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Screenwriters Austin Winsberg and Heath Corson are in final negotiations to sell their pitch for a new animated movie about a Peacock to Warner Bros. While there’s not really anything else known about the project (we don’t even know if it will be a CG movie, though I’d be amazed if it isn’t), the fact that Warners are getting back into feature animation at all is noteworthy enough.

The last Warner Bros. Feature Animation project was Joe Dante’s Looney Tunes Back in Action, an underperforming, undervalued mess. It’s less a coherent film than a cathedral to studio interference but the very many good bits (many of which are just two-seconds bits of funny business) pretty much keep it afloat. However, meant to re-establish the Looney Tunes characters a force in the cinema it did anything but, killing both the Feature Animation unit and stopping production of new Looney Tunes shorts.

Of course, a fool could tell you that a good run of new Looney Tunes shorts were exactly what was needed. Perhaps a good five or six a year for a decent handful of years, leading up to a new Looney Tunes film. That would have done the trick.

The other films made by the unit were largely rather poor – Space Jam, The Quest for Camelot and Osmosis Jones – but one solid gold nugget stood out. Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant was quite easily the best film the division ever created and, had they had the first idea how to market it, could have been a box office smash of… well, of what we now consider Pixar proportions. It’s definitely a very good film and, to this day, my favourite of Bird’s movies.

Steve Hulett, Business Rep. of the Animation Guild, notes:

Over the past five months, Warner Bros. has ramped up its teevee animation division, going from a couple of series and a handful of artists, to a facility on the Warner Ranch that is filled to capacity with five series and multiple DVD features.

I think that theatrical animation’s broad-based success – despite this weekend’s unhappy results – has a lot to do with Warners continuing involvement in theatrical toonage, though I’m sure they’re mid-90s train wreck in Glendale left a sour taste in their mouths.

In case you missed it, “this weekend’s unhappy results” is a reference to Astro Boy‘s limp showing at the box office, hitting number 6 with just over $7 million and a screen average of $2,328 against a reported budget of $65 million.

Via Variety.

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