As has become customary in the modern era of genre-driven storytelling, much having to do with the production of “Spellbound”—the next animated epic from John Lasseter and Skydance Animation—has remained a closely guarded secret.
We know it is directed by Vicky Jenson from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, Lauren Hynek, and Elizabeth Martin. As it is rare to see women filmmakers shepherd a movie in this industry, let alone four of them in such prominent positions, “Spellbound” is already a breath of fresh air. We also know that it is a musical.
The project was originally announced in 2017 under the working title “Split.” It stars an all-star cast including Rachel Zegler, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, John Lithgow, and Broadway legend Nathan Lane. Skydance Animation is pulling out all the stops for this animated musical.
Spellbound: The Story So Far
In terms of the actual story, all that is publicly known is that the film is set in a magical world known as Lumbria. Here, the young main character, Ellian, watches as her kingdom is split in half. It is up to her to break the spell that did this and restore everything to its proper order.
Skydance Animation Madrid is on animation duties, which makes sense, given how closely involved they were with “Luck.” Many portions of the film were completed remotely while employees were still working from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although it was initially set to be released in late 2022, it has been confirmed that “Spellbound” will now have a 2024 release date. Exactly when it will be during that year remains to be seen.
The Perfect Pairing: John Lasseter and Skydance Animation
By any conceivable metric, John Lasseter has already had the type of career in animation most people can only dream of. After graduating in the late 1970s, he immediately worked as an animator at Walt Disney Productions. Eventually, he would leave to join the team at Lucasfilm—the company behind the massively successful “Star Wars” series of films.
After Disney purchased that division from Lucasfilm, John Lasseter was at the forefront of what would become known as Pixar—and the world of animation has never been the same. During that period, he co-wrote the story for and directed “Toy Story,” the 1995 film that would forever alter the way people thought about what computer-generated animation could be. He was also involved either as a director, writer, or producer in the company’s hit films, including “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille,” among others.
It was only a few years ago that John Lasseter joined the team at Skydance Animation, hoping to once again change the face of the industry he had known and loved. Skydance Animation was first formed in 2017, and since that time, it has released content with esteemed filmmakers and creators like John Lasseter, David Ellison, John Debney, and Alan Menken, to name a few.
Skydance Animation’s first venture with John Lasseter was the film “Luck,” which came out in 2022 and was directed by Peggy Holmes. It features a renowned voice cast, including Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Ratzenberger. It tells the story of the unluckiest person in the Land of Luck, named Sam Greenfield, as she attempts to change her fate. It was released in the United States in August 2022.
Now, with “Spellbound” on the horizon, it’s clear that neither John Lasseter nor Skydance Animation have any plans of slowing down soon. When you think of all Lasseter has been able to accomplish in even the few short decades since the premiere of “Toy Story” in 1995, it’s truly exciting to think about what he and his colleagues have in store for us with the resources of this new venture at their disposal