Well there’s a promising career gone swiftly down the drain, at least from an artist’s standpoint. Deadline reports that Shane Acker, whose animated short film “9” was turned into a feature of the same name in 2009, has just signed on to direct a feature film based on the Thomas the Tank Engine toys we all grew up with. HIT Entertainment holds the rights to the toys and has decided to create a story around them for its first feature-length movie.
The film will take place in Sodor, land of the talking trains, where Thomas will only be one of many characters. Weta Workshop and Mattel‘s design team will join to bring the creative vision to life with financing and distribution being sold by Cinetic Media and the UTA Independent Film Group. The script has apparently already been written by Chris Viscardi, Will McRobb and Josh Klausner. The first scribes teamed on movies like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “The Tale of Despereaux” while the latter has been behind “Shrek The Third” and “Shrek Forever After.” Dim those expectations people.
Though Acker has much experience with animation, this feature will most definitely be geared towards children and the younger set at that (no Pixar depth for you here). “9,” which had its own story issues, definitely targeted teenagers and adults with its dark, dystopian vision of rag dolls fighting evil machines to survive. Though his decision to take on the film came from being a new father.
“I’m a recent father, with a 20-month old daughter,” Acker told Deadline as he elaborated on the plot. “We lead such busy lives in Hollywood, always running and hustling, but children tend to slow you down a bit and reconnect you with that inner world. It reinvents your imagination, seeing things through a child’s eyes. It was transformative for me and that is what inspired me about the possibilities here. The tale will revolve around a pre-teen boy who has drifted apart from his father. The son is introduced into this world of Sodor, a place his father visited as a child but can’t remember. There is a bonding experience.”
We’ll wait to see if Acker can match his animation talents to the story, even though it sounds — at least thematically — like something we’ve seen already multiple times. And please, please don’t let it be in 3D. But not to fear, Acker hasn’t left more mature fare completely. He also recently dropped a trailer for a short film entitled “Plus Minus” that has enough fantasy elements to make it easier to swallow than the ‘Thomas The Tank’ news — watch it below: