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What We Know About John Lasseter’s 2nd Feature Film With Skydance Animation: Spellbound 

Skydance Animation has been in the headlines lately for several reasons – the recent release of their first full-length animated feature, Luck, and the recent investment from KKR of $2 billion. Amid this news, the release of Skydance Animation’s upcoming feature-length musical animation has been unfortunately overcast. Spellbound, the second animated feature since John Lasseter’s addition to the Skydance Animation team, is set to come out in early 2023. Although there’s still a lot to learn, we know quite a bit about what’s in store

Here’s a brief overview of Skydance Animation’s upcoming feature-length musical film: Spellbound.

The Plot Of Spellbound: A Synopsis

Spellbound is an animated fantasy musical that takes place in the Kingdom of Lumbria. The movie’s plot centers around Princess Elian. As we enter the story, we learn that a spell has torn the land of Lumbria in two and threatens to divide the kingdom forever. Princess Elian sets out to remedy this spell and reunite her kingdom when all else has failed.

Unfortunately, it is still too early in production to know much more about the plot than is already available. This is not unheard of in the animation sphere and was true of Skydance’s first full-length animated feature. Skydance fans did not hear much about Luck until a month or two before its release, and it looks like Spellbound might remain shrouded in that sort of mystery until closer to its release.

However, based on the crew of Spellbound, we can get a general feel for what this movie will offer audiences. John Lasseter is heading up the Skydance Animation team working behind the scenes. With award-winning animated franchises like Cars and Finding Nemo under his belt, it’s clear that he has a knack for animated artistic direction. But Lasseter isn’t the only visionary mind behind the creation of Spellbound.

Joining the team are directors Vicky Jensen and David Lipman. Jensen started her career working on DreamWorks’ The Road To El Dorado and was eventually asked to lead the direction of the animated DreamWorks classic Shrek. David Lipman also worked on Shrek and went on to produce movies after the computer-animated hit. We also know that Spellbound is an animated musical – an ambitious project for the company’s second feature-length film since the pandemic’s beginning when their deal with AppleTV+ was solidified. Alan Menken, a beloved former Disney composer, will also be working on the musical.

Spellbound will be available on AppleTV+ to subscribers sometime in the middle of 2023.

Spellbound’s Cast

While we don’t know much about the plot of the movie, we do know that it is packed with award-winning stars. Some of the lead roles in the movie are not typically cast in musicals so viewers can look forward to their musical performances.

According to Deadline, Rachel Zegler was among the first cast for the movie. She was confirmed in April of 2022 as the lead. Though new to Hollywood, Zegler made her debut in the 2021 revival of West Side Story as Maria Vasquez – for which she won a Golden Globe.

The extensive cast & crew of Spellbound also includes:

  • Nicole Kidman as Queen Ellsmere. Nicole Kidman is best known for The Hours & Eyes Wide Shut, though her breakthrough role came from 1989’s Dead Calm. Kidman is not new to musicals, having taken the lead as Satine in 2001’s Moulin Rouge.
  • Javier Bardem as King Solon. Javier Bardem is breaking out of his typical role for Spellbound. Although Bardem typically sticks to more dramatic roles, he has done some singing for Spanish-speaking roles earlier in his career.
  • Jordan Fisher as Callan. Jordan Fisher got his start as a child actor, guest starring in Nickelodeon shows like iCarly before getting his break in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Since then, Fisher has starred in several well-known children’s shows, such as SheRa and the Princesses Of Power. Fisher is also a singer.
  • John Lithgow as Minister Bolinar. Children’s movie and comedy lovers are excited about the inclusion of John Lithgow in Spellbound. Lithgow has been a staple in family movies since the 1980s, starring in films such as Harry and the Hendersons and Shrek. He also was the lead in the 1990’s comedy classic television show 3rd Rock From The Sun.
  • Jenifer Lewis as Minister Nazara Prone. Jenifer Lewis will be doing voicework with John Lasseter’s crew again in Spellbound. Lewis got her start on Broadway as a singer. One of Lewis’ first animated voice roles was as the voice of Flo in the Cars franchise, which Lasseter spearheaded during his time at Pixar. Fans of Jenifer Lewis will also recognize her as Ruby Johnson from the ABC hit series Black-ish.
  • Nathan Lane as the Oracle of the Sun. Nathan Lane is beloved in many film and movie realms, having done extensive work on Broadway and in comedic roles for film and television. His breakthrough film role was in the 1987 film adaptation of Ironweed, but kids’ musical fans will recognize him as the voice of Timon from The Lion King.
  • Andre DeShields as the Oracle of the Moon. Andre DeShields is a beloved singer, actor, and choreographer. Having done a lot of work on television and choreographing musicals, this will be one of his biggest roles in a movie thus far in his career.

John Lasseter’s Animation History + The Future Of Skydance Animation

With only one full-length animated feature in Skydance’s books, and so little about the plot of Spellbound available, how are viewers supposed to know that the movie will be worth watching? For one, John Lasseter. Animation fans have been waiting patiently to see what his transition from Disney to Skydance Animation will hold for both Lasseter and the animation company.

John Lasseter is the current head of animation at Skydance Animation. He was one of the lucky few who knew exactly what they wanted to do at a young age. With a little encouragement from his mom (an art teacher), he worked on his animation at his church, drawing comics for the church community. He pursued a degree in animation at the California Institute of the Arts and after graduating, went on to secure a job at Disney as an animator. During his initial years, Lasseter worked on projects like The Fox and the Hound.  

He moved on to work briefly at LucasFilm in the computer animation department. The department was sold and became Pixar, where John Lasseter got his initial first moments of fame. Toy Story was the first full-length computer-animated feature in world history – and it was written, directed, and partially animated by Lasseter. He worked on almost all of Pixar’s subsequent movies and several Disney movies, between 1994 and 2018. He left Disney in 2018.

Shortly after he departed from Disney, Lasseter joined the team at Skydance (in late 2019). Since he joined, Lasseter has been at the helm of Blush (an animated short by Joe Mateo), Luck (starring Eva Noblezada and Simon Pegg), and now Spellbound, which is currently filming. Spellbound is not the end for Lasseter or Skydance, either. Two more films – Ray Gunn (a Brad Bird Film) and Pookoo are forthcoming.

While little is known about Spellbound and those forthcoming new feature-length animated films, Lasseter’s work has been consistent. Very few of the films under his tutelage have fallen out of the zeitgeist of animated lore, which means that it’s likely that the subsequent few films coming out under his direction – including Spellbound – have the potential to become modern classics. Hopefully, these will solidify Skydance Animation’s place in modern Animation.