A major independently financed 3D animated Australian feature called Trouble Down Under will begin production on the 2nd September at a special 'purpose built' studio in Sydney, it has been announced.
Steve Trenbirth (The Jungle Book 2, The Lion King 2) will direct the $50 million production, which has a local ensemble cast providing voiceover including Tony Bonner (The Lighthorsemen), Josh Lawson (Crave), Gary Sweet (Gettin' Square), and Dan Mor (Underbelly) amongst others. Fastlane Entertainment's Tony Findlay (Body Mechanics) and the LA-based Frank Miniaci will produce.
“We believe great movies require three key things: a great story filled with fun, action and adventure; a great director who knows what the story will bring to the screen; and a great production team to bring all these elements together. We think we have this covered,” says co-producer Tony Findlay, who created the story and then co-wrote the screenplay with Trenbirth and Howard Jackson (Big Dreams Little Bears).
Trouble Down Under follows a group of African meerkats who are causing tension with a mob of kangaroos in the Outback, which is further complicated when a white wallaby named Al Bino arrives on the scene. “I wanted to write a story that showcases not only our animals and country but also to introduce a third element: the meerkats as foreigners who look different and how this can cause unfounded elements of suspicion and intrigue,” explains Findlay. “We believe we now have improved [the story] to what will be a movie that is enjoyable for children and families all over the globe.”
Findlay reveals that the inspiration for this story was incredibly close to home. “The idea originally came from my large family of brothers and sisters and our adventures growing up together,” he says. “They were typical of most families: filled with fights, fun and arguments, and so it was imagining that same environment in the animal kingdom. It was then interesting to imagine what sort of animals we would be. In essence, it's still all about family and how they are able to engage with others around them.”
The producer is proud this will be a predominately Australian production. “It is written, produced and directed by Australians. It also features many Australians in the voice cast and it will create well over 150 jobs during production at our purpose built studio that has major cost saving benefits and it is being done here in Sydney,” he confirms.
Findlay already has plans for formulating a franchise out of Trouble Down Under, too. “I have began forming ideas for the plot points for the sequel and already know who will be targeted as villains and how they will engage with the current cast of characters in the story,” he reveals. “I had always planned on creating an animated franchise consisting not only of a sequel but also ancillary aspects such as picture books for the younger audience.” Findlay has put together content for 12 of these books which will feature in both hardback and electronic form. There are also plans for two tie-in mobile games, which will help spread awareness as the first film approaches completion toward the end of 2015.