Angry Birds Star Wars has been topping app store charts around the world, but now the game’s developer Rovio has its sights set on Hollywood: an official Angry Birds movie to be filmed in 3D.The company has announced that the film will be released in the summer of 2016, with John Cohen signed on to produce it, and David Maisel executive producing. Rovio will be making and financing the film itself, rather than working with a big studio partner.
Cohen’s production credits include Despicable Me and Hop, although his CV also includes work on Ice Age, Robots and Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. Rovio’s announcement also boasts that he “had the idea to reimagine Alvin and the Chipmunks” for their 2007 movie comeback.
Maisel, meanwhile, has been working with Rovio in an advisory role since June 2011. He used to be chairman of Marvel Studios, and was also executive producer on the Iron Man film.
“With John’s hands-on producer background and David´s expertise in establishing and running his own successful studio, these two are the dream team for making a movie outside the studio system,” says Rovio CEO Mikael Hed in a statement.
While fans have a four-year wait for the film to be released, Rovio will be filling the gap with short-form animation. In April 2012, the company announced plans to make 52 episodes to be released weekly through digital channels, although they missed their promised launch window of Autumn 2012.
“We’re going to roll it out on all possible devices,” said head of animation Nick Dorra at the time. “We’re looking at building a video app for that, and we’re also looking at partnerships and so on… We want to be on all screens.”
By keeping control of the movie’s finance and production, Rovio will be able to choose its distribution channels for that too: potentially making it available to watch on smartphones and tablets shortly after its cinema debut.
The company certainly has the internal capabilities to make a film. The same month it hired Maisel, it acquired Finnish animation studio Kombo to gear up for the planned animated shorts and film.
Rovio also has a huge community of Angry Birds fans to promote the film to – assuming they’re still fans in 2016. In October 2012, executive vice president Andrew Stalbow said the games have been downloaded more than 1bn times, and had 20m-30m daily active players, and 200m monthly active players.
Stalbow also talked then about Rovio’s big-screen ambitions. “Hollywood has seen the success that Angry Birds has had, and Hollywood is hot for our brand, and hot for working with us on many different levels,” he said. “For us, the shortform series is just the start of our plans in animation.”
As a franchise, Angry Birds has been lucrative already for Rovio. Financials published in May revealed that the company’s total revenues were €75.4m (£60.8m) for 2011, with earnings before tax of €48m (£38.7m). 30% of those revenues came from merchandise and licensing income.
Rovio’s grand ambitions have often been treated with derision by other companies within the mobile games industry, and the wider entertainment world.
Yet the company has made a habit of delivering on its promises, and has already attracted a generation of young fans responding to the birds as characters, rather than a specific game mechanic.
With that in mind, the mobile and entertainment industries would do well not to write off the film, even if it is four years away.
“We want to be the first entertainment brand with one billion fans,” said marketing boss Peter Vesterbacka at the recent SLUSH conference in Helsinki.
“People think of the one company people use day, which is Coca Cola, and that’s just a soft drink. So it should be straight-forward for us to get to one billion fans every day in the next two to three years…”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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