Between now and the weekend I'll be telling you quite a lot about Disney's slate of upcoming animated films, including this year's Frozen. I can say already that I've seen a good chunk of that film and enjoyed it a great deal.
We'll start, though, with some exclusive info on a film that Disney have yet to announce. It's called Giants and it will be to Jack and the Beanstalk as Tangled was to Rapunzel and Frozen is to The Snow Queen.
Animated films have very long development times, and sometimes they go a long way into that process before going no further. Perhaps the most famous example of this would be Pixar's Newt, and it happened with Disney, most recently, with King of the Elves.
It's possible that a similar fate might befall Giants. The film hasn't been officially announced, and it could disappear from the schedule even after it is. But for now, work on the film continues, and I understand that director Nathan Greno has had a couple of table reads and is getting the basic shape of the film into good order. I think this one's going to go all the way.
Greno, if you didn't know, was one half of the directing team on Tangled too.
The look of this film – at least for now – is very much in the Tangled and Frozen vein, and the plan is to realise the film with the same sort of CG processes and styling – though I'm sure it will be pushed even further to allow for better textures, more expressive animation, advances in the tech all round. That's what happens at Disney, film by film.
Interestingly, after Frozen is out at the end of this year, most of Disney's other upcoming pictures will be going for some rather distinctive aesthetics. By the time Giants comes along, some years from now, it may feel like a nice return to a more classic look.
Also, a few years from now, we'll be some distance away from Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer, a film with which Giants shares more than a few specifics.
For one thing, they both have a hero called Jack, and Giants named for the Fee Fi Fo Fum rhymes. In this story, these names are abbreviations of Feebus, Fifen, Fogel and Fobert, a family of giants at the heart of the tale. There's another brother too, Faustus, their leader. Like all good villains, he's got a relatable point of view, he's just not quite joining the dots correctly.
Also like Singer's film, we see the introduction of a love interest from a class above Jack. In this case, Angelina isn't royalty, but just from a merchant family, though her parents do see him as being "below" her.
The real money is manifest in Marco, born to nobility and the third corner of a love triangle with Jack and Angelina. He's a good guy, though, and the only reason he and Jack can't be fast friends from the off is that they're both drawn to Angelina. And, yes, he's called Marco because, like Polo, he wants to travel – and to open up trade routes.
The fourth human lead is Inma, a scrappy tomboy type – and something of a class warrior, I understand. She's the one I'm rooting for in this story, the tireless fighter against injustice, taken less seriously because she happens to be a pre-teen girl. Of course, there is that story about David and Goliath…
But, okay, it's not the humans that get the title billing here. It's the giants. The Storm Giants. Huge, thunderous figures.
In this story, the Storm Giants have made a pact with the humans. If the humans work for them and give them a percentage of their harvest and livestock, they'll return the favour by keeping danger and threats at bay. At first, it must have been appealing to have a Giant agree to fight your corner, but the people aren't getting enough for themselves now. Faustus' name is seeming to be a touch ironic.
And this is where we find ourselves at the beginning. As you might expect, there's then a journey up to where the Giants live and some terrible conflict between the humans and the Storm Giants. There's a lot of sneaking about and gruesome recipes and all that good stuff you're used to from fairy tales about ogres and their ilk.
But what you may not expect is how Jack ends up befriending one of the Storm Giants – and this is what sews the beans, if you will, for the adventure, and the big changes it brings about.
We're a long way out from seeing what Greno and his collaborators at Disney manage to make of this story, but they're lining the pieces very nicely. I think their intentions are pretty much in step with the way Tangled and Frozen turned out, if a bit more boy-centric.
We're still on the wrong side of the voice casting process and there's literally tons of development artwork yet to be done, so while I might think I know what the giants will look like, but there's every chance they'll be completely redesigned.
There's no date to mark on your calendar just yet, but I promise that I'll keep you in the loop as the years go by.