Today the trailer for “Rise of the Guardians,” DreamWorks Animation‘s big holiday 2012 animated movie, quietly debuted online (courtesy of Hey U Guys). The movie features the voice talents of Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin and Jude Law, and centers around an elite group of childhood fantasy characters (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost) who must band together to save the world. It’s based on a book series co-authored and illustrated by beloved artist William Joyce, who also co-directs the animated feature. (Joyce just won an Oscar for his charming animated short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”)
“Rise of the Guardians” is based on an ongoing series of young adult novels that Joyce co-writes with Laura Geringer (“Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King” came out last year, while “E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core” came out this past February), with Pine voicing Jack Frost, Fisher as the Tooth Fairy, Jackman as E. Aster Bunnymund, the Easter Bunny, and Baldwin as a Russian-inflected Nicholas St. North, aka Santa Claus. Law plays the villainous Nightmare King, an update on the Boogeyman.
Joyce has been writing and illustrating children’s books since the mid-’80s and is no stranger to the world of big screen animation. He was hired as a conceptual designer in the early days of Pixar (his Buzz Lightyear designs are only rivaled by Joe Johnston‘s in terms of gee-whiz retro joy), while also working for the Jim Henson Company on the Rene Russo vehicle “Buddy.” In 2005 he worked with Blue Sky Animation and Fox on “Robots,” an ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying romp through an entirely mechanized world. Adapting one of Joyce’s early children’s books, Disney released “Meet the Robinsons,” a charming but cluttered animated feature in 2007, the same year that Joyce served as a production designer and main title sequence designer for the dismal “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.”
In addition to his Oscar coup for “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” and his co-directing duties (with Peter Ramsey) on “Rise of the Guardians,” Joyce is also an executive producer on another Blue Sky adaptation, “Leaf Men” (based on his 1996 children’s book), which is set to open next spring (it’s being directed by Blue Sky head honcho Chris Wedge).
Judging by the trailer (which is surprisingly long for an animated movie that doesn’t debut until Thanksgiving), the singular Joyce design work is on full display – that slightly cartoon-y, slightly retro look, that looks charming on the page but feels positively enchanting in motion. We love Santa Claus’ “Eastern Promises“-style tattoos and Jackman’s Easter Bunny design. Visually, this seems to be DreamWorks Animation’s richest film since “How to Train Your Dragon.” Also of note: this is the first time that Guillermo del Toro‘s name has been publicized. Del Toro joined the company as a creative principle after his animated production shingle at Disney, Disney Double Dare You, fell through during the prolonged hell that was his involvement in “The Hobbit.” He’s executive produced and had a hand in every DreamWorks Animation movie since 2010’s “Megamind” but this is the first time they’ve brought him up, possibly because he is so closely linked with fairy tale creatures, after “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.”
“Rise of the Guardians” marks the end of the current distribution deal between DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, and with Paramount starting its own animation division following the box office (and Oscar) success of “Rango,” it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
“Rise of the Guardians” protects your childhood, starting on November 21st.