Cosgrove Hall has always attempted to push the boundaries, but perhaps its most ambitious innovations are still to come. ‘No one has done large-format,
3-D, stop-frame animation in stereo before, and we aim to be first,’ declares Steve Maher, the producer spearheading the studio’s Imax work.
In partnership with London-based Principal Large Format, pioneers in the field of filming digital animation, Cosgrove Hall aims to start production on its first large-format short by the end of the year. The stop-frame film, entitled Tightrope, is a comedy designed for family audiences involving a hen-pecked husband and his wife’s dress. ‘It’s very visual and the humor is slapstick, so there is no need for any dialogue. We want to a make a film that is highly accessible and entertaining,’ says Maher. ‘We’re in the early stages of doing the design work and negotiating for funding.’ With a fair wind, Tightrope should be ready for release in 2004 at the latest.
Feature-length large-format animation is virtually virgin territory, hugely expensive and labor-intensive. The share price fall for Imax Corp. has forced Cosgrove Hall and Principal to put their other major large-format project on the back burner for the time being. The full-length feature, also stop-frame, is based on the story of Pinocchio and will use some of the outfit’s existing puppets from The Trojan Horse, a one-off film made for festival distribution.
The project was greeted with acclaim when concept designs and a test piece were unveiled by Cosgrove Hall topper Iain Pelling and Principal head Phil Streather at the annual conference of the Giant Screen Theatre Association in Frankfurt last fall.
Backed by a quarter century of producing some of the world’s best and most innovative children’s animation, Cosgrove Hall is convinced it can be a trailblazer in the Imax animation market. ‘We believe there is money to be made in Imax,’ insists Maher. Pelling agrees: ‘We’re taking this very seriously because there is a real demand for creative programming out there on the Imax circuit at the moment. Our joint venture with Principal is ideal because they have the technical know-how, while we have the creative vision and animation expertise.’