An enthusiastic crowd took a sneak peek at Skydance Animation’s first feature length film, “Luck,” showcased as part of the Annecy International Animation Festival’s Work in Progress section on Tuesday.
The panel was composed of the film’s director Peggy Holmes (“The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning,” “The Pirate Fairy”), screenwriter Kiel Murray (“Cars,” “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille”), producer David Eisenmann (“Pearl,” “Son of Jaguar”), director of animation Yuriko Senoo (“Tangled,” “The Pirate Fairy”) and VFX supervisor Javier Romero (“Wonder Park,” “Planet 51”).
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“Luck” tells the story of Sam Greenfield, probably the unluckiest girl in the world, who one day finds a lucky penny.
She decides she wants to give the penny to her best friend Hazel, but her bad luck means she loses the coin. Sam sets out to find a new one and, in her quest, she crosses the path of Bob, a lucky black cat, who inadvertently leads her to the Land of Luck.
Much of the film’s comedic quality lies in the physicality of Sam’s bad luck. Senoo explained how the team turned to the likes of Lucile Ball, Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton for inspiration to create authentic characters and understand the style they were going for.
“[These] great comedians, amazing storytellers make us laugh without saying a word, just with their faces and bodies, they can pull off amazing stunts but they also know when to pause for comedy. That’s why their timing is so rhythmic. We were drawn to deadpan comedy – it’s the concept of less is more,” she said, underlining how this concept was the red line throughout the filmmaking.
“Rhythm is so important in this film, especially in the Land of Luck: everything had to be perfect, easy, worry-free and synchronized: It required strong collaboration between the different departments: From storyboard to layout and animation,” Senoo told Variety, adding that Holmes’ background as a choreographer was a huge advantage.
During the presentation, Holmes also showed several split screen clips of herself and her teenage children going through the dance moves alongside the characters, along with a vintage 1985 video of a commercial she choreographed starring Lionel Ritchie, which drew laughter and cheers from the Annecy crowd.
A lot of research also went into the actual concept of good and bad luck itself, the team explained.
“Bad luck situations have to be true bad luck, not caused by clumsiness. This meant digging into luck itself – whether it’s good or bad, it’s not something we can control, it’s something that’s truly random,” explained Murray.
Clips shown during the Work-in-Progress screening illustrate this combination of random yet perfectly timed good and bad luck – including a beautifully choreographed breakfast scene where Sam’s toast always falls on the jam side before she finds the lucky penny, and bluntly refuses to do so once she has it in hand.
The film is voiced by a host of A-list celebrities, including Jane Fonda as Babe the Dragon, the CEO of the Land of Luck, Whoopi Goldberg as the head of security, Broadway celebrity Eva Noblezada (“Hadestown”) as Sam and Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”) as Bob the cat.
Lil Rel Howery (“Free Guy”, “Get Out”) voices Sam’s boss, Adelynn Spoon (“Watchmen”) Hazel and German actor and comedian Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect 2”, “The Boss Baby” TV series) the character of Jeff the Unicorn.
In another split-screen clip shown during the presentation, Holmes and Murray are seen coaching a hilarious Borg during a remote recording session: just weeks into making the film, the COVID-19 lockdown hit. But production was able to continue, Holmes told Variety.
“I worked on the movie for about three weeks and then we were sent home. We did everything we could to keep what we believe makes movies best: Collaboration. Letting artists all have a voice. When I talk about the story room, it’s the Zoom room: we’d sit there and have meetings like that,” she said, explaining that the team would share ideas and drawings via Zoom and email. “There are some people on my crew I haven’t met in person,” she added.
Produced by Eisenmann, John Lasseter, Skydance Animation CEO David Ellison and Skydance CCO Dana Goldberg, the film is near completion – said Holmes: “We’re just doing the last color timing” – and scheduled for a U.S. release on August 5.”
Founded in 2017, Skydance Animation is the animation arm of Skydance Media (“Mission Impossible”, “Jack Reacher”, “Top Gun: Maverick”). Its first short film, “Blush,” can be seen on Apple TV Plus.
Credit: Annecy Festival
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