A riled-up audience at the Annecy International Animation Festival in the French Alps was the first in the world to see footage of Boss Baby, the upcoming DreamWorks Animation comedy from Madagascar and Megamind director Tom McGrath, who spoke for more than an hour about his latest creation.
With Alec Baldwin voicing the titular bigwig in diapers, and Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow playing the parents, Boss Baby is told through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy whose life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a new brother. The catch is that the little cutie can talk and do plenty of other things, like carry a briefcase and order everyone else around. Eventually, the two bros team up to take on the evil Puppy Co., which is filling the world with baby dogs and taking the spotlight away from humans.
“Is there enough love for everybody?” is how McGrath described the conundrum facing his pint-sized characters, in a movie that takes a step back from the computer-generated realism of recent features to explore the more impressionistic side of the medium, finding inspiration in the work of animation pioneers like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Maurice Noble.
Indeed, the footage previewed, including one completed sequence and several storyboarded or partially rendered scenes, plays like a throwback to classic cartoons where shapes and figures were often distorted for effect and animators could let their imaginations could run wild.
Thanks to the latest technology, McGrath and his team were able to create that vintage look in 3D, building a visual universe that would be distilled through the mind of a 7-year-old whose greatest fear is that his parents prefer his little brother — a fear that any older sibling can relate to.
McGrath described Boss Baby as a “love letter” to his own older brother, and explained how he labored for two years on a script — inspired in part by the popular children’s book by Marla Frazee — that he hopes will provoke plenty of laughs and maximum emotional impact by the time the credits roll. He also described the working process with his crew, where close collaboration allows anyone to pitch in a good gag, of which there were several on display in the 15 minutes’ worth of scenes that were shown.
Slated for domestic release by 20th Century Fox in March 2017, Boss Baby looks to be another case of DreamWorks and McGrath joining forces for what could be a clever and meaningful cartoon with broad appeal.