Last week, Paramount Animation dropped the first trailer for it’s upcoming film Wonder Park, due March 15 next year. It boasts a colorful world and characters, but in true teaser fashion we get only glimpses of what the plot is going to be. Now Paramount Animation as a firm is relatively new, founded only seven years ago. However, Paramount Pictures’ role in animation has spanned nearly a century. As we look forward to Wonder Park, let’s take a look back at Paramount’s long and storied history in the medium.
We can trace that history back all the way to the 1920s and 30s. They partnered with Fleischer Studios, and produced shorts that came to be considered iconic. Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor, and the old Superman cartoons all came out of this era of collaboration. Over time though, the deal soured, and ownership of the shorts became (and continue to be) a legal quagmire.
More recently, Paramount also distributed films for DreamWorks Animation, a deal which started with 2006’s Over the Hedge and concluded with 2012’s Rise of the Guardians. In between they distributed such hits like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, iconic and beloved films among critics and audiences. They’ve also collaborated with sister company Nickelodeon on various productions such as the Oscar-winning Rango. Paramount has had a powerful influence on the animation zeitgeist in the past, both distant and recent.
However, all of this production has been Paramount Pictures proper, the same studio that also produced live-action films. They had no specialized animation studio, until seven years ago. Since then, Paramount Animation has already had its hand in several productions. In early 2015 it made its debut with The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. The film was a collaboration again with Nickelodeon, and the results were good. It received critical praise, and earned over $300 million on a $75 million budget.
Unfortunately, the two other productions released since haven’t faced the same kind of success. The live-action Monster Trucks released in early 2017, already infamous for having taken a $115 million write-down before it even hit theaters. Earlier this year, the studio then released Sherlock Gnomes, a sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet. It’s made less than $89 million on a $59 million budget. Negative hype unfortunately brought down the films and limited their success.
Wonder Park, though, is going to be intriguing. Given their current filmography, it will be the first original animated film as a studio. Keeping with their history, production is being decentralized, with animation being done by Ilion, the studio that made Planet 51. This will be a chance for Paramount Animation to set up an IP that it can truly call its own, to perhaps make a mascot akin to Illumination’s minions or DreamWork’s Shrek. It will be facing a tough year though: it comes the month after the sequel to The LEGO Movie and only two weeks after How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. However, with no major animated releases scheduled afterwards until May, it will enjoy some breathing room on the latter end of release.
And where will the studio go then? We’ve already got four more films confirmed: next up will be a movie about Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog, sure to draw in fans around the world. A third SpongeBob movie follows, with the title It’s a Wonderful Sponge. In 2020, though, is a particularly intriguing title: Monster on the Hill. It’s described as a world where monsters are tame, but enjoy wrestling for sport. A year later in 2021 comes Luck, a film about the battle between the forces of good and bad luck in our world. Certainly interesting and original premises for both films.
Paramount has a very impressive legacy in animation, and it’s good to see that they’re going to be strengthening it even more. Paramount Animation is on a “growth track” according to the parent studio; by 2021, we might just end up seeing them as a leading competitor in feature animation. There’s a lot of history behind them, but a whole lot more waiting before them too. Wonder Park may just unlock a world of wonder from Paramount Animation.
Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production. We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.
In 1996, Nickelodeon premiered Blue's Clues, a children's television series that blended a live-action host (Steve Burns) with a supporting cast of animated characters. The result was a massive success. The show lasted for ten years, inspired live-action shows, and earned nine Emmy nominations. It also left behind a legacy of pioneering educational programming for children. With such a strong legacy, it seems natural that Nickelodeon would want to revive the series. Sure enough, a Nickelodeon press release confirmed last week that Blue's Clues would be remade within the year, with production starting in summer.
The original Blue's Clues aired in a time of great change in children's television. Besides PBS, no channels wanted to carry educational children's programming. In 1990 though, the Children's Television Act required national channels to devote a certain amount of time weekly to programs that meet the "informational and educational needs" of younger audiences. Blue's Clues was a response to these new rules, creating an educational program that would also entertain and engage children. Episodes were screened for test audiences, and the results were incredible. Diane Tracy wrote in Blue's Clues for Success that kids got more and more invested in the show as the episode progressed, even responding to the host's prompts aloud. Several studies backed the program's effectiveness in its task.
The show also pioneered new methods of animation on television. Using green screen (or, in this case, "blue screen") technology, cut-outs and photographs of objects, and software like After Effects and Photoshop, Blue's Clues developed a unique style that's often described as a storybook-like sensation. Using new techniques, episodes could be produced in a fraction of the time that it took for traditional animation. That allowed more time for screening and tweaking episodes before airing.
So, how will the new revival match to the original series? Obviously it's too early to say. In fact, there's not even a host selected yet! Casting calls are expected to proceed into April according to the press release. Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Group, said that the goal is to "capture all the original’s creativity and visual identity for a whole new audience ready for its fun adventures and expertly designed problem-solving curriculum." The image accompanying the press release gives a hint to the new show's visual style. It shows the titular character, Blue the Puppy, rendered into a CG model. Compared to the 2D original, it seems that they have successfully brought that character design into the 3D environment. It'll be interesting to see the rest of the show translated.
But what about the host? Speculation has already flown widely, even including famed wrestler John Cena, who reportedly auditioned for the role. Former host Steve Burns even said he'd be interested in returning the role himself, joking that he'd wrestle Cena for it. At the moment though, the casting call is open for anyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity, aged between 18 and 25. Reinventing such a beloved franchise is sure to draw plenty of buzz, and many eyes will be on Nickelodeon as it rolls out Blue Clue's for a new generation.