UPDATED: Sony Animation Hanging 10 with Penguins

Sony Pictures Animation VPs talk to AMO

Endless Summer meets Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in the latest CG feature film announcement, made today by Sony Pictures Animation. The studio, which is busy at work on the animated comedy, Open Season, today spilled the beans on the second animated movie in its production slate. Where Open Season has forest critters turning the tables on the sport of hunting, Surf’s Up will have animals tackling another extreme pastime.

The plot of Surf’s Up, revealed by Penney Finkelman-Cox and Sandra Rabins, exec VPs of Sony Pictures Animation, and Yair Landau, vice-chairman of Sony Pictures Ent., posits that surfing was invented by penguins and has a documentary crew going behind the scenes of the Penguin World Surfing Championship.

Referring to the penguin practice of riding ice drifts, Penny Finkelman-Cox tells Animation Magazine Online, "Everybody knows that penguins invented surfing, so Chris Jenkins, our producer, said that we ought to do a documentary on it. We discovered this very interesting underdog character named Cody, who proves that with a lot of determination and the right kind of values, anybody can be a winner."

While she won’t go into detail about the other critters that will populate the film, Rabins tells us, "There won’t be any humans in our world. It’s a little too early to comment about the other characters, but you’ll see other [creatures] that are indigenous to the world of penguins."

In earlier announcements, Surf’s Up was described as a Romeo and Juliet-type love story, but Finkelman-Cox says that plot element has been abandoned. "There had been another version of the story about a year and a half ago, but it has flipped to become this mocumentary," she notes.

As far as influences go, Rabins notes, "We’ve been watching all of the great surfing documentaries, including one that Sony just released, Riding with Giants. Finkelman-Cox adds, "I think Christopher Guest [(This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffamn, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind)] is a major influence on our documentarian, to be honest. By the way he captures his characters and manages to not disrupt their lives too badly by putting cameras in their faces, he makes it feel real. We’d like to get the same feeling, which will be very hard to do in animation–make people believe it’s happening in the moment."

Directing duties go to Ash Brannon, who co-developed and co-directed Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 2, and fellow animator Chris Buck, who made his feature directing debut on Disney’s Tarzan. The film is being produced by Chris Jenkins, who was artistic coordinator on Disney’s Atlantis and head of effects animation on the Mouse House’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Working with the film’s creative team will be Quiksilver Ent., a division of action sports entertainment and brand marketer Quiksilver. The company’s Danny Kwock and Matt Jacobson will serve as creative consultants on Surf’s Up.

Open Season, scheduled to hit theaters sometime in 2006, is a buddy comedy about a happily domesticated, 900-pound grizzly bear named Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), who has his comfortable world turned upside down when he meets a fast-talking, wild mule deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher). The movie also features the voices of Debra Messing (TV’s Will and Grace, The Mothman Prophecies) and Gary Sinise (Forest Gump, Ransom).