Surf’s Up for Sony’s Toon Cast

Actor and avid surfer Jeff Bridges (Seabiscuit) will wax up his "dudeness" to voice a lead role in Sony Pictures Animation’s upcoming CG feature, Surf’s Up. Also signed to the cast of the penguin comedy are Shia LaBeouf (Holes, I, Robot), Zooey Deschanel (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Elf), James Woods (Stewart Little 2, Disney’s Hercules), Jane Krakowski (Ice Age, TV’s Ally McBeal), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, the upcoming Monster House), Mario Cantone (Mousehunt, HBO’s Sex and the City), Brian Benben (Clean and Sober, TV’s Dream On) and Michael McKean (A Mighty Wind, Dr. Dolittle 2).

Directed by Toy Story 2 co-director Ash Brannon and Tarzan helmer Chris Buck, Surf’s Up tells the story of Cody Maverick (LaBeouf), a surfing penguin who leaves his home in Shiverpool, Antarctica to enter the Big Z Memorial Surf Off on the island of Pen Gu.

“Chris and Ash have been behind some of the best loved animated movies in recent memory and we couldn’t be more excited about the direction they are taking our second movie,” says Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and president of Sony Pictures Digital.

Undoubtedly, it was Bridges’ unforgettable turn as "The Dude" in the Cohen Bros.’ comedy, The Big Lebowski, which helped him land the role of The Geek, a washed-up, overweight and cantankerous former surf champion who mentors young Cody and teaches him that in life, the journey is the ultimate reward. This is the veteran thespian’s first animated role sinc 1982′s Rankin & Bass fantasy pic, The Last Unicorn.

Deschanel will play Lani, a beautiful but tough penguin lifeguard, while Woods takes on the role of sports promoter Reggie Belafonte, a fast-talking, media-hungry sea otter. Heder, a computer animator himself, will provide the voice of Chicken Joe, who has mastered the 12-inch swells of Lake Michigan and feels he’s ready for the monster waves of Pen Gu. Krakowski has been cast in the role of yoga instructor Sheila Limberfin, and Cantone as sandpiper Mikey Abromowitz, an over-caffeinated talent scout. Rounding out the cast, Benben voices a sportscaster seal named Chunk, whose partner is a sea lion named Rock (McKean).

“Jeff, Shia and Zooey bring so much heart and humor to the characters of The Geek, Cody and Lani," says Sandra Rabins, of Sony Pictures Animation. "We were so lucky to find a talented ensemble of actors with such distinctive, diverse voices. They will bring our characters to life," adds fellow Sony Animation exec VP Penney Finkelman Cox.

Surf’s Up is being produced by Chris Jenkins, who was artistic coordinator on Disney’s Atlantis, and head of effects animation on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, among others. Lydia Bottegoni, a vfx producer for Sony’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, serves as co-producer. The film is scheduled to hit theaters in the summer of 2007.

We spoke on Friday with the film’s directors and producer for an update on how the film is shaping up and what we can expect from the animation. Details of that interview can be read at www.animationmagazine.net/article.php?article_id=4281.