Apple TV+ debuts its first animated feature film Luck


Apple today premiered Luck, its first feature film released as part of an exclusive deal with Skydance Animation. The multi-year deal will see Skydance produce 3D animated movies and TV shows exclusively for Apple TV+.

Skydance is headed up by long-time Pixar veteran John Lasseter (who left the company a few years ago following incidents of professional misconduct), and has brought many high-profile Pixar producers along for the ride, as they look to recreate the Pixar formulae independent of Disney.

We’ll have to wait and see whether Skydance can move past the black marks of Lasseter’s bad behavior. Notably, esteemed actress Emma Thompson was originally signed on to Luck, but publicly departed the role after Lasseter was hired for the Skydance top job.

This week, The New York Times reported that Skydance lawyers investigated the claims against Lasseter, but found “nothing egregious”. Apple does not directly mention Lasseter’s name on the Luck marketing materials. Instead, the Luck trailer and marketing posters read “From the creative visionary behind Toy Story and Cars”.

Luck is based on the premise of the main character, Sam Greenfield, being the unluckiest person in the world. She discovers a secret Land of Luck, where magical creatures are manufacturing good luck to counteract the underworld of bad luck generation. The mythical industry conceit definitely shares some familiar DNA with Monsters Inc.

Apple’s deal with Skydance is valued in the hundreds of millions per property. (Apple also has a separate high-budget deal for live-action Skydance Pictures movies). Production budget on Luck alone stretched to around $140 million, as Apple looks to recreate the Disney Pixar allure on its streaming platform. The valuable real estate of the Apple.com homepage is dominated by Luck promotion today, a further indication of the film’s significance to Apple’s original video efforts.

In addition to high-quality animation and CGI work, Luck features a stacked cast of voice talent including Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, and long-time Pixar voice artist John Ratzenberger. Eva Noblezada plays Sam.

All that being said, Apple and Skydance might not have hit the jackpot with the first go. Early reviews for Luck are mixed, with many praising the animation quality but found the script lagging, dragged down with too much exposition and a flurry of disconnected sub-plots. It might not be as memorable as a Pixar classic, but it should be decent family fare all the same.

Luck’s behind-the-scenes development perhaps reflects the scattershot plotting described in the reviews. Work on the film predates Lasseter’s involvement. Upon his arrival at Skydance, he tore up much of the script and worked with the Skydance team to revamp it, adding more fantastical elements and characters like a pink dragon (voiced by Jane Fonda).

Concept art for Skydance’s next animated film, Spellbound

The next film on the Skydance-Apple slate is ‘Spellbound’, an animated musical. Lasseter was involved with this project at the early stages, unlike Luck. The star-studded Spellbound cast includes Rachel Zegler, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, John Lithgow and more.

Prior to the Apple deal, Skydance Animations was partnered with Paramount. Paramount previously announced the release date of Spellbound as November 2022. However, that schedule is now invalid — Paramount also said Luck was coming February 2022 and that obviously didn’t happen — and Apple is yet to confirm a new official date for the film.

Looking further out, Skydance is developing ‘Pookoo’ and ‘Ray Gunn’ as feature films for Apple (first reported in this feature article on Lasseter by The Hollywood Reporter). Ray Gunn hails from Brad Bird, creator of Pixar’s The Incredibles franchise.

Skydance and Apple have also officially announced a TV series adaptation of The Search for WondLa novels, with Apple giving the show an upfront two-season order.

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