Sometimes finding a distributor can be harder than making the movie. So it was with the charming animated fantasy “Animal Crackers,” which premiered at the Annecy French animation festival in 2017, and returns to Annecy 2020 Online (June 15-30) after being acquired by Netflix. The streamer, which dropped the trailer on Monday, also announced that it will stream the feature July 24 in nearly 200 countries.
Directed by Tony Bancroft (“Mulan”) and Scott Christian Sava (the character designer and owner of Blue Dream Studios), “Animal Crackers” offers a magical box of cookies to rescue a rundown circus. The CG animation, made at Blue Dream in Spain, conjures a Disney retro vibe, and boasts voice work by John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Danny DeVito, and Ian McKellen. Meanwhile, Carter Goodrich (“Despicable Me”) provided the warmly appealing character design work.
Both the trailer and online making-of presentation with Bancroft, Sava, and Goodrich tout the nostalgic slice of Americana at the heart of “Animal Crackers,” which had the misfortune of becoming orphaned several times over after three distribution deals fell through with Relativity Media, Serafini Releasing, and Entertainment Studios.
But then Netflix came to the rescue this year.
“Every time you eat an animal cookie, a human cookie appears in the box,” says the devilish clown voiced by DeVito. “To change back, you just eat it.”
Sava first wrote “Animal Crackers” as a graphic novel after his twin sons pretended to be animal cookies in a role-playing game. Bancroft immediately saw animated feature potential in the bygone days when the circus enchanted families: “I had to be resourceful [by taking advantage of] my strong relationships with storyboard artists, visual development artists, and production designers,” he said.
This included Goodrich, whose main challenge was coming up with a great clown. “Carter was instrumental in working on [many of] my favorite movies: ‘Monsters Inc., ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Brave,’ ‘Despicable Me,'” Sava said.
To Goodrich, though, clowns are interesting for being “pretty horrific to everybody, And I think our job was not to let him be horrific. So I tried to stay away from that, if I could. I’m not sure if I succeeded,” he said.
Check out the trailer for “Animal Crackers” below.