Universal Pictures devoted at least half of its two-hour presentation this Wednesday at the Las Vegas CinemaCon convention to its animation slate, putting a large emphasis on the profitable "Despicable Me" franchise and hanging its hopes on a"Grinch" reboot.
The biggest news? Benedict Cumberbatch, who is currently in production on Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” will voice the Grinch in an adaptation of 2000’s live-action “How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
“We look forward to a global Christmas celebration with a movie that is both modern and classic,” said Illumination Entertainment founder Chris Meledandri, who also showcased a preliminary image of the green goon sporting a fluffy bathrobe. The film is set for release in 2017.
The animation executive also announced new voice casting for “Despicable Me 3,” in which Gru discovers he has a long-lost twin brother named Drew, who has been “Blessed with a full head of blonde hair.” Steve Carell, who played Gru in the first two films, will voice both twin brothers in the third entry. The siblings will face off against Balthazar Bratt, a washed-up '80s child star who has been driven to evil “after the abrupt cancellation of his TV show after he hit puberty,” explained Meledandri. “Now, he plots for world domination as revenge for all those who mocked him.”
“South Park” co-creator Trey Parker has been cast as the mulleted villain -- his first role outside of his own show. Meledandri said Parker had never been asked to do a voice outside of “South Park” and reveled in the opportunity, gleefully sharing that he was happy somebody else had to “figure out how to make the second act work” after he was done in the sound booth.
Animation has played a prominent role at the annual convention of movie theater owners this year. On Wednesday morning, Walt Disney Pictures screened the first 27 minutes of this summer’s “Finding Dory,” a day after Warner Bros. highlighted footage from its "Lego Batman" flick. Sony Pictures, which presented its slate to exhibitors on Tuesday, also featured its animated fare prominently, including a new “Smurfs” film, “The Emoji Movie” and an all-animated “Spider-Man” flick.
Meledandri emphasized how much the animation landscape had changed since the company began years ago, when it employed two people in a borrowed office. Today, he said, the company has more than 800 employees.