In the summer of 2010, Illumination Entertainment burst onto the feature animation scene with the charming and original "Despicable Me." Their upcoming adaptation of Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" looks diverting enough, but last spring's dreadful Russell Brand-as-the-Easter-bunny live-action hybrid "Hop" was the first step in a 'Chipmunks' direction.
Now, we can dash whatever slim hope there was of Illumination becoming the heir apparent to Pixar, as the company has officially thrown in the towel, hiring "Blades of Glory" scribes John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky to adapt "Woody Woodpecker" for the big screen.
There's no word yet on what the film's plot will be, beyond the general promise to "modernize the character." "Furry Vengeance" and "Yogi Bear" already did the "Save-the-forest-from-contractors" thing, but that surely won't stop Illumination from recycling the plot. Of course, they could also go the live-action/animation hybrid fish-out-of-water route of "The Smurfs" or "Hop." Either way, it will be exciting to see how the filmmakers decide to ruin this beloved character. (Actually, does anyone love Woody Woodpecker?)
We shouldn't gang up on the red bird too much. The Woody Woodpecker theme was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar in 1947, the only tune from a short film ever nominated. The pedigree of Woody's writers is also a bit higher than one might expect, with Altschuler and Krinsky having previously written for "King of the Hill" and the recent "Beavis and Butt-Head" update. One doesn't have to look far, though, to find that Altschuler and Krinsky are also behind the long-gestating "Jetsons" feature, so perhaps this assignment is a better fit than one might first suspect.
Universal Pictures will finance and distribute the film. Universal bought the rights to Woody Woodpecker back in 1985, and with the seemingly endless string of classic children's properties being pillaged for the multiplexes, what's one more travesty, really?
Check out that old Woody Woodpecker theme below. It is sadly not that far off quality-wise from what's nominated for the Best Song Oscar nowadays. [THR]