Ever since The Blair Witch Project, studios have been trying to figure out the best way to integrate the internet with the campaigns for their movies. With Flushed Away, Dreamworks seems to think they’ve hit on the solution.
Today I zipped uptown to the HBO Screening Room to see an early presentation of Flushed Away, the new CGI film from Aardman and Dreamworks. I’m going to tell you the truth – they showed too much. Not because it was bad, but because what we saw was quite good. When it dawned on me that they were showing us essentially the first two acts, I got bummed because I don’t want to be spoiled when I go see the real thing in Novmber.
Like I said, what we saw was quite good and often very funny (although there’s a group of frog ninjas in it, and the film uses them as an opportunity to make way too many obvious French jokes), and the CGI looked remarkably like the usual Aardman claymation style. Co-director Sam Fell was there, and he explained to us that they went CGI because they wanted to go big, including building a massive rat metropolis in the sewers of London, which would have just been prohibitive in stop motion animation.
The story has pampered, rich pet mouse Roddy left alone by his owners while they go on vacation. The first night he hears a weird sound – a rat explodes up into the house through the pipe in the sink. He flushes Roddy down the toilet and takes over the house. In the sewer Roddy meets a pretty young rat girl and they get mixed up in some James Bond-ian adventures, trying to thwart the plans of The Toad and his minions. The voice cast includes Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Bill Nighy, Jean Reno, Andy Serkis, and Sir Ian McKellan.
After the presentation of the clips, Dreamworks Animation honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg introduced Mark Burnett, best known for creating Survivor. He presented the interactive marketing tool that they hope will draw people into theaters – the Flushed Away Underground Adventure. I have to admit that it didn’t seem too groundbreaking to me. The game will go live in October (you’ll find it here) and you can play through a series of 24 challenges – every day a new challenge becomes available while the old ones stay playable. The challenges range from arcade style action to word puzzles to mazes, and they’ll be customizable difficulties – your 7 year will be able to play and not be frustrated and you’ll be able to play and not be bored.
Completing a challenge gives you a “digital prize” – screensavers and AIM icons, the usual junk – and allows you to move forward to the final round. The last round will feature a puzzle that can only be solved after you see the movie (although it was stressed that the info needed to solve the puzzle can also be found in Flushed Away trailers and on the Flushed Away site). When you defeat that challenge you’ll be entered in a sweepstakes for a trip to London for a “Flushed Away Experience,” which sounds suspiciously like going to the sewer.
The big selling point on this game is that Burnett’s people worked with Aardman from the start, so the game will feature the real talent and will have new character animation. It won’t just be some 64-bit mouse in the game, you’ll be seeing the real Roddy. You’ll also be able to explore the city the rodents have built in the sewer in real time 3D.
Maybe I’m just not the target audience, but the game didn’t grab me. What did grab me was the snippets of film we were shown. I’m not generally a huge fan of animation, but I think that this is a movie really worth getting excited about.