Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Awkwafina, Reggie Watts and Cyndi Lauper Board 'The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge'; Movie to be 'Love Letter to Stephen Hillenburg'

Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies' upcoming The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge has added actor Awkwafina (Untitled Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Sequel) and comedian and musician Reggie Watts to its voice cast, with Cyndi Lauper (and her co-writer Rob Hyman) working on original songs for the film, The Hollywood Reporter has revealed! Kelly Marie Tran will also feature in a currently undisclosed role.

In The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge, the third theatrical movie inspired by Nickelodeon's beloved animated series, SpongeBob and Patrick go on a rescue mission to save Gary, who’s been kidnapped by Poseidon and taken to the Lost City of Atlantic City. The movie will reveal the first time our beloved characters (as kids) met at Camp…a magical moment that brings meaning to the power of true friendship. The movie will also serve as an origin story for SpongeBob SquarePants.

"For the first time ever, we're going to get to the origin of how little SpongeBob met the rest of the Bikini Bottom gang at summer camp," Paramount Animation president Mireille Soria said at the VIEW Conference, comparing the film in some ways to It's a Wonderful Life. "The film's opening will take place at Camp Coral when all of our favorite characters meet for the first time."

Described as a “love letter to SpongeBob’s beloved creator Stephen Hillenburg (who died last November), the fans, and the residents of Bikini Bottom,” the project is being directed by Tim Hill and produced by Ryan Harris, with a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Michael Kvamme and choreography by Mia Michaels. The film stars Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), Roger Bumpass (Squidward), Jill Talley (Karen), Mr. Lawrence (Plankton), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy) and Mary Jo Catlett (Mrs. Puff), and will also feature an original song by Ali Dee.

The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge is set to be released in May 2020!

Cyndi Lauper is not new to the SpongeBob SquarePants universe, having previously produced an original song ("Hero is My Middle Name") for Nickelodeon's Tony-award winning Broadway musical The SpongeBob Musical, which is set to embark on a tour of North America this fall.

SpongeBob continues to be one of the more popular animated characters, and even made an appearance during the most recent Super Bowl halftime show.

The last few movies in the franchise have also done quite well for Paramount. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in 2004 was created for $30 million and brought in $140 million worldwide, while 2015's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was made for $74 million and brought in over $325 million worldwide.

Next year is shaping up to be a huge year for SpongeBob, which is celebrating it's 20th anniversary. Nickelodeon is celebrating the landmark anniversary with "Best Year Ever", a year-long global celebration commemorating 20 years of SpongeBob SquarePants, one of the most iconic TV series and characters ever created.

The “Best Year Ever” includes with the premiere of “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout,” an original mixed live-action and animated special, and leads up to the Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies theatrical, The SpongeBob Movie: It's a Wonderful Sponge, coming summer 2020.

The character is also receiving a spinoff series set to premiere on Nickelodeon called Kamp Koral. That 13-episode CG-animated show will focus on a 10-year-old SpongeBob as he spends his summer at the titular summer camp.

SpongeBob has an incredible universe to expand upon and the greenlight for Kamp Koral is a testament to the strength and longevity of these characters known and loved by generations of fans around the world,” said Ramsey Naito, Nickelodeon’s EVP Animation Production and Development.

After over a decade on the small screen and two other big screen adventures, it looks like SpongeBob is more popular than ever. The character has become a fixture on the Internet's meme culture as a lot of the kids who grew up on the series are now picking some of its best moments for humor.

In additional news, Paramount Animation president Mireille Soria is bringing girl power to the unit — literally. The studio, which boasts a mostly female senior staff, is in early development on a Spice Girls movie among a slate eyeing two releases a year, starting in 2020.

All five members of the iconic '90s Brit pop group — Melanie Brown (Scary), Emma Bunton (Baby), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Geri Halliwell (Ginger) and Victoria Beckham (Posh) are on board, with Simon Fuller producing and Karen McCullah and Kiwi Smith writing the screenplay. The animated feature will include Spice Girls classics as well as new songs. The Spice Girls "had an idea that we've been developing," Soria tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They are very involved."

Soria also reveals that Paramount Animation has inked a first-look deal with the joint venture between Imagine Entertainment and Sydney-based animation studio Animal Logic (Happy Feet), which already has two movies in development, one of which Imagine's Ron Howard plans to direct.

In 2022, the previously announced Chinese American fantasy adaptation The Tiger's Apprentice, due Feb. 11, will be joined in the summer by Jersey Crabs, a Grease-like musical set on the Jersey Shore where sea crab tourists clash with land crab townies. Lorene Scafaria is writing, with David Dobkin producing and Megan Wolpert Dobkin exec producing. The Tiger’s Apprentice is based on the best-selling book series by Lawrence Yep, with David Magee (Life of Pi) and Harry Cripps on board to write the screenplay; it follows a teenage Chinese American boy who learns that he is the guardian of the Chinese zodiac. The team includes director Carlos Baena (a Pixar alum), producer Jane Startz and executive producers Raman Hui (Monster Hunt) and Kane Lee.

The studio is also in early development on a Mighty Mouse project planned as a hybrid live-action/animation movie based on the Paramount IP. Jon & Erich Hoeber are on board as writers, and Karen Rosenfelt and Bob Cort as producers.

Soria credits Jim Gianopulos — who came over from Fox to serve as Paramount’s chairman and CEO in March 2017 — for the vision to build an animation studio at Paramount, whose animation history ranges from Betty Boop to Rango.

Since she joined Paramount Animation in mid-2017, she's assembled a senior team made up primarily of women with a long history in animation, including exec vp Sandra Rabins; senior vp Katherine MacDonald; vp production and development Emily Nordwind; and creative exec Maya Kambe. Nate Hopper (previously senior vp production at Fox) joined Paramount Animation as senior vp in March.

"We are all about a diverse slate of movies, but the common denominator being quality, story, heart," says Soria. Perhaps not counted among that group: Skydance's Luck, for which she had been providing creative notes (the two studios have a first-look marketing and distribution pact). After Skydance hired ousted Disney/Pixar chief John Lasseter in January, Soria told her team that Paramount Animation would no longer work creatively with that division.

Also in Paramount Animation's pipline is the graphic novel adaptation Rumble, formerly titled Monster on a Hill, a Hamish Grieve-helmed partnership with ReelFX and Walden Media set to be released in July 2020.

More Nick: Nickelodeon Marks 20 Years of "SpongeBob SquarePants" with the "Best Year Ever"!

Original source: ComicBook (II); Additional sources: IMDb (I, II, III), Wikipedia.

Originally published: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at 21:04 BST.
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