Fans of legendary film animator, director, producer, screenwriter, and voice actor John Lasseter will be pleased to know that he’s hard at work producing Spellbound. It’s the second feature film from Skydance Animation, the animated movie division of burgeoning production company Skydance Media.
For those who are unfamiliar with him, Lasseter was the influential leader of the computer animation studio Pixar until 2006, when he was promoted to the chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios. In those two roles, he became famous as the director of animated pictures Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2. All of these films were massive critical and commercial hits. In addition, he served as the producer or executive producer of more than 100 other Pixar and Disney productions, including Beauty and the Beast, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Frozen, Finding Dory, and Cars 3.
In 2019, John Lasseter was appointed as the head of Skydance Animation in tribute to his masterful storytelling and animation skills. Skydance’s movies have included Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Beyond, Annihilation, and Top Gun: Maverick. The company initially financed and distributed them through Paramount, but it now has a deal with AppleTV+.
The Plot of Spellbound
While little is known about the plot of Spellbound, the logline that’s been released so far states that “Spellbound tells the story of Elian, a teenager who comes of age using her magical powers to defend her family when the opposing forces of light and darkness threaten to divide her kingdom.”
It’s not known who or what caused these opposing forces to threaten her kingdom, but the studio has issued one image from the upcoming film. It shows Elian between two magical beasts, with mountains and a fairy-tale kingdom in the background across a winding river. It’s unknown if these beasts are related to her (Could they be her parents? Have they been transformed from human shapes into mystical creatures?). Other character names that have been publicized give further hints about the story. In addition to the queen and king characters (likely the parents of Elian), there are two celestial oracles and a pair of ministers. Will these latter characters offer guidance to Elian on how she can save her kingdom? All of these questions remain to be answered.
The Cast and Crew of Spellbound
The voice of Elian will be that of West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler, while Nicole Kidman will voice Queen Ellsmere, Javier Bardem will voice King Solon, John Lithgow will voice Minister Bolinar, Jenifer Lewis will voice Minister Nazara Prone, Nathan Lane will voice The Oracle of the Sun, and André de Shields will voice The Oracle of the Moon. The film’s director will be Vicky Jenson, known as the director of fan-favorite Shrek. The script is being written by Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Hynek, and Linda Woolverton, who worked on The Christmas Ball, Mulan, and The Lion King, respectively.
Composing music and songs for the film will be Tony- and Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken. He created the music for Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and both Aladdin features, so the soundtrack is likely to be in demand.
Originally known at various points as Split and The Unbreakable Spell, Spellbound had been slated for a 2019 release. However, delays caused Skydance Animation’s Luck (also produced by John Lasseter) to become the company’s first released feature after the 2021 short film Blush. Luck had its debut on AppleTV+ in August.
Spellbound will also appear on AppleTV+, likely in 2023 or 2024. For fans of the Academy Award-winning John Lasseter, it’s an eagerly anticipated chance for him to show off his inimitable, magical skills once again.