20th Century Fox is looking to turn audiences into storytellers by bringing the successful children’s book series, Choose Your Own Adventure, to theaters. The books were a novelty during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s as they put readers into the role of protagonist in every story, allowing them to choose the main character’s actions during pivotal moments. This would provide unique plots and endings that were tailored to each reader’s decisions.
The studio is going to replicate that feeling of freedom through a companion app for the movie that will allow audiences to vote on certain character actions during the film. The movie will be a collaboration with Kino Industries and its CtrlMovie technology, which will power the app needed for the project. How this technology will actually work is up in the air, but, according to Screen Rant, the studio said the voting periods will be seamless, without stopping or disrupting the flow of the film. The plan is to get just one movie off the ground, but a multi-movie deal is also a possibility.
Though Choose Your Own Adventure was a continuous series, each book introduced new settings and perils. It’s not known which, if any, specific book the movie will take inspiration from, but for a series that would trap you in an underground cave in one book and have you hurtling through space in the next, there are countless directions this could go in.
Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.
1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.
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In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.
2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.
Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.
3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.
Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.
4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”
This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.
5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.
“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”
6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.
In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.
One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.
7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.
The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.
8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.
Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.
9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.
From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.
10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.
“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer toldThe New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.
Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effortand The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.
Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.
"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."
A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.