Well, it was only a matter of time before Paramount announced plans for a new animated film. After all, the studio's last animated feature, Gore Verbinski's bizarro western "Rango," picked up the Best Animated Feature Oscar on Sunday, besting beloved independent features and two box office juggernauts from former titan DreamWorks Animation (which, incidentally, Paramount currently distributes). But nothing has been solidified as the studio's follow-up to "Rango," until today, when Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman announced a new "SpongeBob SquarePants" movie for release in late 2014 (via the Hollywood Reporter). So, um, that's happening.
Dauman, in a statement made during the Deutsche Bank media and telecom investor conference in Palm Beach, Florida, said that the new movie would "start off a new animation effort." This is pretty exciting news, and further proof that, when the distribution deal with Jeffrey Katzenberg's uneven DreamWorks Animation comes to an end at the end of the year, Paramount won't re-up. (Dauman has said the studio would be fine without DreamWorks Animation product, several times before.)
Last year, Paramount bought a web-comic by Penny Arcade called "New Kid" about the only earthling in an intergalactic school full of aliens and tapped "Book of Eli" writer Gary Whitta to pen the adaptation. And in our interview with Gore Verbinski a couple of weeks ago, he stated that he would love to "bring the band back together" and make another animated feature, presumably with the studio that helped him bring his singular vision to the big screen, which resulted in critical and commercial success (and an Oscar triumph).
The first "SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" came out in 2004 and made a healthy (but not exactly remarkable) $85.4 million domestically. That movie featured a fairly all-star cast that included Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson and Alec Baldwin alongside 'SpongeBob' regulars Tom Kenny and Clancy Brown, and plenty of the show's sweet-natured silliness (including a prolonged section with David Hasselhoff, as himself, in live action). It didn't reinvent the wheel and we're hard-pressed to remember any non-Hasselhoffian details, but it was cute enough.
What's strange is that this is the studio's big follow-up to "Rango." You would think that Paramount would have something more along the lines of that film's bold design work and freewheeling experimentalism. Guess not. At least in 2014 we'll have something new to giggle at.