By Drew Taylor | The Playlist September 6, 2012 at 5:35PM
Last year's "Gnomeo & Juliet," which had a long and tortuous production history, even for the admittedly even-more-arduous standards of animation, turned out to be a surprise box office hit, taking in almost $100 million at the domestic box office (with another $95 million overseas). William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," very loosely translated (i.e. decidedly in lacking in suicide) to the world of British garden gnomes was spritely and fun, and benefited from the songs and input of producer Elton John. Well, a sequel is now underway, with a talented director and an amazing title. That's right folks, look out for… "Sherlock Gnomes." Elementary!
According to a press release (via Collider), the new film will be directed by the great British animation director John Stevenson, an industry veteran whose work goes all the way back to Jim Henson's "Muppet Show" (he worked as a story artist on Henson productions "The Great Muppet Caper," "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth"). He worked as an animator on "James & the Giant Peach" before becoming a permanent member of the art department at DreamWorks Animation, contributing to "Shrek," "Madagascar," "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," and "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," before eventually directing his first feature, the wickedly entertaining "Kung Fu Panda." He's one of those genius dudes who worked his way up through the animation system and proved himself more than capable.
For a while, Stevenson was attached to an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's "Western Manga" "We3," about a trio of genetically modified animals who go on the run together. It's a heartbreaking, wildly visual story, and easily one of the best things that Quitely and Morrison (who also wrote the screenplay) have ever done, which is really saying something. But we haven't heard anything on the movie since it was announced, around 2008, that New Line Cinema was no longer involved with the project.
The "Gnomeo and Juliet" sequel marks the first big non-DreamWorks Animation project Stevenson has been involved with in over a decade. Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil, two of the first film's seven (!) credited writers, will be back to pen this follow-up, which involves the mysterious disappearance of garden gnomes and one extraordinary "ornamental detective" who is brought in to solve the case. Does this mean that original stars James McAvoy and Emily Blunt won't be returning? John has already mentioned that he'll be writing new songs for the movie, and we are hoping that he'll get Pnau, the Australian dance duo who just released the brilliant album "Good Morning to the Night" -- in which they took old Elton John songs and chopped them up and mashed them together and formed all-new songs (sometimes as many as nine songs are used in a single track) -- to contribute something to this new project.
"Sherlock Gnomes" will once again be produced by John's Rocket Films, animated by Canadian animation studio Arc Productions, and distributed by Disney.