, Garfield gets a CG makeover and is composited into scenes with live-action actors and animals. Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Osmosis Jones) provides the voice of Garfield, who takes some extreme measures to make sure all the attention stays on him when his owner, Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer), brings home a dog named Odie. But when Odie is kidnapped, it’s up to Garfield to save the day. The film also stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, who did voice work for the Disney sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, and the upcoming CG indie, Delgo, from Fathom Studios.

As the only new family offering, the film should do well, especially considering the popularity of the property and the warm box-office reception Scooby-Doo enjoyed when it got the same treatment. Effects house Rhythm & Hues, which created the CG Scooby, also got its paws on the orange tabby for his 3D debut. Read our interview with Garfield creator Jim Davis and visual effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw of Rhythm & Hues in the July issue of Animation Magazine.

Rhythm & Hues also contributed digital effects to The Chronicles of Riddick, as did Hatch FX, Double Negative and New Deal Studios. The filmstars Vin Diesel in a sequel to the 2000 sci-fi cult hit, Pitch Black. Director David Twohy is back to continue the franchise with a story in which escaped convict Riddick finds himself caught between two opposing forces in an intergalactic crusade. Classing up the pic is Dame Judi Dench as an ambassador from the Elemental race and Thandie Newton as Riddick’s love interest. While the nocturnal creatures from Pitch Black aren’t back for the sequel, the movie features some new CG beasties, along with plenty of digital spacecrafts and other set pieces.

Warner Home video’s animated prequel, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, will be available on DVD on Tuesday, June 15. The pic was directed by renown anime helmer Peter Chung (The Animatrix, MTV’s Aeon Flux).

Also opening wide today is Paramount’s comic remake of The Stepford Wives, starring Nichole Kidman as a TV exec who moves to a small town where all the women are suspiciously perfect in an idyllic, 1950s sort of way. The film features visual effects by Tippett Studio and is directed by Frank Oz, the Muppetmaster and voice of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cooker Monster and Yoda.