Rovio has been talking about an Angry Birds movie for at least two years now and on Wednesday the company revealed the first still from the movie, which will be released in July 2016.
That's not really a big surprise - Rovio has long made it clear that its ambition is to recreate the Disney magic and bring us an Angry Birds, well, everything. There are Angry Birds plush toys and wooden slingshots so that you can play the game in real life. You get t-shirts, costumes, pillows, towels, robes, bedsheets, lunch-boxes, notebooks, schoolbags, and just about any other thing you can think of; and if the Transformers can have a movie then why not the Angry Birds?
It's probably just a coincidence that this reveal comes out at a time when Rovio has had to lay off 130 people from its Finland headquarters. This comes just over a month after the company's CEO stepped down in the face of continued losses yet amazingly the decision to lay off more than a tenth of the staff was described in a blog post by current CEO Mikael Hed as a move towards a "simplified organisation". It's likely that in Finland simplification is just a synonym for decimation, because what else would explain that choice of words?
In the press release from Rovio, the company announced that Jason Sudeikis will star as Red, the starter bird that everyone should be able to recognise. However, the art has gone through a complete revamp so it is possible that no one will make the connection.
Josh Gad, who played Olaf the snowman in Frozen, is also in the movie, as are Danny McBride, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones) is also acting in the movie, voicing the Mighty Eagle (an IAP in the Angry Birds games, the Mighty Eagle can help you clear any level).
The news of the casting is legitimately exciting, as there are some very successful comedy actors who have done wonderful work in the past. As anyone who has listened to Dinklage's recent performance in Destiny can tell you though - even great actors phone it in sometimes.
What's also a little disconcerting is that the art style of the movie is a big departure from the simplified animations that Angry Birds is known for. The Rovio release does hang a lampshade over this, but it would've been very interesting to know the full story of how this decision to abandon the company's signature style was reached. This is all the release has to say on the matter:
"We heard limbs and dialogue were all the rage in modern animation so we went all in. Not just one, but all of our characters have legs and wings! Except for the pigs, that is," added Blanca Juti, Chief Marketing Officer of Rovio.
Let's look at that picture that Rovio has released again:
If you looked at that and thought that it was a teaser for a third Rio movie then you're not alone because it was the first thing that we thought of as well. The proportions of the birds were much more realistic in Rio but the resemblance in style is uncanny. And when Rio was released in 2011 a tie in Angry Birds game called Angry Birds Rio was also released, confusing things further.
In fact aside from games, Rovio has already created a large number of Angry Birds cartoons. These short clips have been distributed through Rovio's various apps to mobile gamers around the world and these clips have largely been funny, simple and incredibly charming.
Most of all though, they continued to hold to the storytelling style and art that was used in the Angry Birds games. You know - the things that made Rovio famous in the first place (in case you weren't keeping score).
Here's a clip that shows exactly how Rovio has been able to translate its games into cartoons in the past. The video is simple, there's no dialogue and not much happens in the five minute clip. Clearly, this model isn't completely suitable for a feature length film, and needs a lot of work. But from this clip below, to Rio, is a pretty big leap.
Coming at a time when the company is going through a very difficult period, it is not easy to treat this announcement without some scepticism. Rovio has not been able to build more gaming brands beyond Angry Birds and it is a company that is facing difficult times, with layoffs and changes in leadership.
With that in mind, even though the new movie looks exciting, the timing of this announcement raises eyebrows. And then you see that the actual film has a "safe" star studded cast, and little in common with the games that so many are familiar with and care about. While it's possible that the films will be a huge success ala Transformers, all these factors make us worry about the future of the company.