Legendary animator John Lasseter is poised for another hit animated movie with the release of 2024’s Spellbound. In recent weeks, Lasseter’s Skydance Animation has released exciting new details about the feature.
Among the big news is the release of the voice cast for Spellbound.
Rachel Zegler, who made her film debut as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, is the lead in Spellbound. She plays Princess Ellian, who must grapple with dramatic and frightening changes in her kingdom.
Zegler is joined by Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, who play Ellian’s mother and father, the ruling monarchs in the kingdom.
The voice cast is a powerhouse group. It also features Academy Award nominees John Lithgow, Jenifer Lewis, and Nathan Lane in prominent roles. Recently, Tituss Burgess, the six-time Emmy nominee, was also announced as a part of the star-studded cast.
Alan Menken, the eight-time Oscar winner, has scored the Spellbound soundtrack, which includes several new songs. At the recent Annecy International Animation Film Festival, audience members heard selections from Spellbound and were moved to tears.
Spellbound is slated for release on Apple TV+ in 2024, though no specific release date has been announced. It’s produced by Skydance Animation and Apple Original Films.
The Spellbound plot is a classic one, telling the story of Princess Ellian and her magical kingdom of Lumbria. Her parents have been turned into monsters with a terrible spell that Ellian must break.
In the meantime, Ellian must keep the spell a secret from others while her parents are busy tearing the castle apart. A devastated little girl must accomplish all that while her transformed parents don’t even remember her name.
The Annecy panel included director Vicky Jenson and head of story Brian Pimental. The latter walked the audience through the process of storyboarding the songs before playing several of them, as created by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater.
Jenson is an acclaimed veteran of animated features such as the 3D Spellbound, though it’s been nearly two decades since she helmed an animated film.
Jenson won the first-ever Oscar for “Animated Feature” for Shrek (2001) and also directed Shark Tales (2004).
It’s the second animated feature for Skydance Animation, helmed by John Lasseter. The studio previously produced Luck and the short Blush.
Many experts consider the new feature to be Skydance Animation’s most ambitious. It also follows a long path to production.
Initially titled Split, the film was announced back in July 2017, shortly after Skydance Animation launched. Paramount Pictures was scheduled to distribute the film in 2019. However, it went through several changes, including another title change to The Unbreakable Spell before the shift to Spellbound.
In December 2020, Apple TV+ acquired the film. Zegler was announced as the lead in April 2022 with much of the additional voice cast announced in June 2022. Menken announced he was working on the project with Lasseter in April 2020.
Much of the work was done out of Skydance Animation’s Madrid unit. Skydance established a partnership in 2017 with Ilion Animation Studios, the Madrid-based company that is now a part of Skydance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the work on the film was done remotely.
The Spanish influence is significant. The kingdom of Lambria evokes ancient Spanish architecture with domed roofs and Moorish arches.
John Lasseter has been an influential force in animation for decades. He started his career at Disney and was drawn to the then-revolutionary potential of digital animation.
He became one of the first employees of the Pixar Graphics Group, which would become one of the most successful animation companies of all time.
Lasseter played a major role in producing many of Pixar’s early films. He also directed some of the biggest animated films of all time there, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Cars, and Cars 2.
He has won two Academy Awards for “Animated Short Film” (Tin Tin) and a “Special Achievement” award for his work on Toy Story.