Tim Allen is getting in ‘toon… again. Allen, who lent his voice to Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, is working on another bit of animation, this time for his ABC hit Home Improvement. Scheduled to air the week of Thanksgiving, the 10-minute Rankin/Bass-style sequence (remember Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?) has ”Tim falling asleep while watching a Frosty the Snowman kind of thing on TV,” says Oregon-based animator Will Vinton, whose studio is creating the segment using stop-motion animation. ”That triggers him to dream about everybody in that style.” The segment is just one of the ideas Allen, the show’s new executive producer, wanted on the agenda this season. ”I wanted to come up with a way of making a holiday thing memorable,” he says. The retro segment — which reminds Allen of the vintage Norelco razor Christmas commercial — is ”so homey, it seems to go in line with HI being America’s show.”
— David Poland
THE JETSON AGE:
A flying car that folds into a briefcase may still be a few years away, but life in the ’90s is getting more and more like The Jetsons. At least that’s the brave new world the folks at America Online are pushing in new ads for their service. The jazzy spots feature a modern family using modems, cell phones, and the like, all to the bebop theme of the ’60s space-age cartoon series. ”The Jetsons‘ world is becoming a reality,” says Eric McClellan, executive creative director at TBWA Chiat/Day New York, the ad’s creator. Adds AOL president Ted Leonis: ”That cartoon made people feel good about the future. Once you hear that song, you just can’t get it out of your head.” Let’s hope so — AOL coughed up $1 million to get the tune’s rights from Time Warner-owned Hanna-Barbera. The Jetsons, meanwhile, are part of a larger trend. Also incorporating recognizable TV themes in ads are MCI (The Brady Bunch) and Ford Explorer (Green Acres).
— Chris Nashawaty
Sure, the play’s the thing. But 3 hours and 58 minutes of it? That’s the running time of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet — and the lengthy reel has left Castle Rock Entertainment grappling with just how to convince audiences what a piece of work this $18 million Hamlet really is. ”The reality is, exhibitors aren’t going to like that,” says former Orion marketing chief David Forbes. ”Four hours is a problem for anybody.” Alas, the studio’s devised a strategy: ”[We’re going] to make it seem like an event,” says Castle Rock marketing chief Jim Fredrick of the film, which features Robin Williams as Osric and Billy Crystal as a gravedigger. Hamlet will be released at Christmas in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto for Oscar consideration, and the studio will institute a 10-minute intermission and may offer reserved seats to hype the film. Says Fredrick, ”This is the version that will bring out the cinephiles.” Maybe, but the studio will hedge its bets and release a 2-hour-15-minute version after the film goes wide in January.
DEAD WOMEN WALKING?
With female-empowerment movies pulling weight at the box office (Waiting to Exhale and The First Wives Club have grossed a combined $149 million), it’s no surprise Geena Davis is thinking about Thelma & Louise again. At the New York premiere for her Long Kiss Goodnight, Davis pined for another romp with Susan Sarandon, her Thunderbird-driving sidekick in 1991’s sistah smash. ”I’d like to do another movie with her,” said Davis. ”She’s a big hero. I sort of wish we could be the same characters, but of course they’re dead.” While that’s never stopped Hollywood (after all, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley returns from the dead in the next Alien film), T&L screenwriter Callie Khouri rules out another film starring the estrogen-juiced hell-raisers. ”Not to say I wouldn’t jump at the chance [of working with Davis and Sarandon],” says Khouri. ”But it would be hard to top the experience I had with them. It would seem cheesy to go back.” Then again, we never did see that car hit the ground.
— Casey Davidson