Cartoon Net flick sees real world creeping in


When a network that has "cartoon" in its name sets out to do its first original live-action movie, it only makes sense that the live-action part would seem a bit, well, cartoonish.

Case in point: Cartoon Network's "Re-Animated." The movie, debuting at 8 p.m. Friday, combines live-action and animated elements to tell the zany story of 12-year-old Jimmy Roberts (Dominic Janes), who starts seeing cartoon characters in the real world after an emergency brain-transplant surgery.

Creator-writers Adam Pava and Tim McKeon have drawn up a script where the live-action elements feel every bit as cartoonish as the animated parts and the cartoon characters almost seem more grounded in reality than the adults. Jimmy's family, for instance, consists of a dad who acts like a toddler and eats sugar cubes for breakfast, a mom who is an astronaut and wears her space-suit to the dinner table and a sister who is an alien with green skin and antennae.

Giving the live-action elements a cartoon feel wasn't intentional, says Jim Samples, general manager and executive vp at Cartoon Network, but just a natural occurrence that happens with a project from the creative minds behind shows like Cartoon's "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends."

"This wasn't as big as leap as I thought it would be," he says. "I think that's because it has all of the absurdities and bizarre things going on as in a cartoon. Even though there are real people acting in it ... it still has a zany cartoon sensibility."

Samples says Cartoon executives actually had been looking to do a project like "Re-Animated" for some time as a natural expansion of the network's on-air promos and interstitials featuring live actors. But they wanted to make sure they had found a project they really loved where the story line didn't feel forced.

"Is this a change in programming strategy? Not really," Samples says. "What I want to be able to do is use (live-action) as a small component of our programming strategy, but only where it makes sense with Cartoon Network's sensibility. ... The line between live action and animated is very gray these days. If you look around, there are live-action movies that have what I would call a cartoon sensibility. Is 'Spider-Man' a live-action movie or is it something more?"

During shooting on "Re-Animated," it often got a little nutty behind the scenes as well, says Michael Ouweleen, senior vp development and creative direction. First of all, filming took place in un-air conditioned locations around Los Angeles this year during a summer that saw record-breaking heat.

And then there were act-like-a-pirate Fridays, a long-standing tradition of director Bruce Hurwit and his crew. This requires the crew to dress in costume -- complete with fake parrots and beards, despite the heat -- and talk like a pirate the entire day.

"Bruce would wear an eye patch, which is probably not the best thing for a director," Ouweleen laughs. "With 12-hour days, (talking like a pirate) did get to be annoying -- maybe that's why they were 12-hour days. The (actor) kids thought we were nuts; they were more professional than us."

But all in all, filming on Cartoon's first live-action movie went smoothly -- other than actor Fred Willard cutting his shin on the day of his shoot -- and Samples is eager to do another project similar to "Re-Animated," saying he has others in development already.

"Kids will watch this and be entertained and laugh and walk away thinking, 'This makes a lot of sense for Cartoon Network,' " he says.