EXCLUSIVE: Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton has found a new 3D project. He will direct a stop-motion animated film based on Charles Addams’ original ghoulish cartoon drawings of The Addams Family. Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-based family film unit headed by Chris Meledandri, has acquired the underlying rights of the Addams drawings, once a staple of The New Yorker magazine.
Burton’s intention is to go back to the litany of Addams illustrations that displayed a sharper wit than seen on the big or little screen before. Other than being inspired by the same source material, the animated feature is unrelated to previous incarnations of Addams’ work: the 1960s TV series, the two 1990s feature film comedies that Barry Sonnenfeld directed with Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston, or the Broadway musical opening this spring with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth in the starring roles.
Meladandri will produce the film. Kevin Miserocchi of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation will be executive producer. A writer will be hired shortly. Burton, whose visual creations are currently on display at a MOMA exhibit that opened last November, is expected to provide much of the visual look of the film himself.
Burton’s experience in animated film is extensive. He last directed Corpse Bride, and is making a feature version of Frankenweenie, the 1984 30-minute short film Burton made about a boy who reanimates his dead dog. That reportedly got him tossed off the Disney lot for making a film too terrifying for a family audience, but the film has since become a cult favorite. Burton recently produced 9, as well as the delightful stop-motion animated The Nightmare Before Christmas, for which he wrote the story.
While there are many post-Green Zone articles speculating how Universal will pull itself out of an extended feature slump, Illumination’s upcoming animated slate should be a big help in giving Universal a foothold in the 3D CG family entertainment market. Meledandri left the top post at Fox Animation to form Illumination in 2007, and begins contributing to the Universal pipeline when the studio releases the Steve Carell-voiced Despicable Me on July 9. That’s followed by the April 1, 2011 release of I Hop, with Russell Brand voicing the Easter Bunny, with the Ricky Gervais creation Flanimals coming later 2011. Right behind that is Where’s Waldo and Dr.Seuss’ The Lorax.