Oscar, Emmy and Annie Award-winning animator Chris Williams (Big Hero 6, Bolt, Moana) is riding the wave of success generated by his 2022 feature The Sea Beast, starting the new year with an overall deal with Netflix and in active development on both a Beast sequel and an original fantasy adventure. The director revealed his plans in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the risks and rewards of his post-Disney career.
“I was at Disney for 25 years and it was a very difficult decision to leave. I agonized over it a very long time … They treated me very well, I was very comfortable, and the relationships I had there stretched decades.” Williams explained. “But I felt like I had to detach from that, partially to tell a story that sat outside the bounds of what you normally consider North American feature animation. … I reached a point where I didn’t want to nudge the boundary, I wanted to leap over it.”
Williams left Disney to join the burgeoning Netflix studio in 2018, when The Sea Beast was announced. The seafaring family adventure became one of the streamer’s biggest hits of 2022 on its July 8 debut — placing as the most-viewed animated movie of all time on the platform (by hours viewed in the first 28 days of release) and scoring the second-longest Netflix Top 10 streak for an English-language film at seven weeks.
The Sea Beast Sequel — While Williams and his team were not planning for a series set in this world, he became interested in exploring the new family made by Jacob (Karl Urban) and Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator). “Suddenly Jacob is a parent, a parent to an especially willful kid, right? And so when you see them on the dock [at the end of the movie], you know that’s not what parenting looks like. It’s far messier, far more complicated and more trying at times than that.”
The writer-director was also inspired by the question of whether every sea monster hunter in the world would give up their day job alongside Jacob and Maisie. While pointing out that a lot can change during the long years between concept and delivery for an animated feature, Williams says the star monster Red will “maybe” return, and that he is working out his ideas with the first film’s head of story, Owen Sullivan (who will co-direct the sequel), and producer Jed Schlanger.
Untitled Fantasy Project — Without giving away many details, Williams says that like The Sea Beast, this original story will be set in “a completely cohesive world” of his own creation.
“Tonally, it would be between Lord of the Rings and Princess Bride. It’s like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings where you have a history that leads up to the point where the story begins, and it’s a huge world with multiple events going on outside the story being told. But at the same time, I want to have fun with some of the conventions that Princess Bride did. It’s not parody and it’s not making fun of it, but it has a perspective that is light and refreshing,” he explained.
In the interview, Williams was also asked about how he feels about A.I. and whether he is concerned about artists and writers being replaced by technology. He replied, ” First, I claim to not be an expert and that this is new technology we’re trying to get our heads around and wrestle with. I tend to be more of a Luddite and concerned about these sort of things and I am nervous about the capacity to put people out of work. I’m nervous and skeptical about how it’s going to be used and about the economical pressures on studios, if they can make something cheaper they probably will even if that means hiring less artists. I worry about viz dev artists. I worry about story artists. I worry about all of us and what AI may have the capacity to replace…The fact that there are programs right now that can write pretty convincing essays or stories is scary, and that can be a concern for you, for me, for anybody that wants to create images or create stories, or is involved in visual storytelling. It’s concerning what it can do already. And I wonder where we are going to be in six months or a year from now.”
[Source: The Hollywood Reporter]