Sony penguins 'Surf' ShoWest


LAS VEGAS -- Don't view "Surf's Up" as just another penguin movie -- that was the message that executives from Sony Pictures delivered to exhibitors Thursday at ShoWest as they unveiled footage from the Sony Animation film, set for June 8.

"More bloody penguins, that's what we're here for," joked producer Chris Jenkins, giving voice to what many in the Paris hotel's Le Theatre des Arts were probably thinking, even after Sony welcomed its guests with Hawaiian leis and mai tais. But he quickly added, "This is not just another penguin movie."

In fact, the film, directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, is constructed as if it were a sports documentary about aspiring penguin surfer Cody Maverick, voiced by Shia LaBeouf. The movie's introductory sequence even includes material that looks like archival footage of great penguin surfers from the past.

Jenkins said that the filmmakers worked from the premise that they were telling a story as if it had been filmed by a reality TV crew. "Our movie is more 'Spinal Tap' than tap dancing," he said, taking a light swipe at last year's animated penguin movie, "Happy Feet." "The movie's killer," he promised.

"Surf's Up" is the second feature from 5-year-old Sony Animation, which also was responsible for last year's "Open Season." Yair Landau, president of Sony Pictures Digital, which oversees the animation unit, said Sony Animation was created to use the talents of the digital artists on the Sony lot and to introduce "unique, fresh voices and stories."

Rory Bruer, Sony president of domestic distribution, introduced the event, saying of the upcoming film, "First, it's distinctive, and it's just a lot of fun."