DreamWorks, that other animation studio besides Pixar and Disney, just announced their newest animated musical project titled “Monkeys of Bollywood.” Based on the Hindu poem “The Ramayana,” the concept follows two monkeys instead of humans, in a bid to capture the attention of children worldwide. The monkeys try to stop an ancient demon from taking over the world.
Though one might be wary of the premise at first, the talent that has pushed the project to the development fast-track is golden. A.R. Rahman of recent “Slumdog Millionaire” fame will be composing the soundtrack with Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”) writing the lyrics. In a statement about the new project, Schwartz said, “As soon as I heard that DreamWorks Animation envisioned making an animated Bollywood movie, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Overseeing the project are husband-and-wife producer team Paul Berges and Gurinder Chadha. Berges and Chadha have overseen Bollywood-crossover projects like “Bend it like Beckham” and “Bride and Prejudice.” This will be Dreamworks’ first animated feature musical, as they perhaps try to match Disney in the genre. Already there have been concerns about the religious foundation behind “The Ramayana.” Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has already released a statement saying that the film should stay true to the spirit of the poem as it is a highly revered text in the Hindu religion. He’s worried that an insensitive handling of the religion and the Indian culture could result in backlash for the film. Considering that it seems like the producers’ previous films have tried to portray Indian culture in a positive and respectful light, this sort of issue shouldn’t come up as production gets going on the film.
DreamWorks is in production on a number of films right now, including Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys and Aliens,” Craig Gillespie’s “Fright Night” remake and Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” all due out next year. With about five more titles on slate for next year, ‘Monkeys’ looks to land in either 2012 or even 2013, as long as it gets through development. — Catherine Scott