The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey on February 27, 1998 · 119
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The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey · 119

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Hackensack, New Jersey
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Friday, February 27, 1998
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119
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The Record February 27, 1998 MOVIES 41 A misguided 'Quest'? High rolling in Toontown By JEFFREY WELLS Entertainment News Service Animated features are booming, and not just for Disney. Warner Bros., Universal, DreamWorks, and 20th Century Fox all have jumped into the game, with profits ranging from comfortable to wild. The super-successful "The Lion King," a veritable industry (movie, merchandising, Broadway musical, video, upcoming sequel, etc.) that's taken in about Si billion, is the biggest bonanza so far. But increased competition isn't the only offshoot. The stakes are rising also. So much money is pouring in that feature-animation budgets are getting as bloated as those for their live-action cousins. Disney's "Hercules" is believed to have cost in the mid-$80-million range, ditto DreamWorks' upcoming "Prince of Egypt." Now comes Warner Bros.' "The Quest for Camelot," a musical-fantasy loosely based on the King Arthur legend that's due out May 15. It's picked up a reputation in Hollywood circles as the first all-animated, out-of-control, "Waterworld"-type budget-buster, with a cost north of $100 million a first for animation and all kinds of stories about firings, backbiting, and corporate mismanagement trailing in its wake. The naysayers won't speak on the record, but there are plenty of them, passing along more or less the same dirt. "It's an animated mega-bomb," says a screenwriter with ties to animation. "Quest" features a voice-actor cast that includes Cary Elwes, Pierce Brosnan, Jane Seymour, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Oldman, John Gielgud, Bronson Pinchot, Don Rickles, and newcomer Jessalyn Gilsig. The story revolves around the disappearance of Excalibur and the attempts by a pair of young, would-be knights to get it back. There's a nasty villain, of course, as well as a two-headed dragon. "Quest" has had a troubled rep from the beginning of production in mid-1996, when the original director and producer, Bill and Sue Kroyer, were fired by animation chief Max Howard. The Kroyers' dismissal (which some claim wasn't a dismissal but a resignation over creative differences) happened soon after work on 'Quest began. This resulted in the resignations of lead animators who were brought in by the Kroyers. "Quest" co-producer Frank Gladstone was then cut loose in February 1997, after producer Dalisa Cohen Cooper took over. The hiring of replacement director Frederic DuChau was a bone of contention, some have said, apparently over concerns that he lacked the right pedigree A Warner Bros, animation spokesman declined to respond, except to say that creative dissension on at least two other animated features, "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," also occurred without any negative impact on the final product. A senior "Quest" associate who asked for anonymity says that the old bugaboo of too many cooks was the problem. There were fiefdoms at play here," he says. "The simplest thing I could say is that there were 20 people who had 20 different movies in their heads. From the top down no one had the clarity of mind to say what this movie is. No one said anything." His basic regret is that animation divisions, pressured by high budgets, are all shooting for the same kind of homogenous home run. "They all want to make The Lion King' every time out," he says. "But the crest of the wave that The Lion King' caught had been building for years. There was 'An American Tail,' then Who Framed Roger Rabbit,' and then The Little Mermaid' broke it open. The whole thing paid off with The Lion King.' . . .But you have to build to those things. Everybody's too hungry these days. Studios should be finding their own niches." The word on how "Quest" plays isn't too good. An Internet snoop who claims to have seen a trailer at a comic-book convention in San Diego last summer says, "It got such a negative apathetic response from the crowd that the producers seemed embarrassed." To make matters worse, Disney is releasing "Mulan," a similar sort of fantasy-musical, June 19. 1 if'- , - f vJ? W 1 j , f f -vm STARTS TODAY MAUCMMAS HXSON T77iJ 1947 AUJFSfY ONBMO MUimiX OMEMAS SuCCasunna $lN0 NIWAM I7! ClFArvewONCAMS AUWOOO CFMAS 33S4UI Of 'ON 77v77 mcWHm- h arAtoo TVrtN AMBOY MUJimfX 3WX i -n-Xii n moo O.f Afw CmS EAST HANOVER RLEVUC CMMA 4 7 i5 EM9SONOUAD AT ESGfMFCU) 0v WKX njOA 73-77S5 MfHKgUX "J 1 1 m T7ii CXiAWW0 4 OAUBriA aMAS MrjpOQ XWU( 9TOAI CMMM HAOlFTrMAll SO 1iD HAZLfT MU.TVUX arMAS n ii -.tmo KAOOUAffTmiO MYWAY WCATICS rMA 7".7i7 inOAunuB( OW4A7 232AM BOOCAWATT3 KXWAAf rwr. 72t0666 4 MONMOUTH WALL tOUTt 4 TBMnEX MOWS AT tuNswiac so. 2J7iAJJ ONEMAS 777u42 tlTGWS PLAZA CKMASIX Wa.sh.jn TV. MEAOXJr PAVUON OOCLANO OCSTCMMAS MOVCS NANUC? 777tM6 I Ti ! 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