tv reporter

Cartoon Net flick sees real world creeping in

When a network that has "cartoon" in its name sets out to do its first 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.

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 spacesuit 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 had been looking to do a project like "Re-Animated" for some time as a natural expansion of their 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 do is use (live-action) as a small component of our strategy, but only where it makes sense with the 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.