Unified Pictures announces its Noah’s Ark cartoon… again…

Unified Pictures announces its Noah’s Ark cartoon… again… August 20, 2014

noahsark-unifiedUnified Pictures announced today that John Stevenson, one of the directors of the original Kung Fu Panda, will direct an animated version of Noah’s Ark for them, and that the film will be completed two years from now, in 2016.

None of that is news, though, to anyone who has been following this film. Stevenson’s involvement with the film was first announced in March 2013, and Unified Pictures has been saying the film will be ready in two years ever since it was first announced in 2007. Maybe what’s new now is that Stevenson will direct the film by himself; today’s press release makes no mention of Cameron Hood, who was announced as co-director last year.

The press release also indicates that the story has been changed somewhat. Last year, the trade reports all said that the film’s protagonist was a meerkat, while the Unified Pictures website said it was someone named “Gilbert the Groundhog.” Well, as of today, the protagonist is still named Gilbert, but now he’s an aardvark — which leads me to wonder if the filmmakers were influenced at all by Aardvark Art’s Ark, an animated film that Casey Affleck pitched to Warner Brothers back in 2006.

The script, which was originally credited to Philip LaZebnik (The Prince of Egypt), is now credited to LaZebnik and Glen Dolman. Here’s the synopsis:

The story follows an outcast aardvark by the name of Gilbert, who becomes the reluctant leader of a ragtag group of misfit animals that need to be led to the mighty ark before the impending flood. Along their journey, they band together to conquer unforeseen obstacles, and ultimately, Gilbert discovers within himself the inner strength and ingenuity to prove that in a world of “twos,” he was truly destined to be “the one.”

As I’ve noted in the past, this is but one of several cartoons about Noah’s Ark — whether literal or quasi-allegorical — that have been in various stages of development or production lately. Other such films that I have noted here include:

  • Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning — Promenade Pictures — According to the IMDb, this film, a follow-up to The Ten Commandments (2007), was released in Belgium in 2012, though I have seen no evidence to support this claim. The production company’s website was still active in June 2012, but has since gone dead.
  • Rock the Boat — Gaumont — This film, about “a porcupine and cheetah who, since their species are already represented on Noah’s Ark, disguise themselves as a fictitious hybrid — porceetahs — to gain passage,” ran into financial trouble back in 2008. I have heard nothing about it since.
  • Not the End of the World — Illuminated Films — The company’s website seems to indicate that this film, based on the Geraldine McCaughrean novel and told from the point of view of Noah’s youngest daughter, is still in development.
  • Noah’s Ark — Gullane — Walter Salles announced earlier this year that he would produce this film about two “bohemian mice”, directed by Sergio Machado and based on the work of Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes.

At least two quasi-Noah-themed cartoons have been released overseas as well, in the last few years, and are now at least partially available online:

And then there are the seemingly defunct projects that were once being developed by Bill Cosby and Walden Media — to say nothing of such live-action efforts as Sold Out! (in development), Evan Almighty (2007) and Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014).

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  • Were the filmmakers also influenced by Thimblerig’s Ark, who has a groundhog as the protagonist? And maybe we’ll be able to add Thimblerig to the mix, as I think it would be the perfect novel to adapt to an animated feature. http://www.thimblerigsark.com