One of two family features to sneak preview at this year's Florida Film Festival along with THE SASQUATCH DUMPLING GANG, HOOT was enthusiastically received at its one matinee screening (especially by my 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old-son and their friends). Based on Carl Hiaasen's Newbery Honor-winning book and produced by heavyweights Frank Marshall (SEABISCUIT, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) and Walden Media (HOLES, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA), this Florida-based comic adventure about three middle-schoolers taking on greedy land developers and corrupt politicians to save a local population of (very cute) endangered owls seemed to have all the makings of a hit--wrong! Maybe it was the uncomfortable resemblance between one of the leads and Christopher Atkins in THE BLUE LAGOON or the fact that JImmy Buffett not only did the music and co-produced but decided to act (!) in it as well, but this adaptation of a terrific kids book just tanked at the box office. Reportedly HOOT had the lowest per screen average ever for a film opening on more than 3000 screens--ouch!
But props should be given to local talent Mark Simon, whose company Animatics & Storyboards Inc. handled the storyboards for the picturesque South Florida production. Mark is a veteran of the Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase whose series of perverse toons about a dim-witted cub scout, "Timmy's Lessons in Nature," have also appeared on Enzian's screen as part of SPIKE & MIKE'S SICK & TWISTED ANIMATION FESTIVALS. So congrats to Mark and here's hoping for little more luck with the next national release he works on.