DreamWorks Animation and Netflix will pair on “Orion and The Dark,” a CG family comedy written by Charlie Kaufman and based on a 2014 book by Emma Yarlett. Animator Sean Charmatz will mark his feature debut with this darkly whimsical tale about a young boy confronting his greatest terror.
That boy is Orion (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), an elementary schooler and full-time fraidy cat unnerved by heights, spooked by domestic animals, and rendered nearly catatonic by that worst plight of all – the dark. Only one night the Dark (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser) just about has enough, so he takes Orion on a nocturnal adventure to show the boy there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.
DreamWorks Animation is set to announced the title onstage at the Annecy Animation Festival on Tuesday at a studio focus. It will screen three excerpts of a project already well underway. Netflix will release the film in 2024.
The first clip finds the neurotic young boy going about his day, repeating his voluminous list of fears as if a mantra. “Rejection, humiliation, murderous gutter clowns,” Orion chants. And as the film’s rounded 3D edges turn into rough 2D scribbles found the back of a notebook, the troubled boy continues: “Cell phone waves giving me cancer, saying good morning, bees, dogs, the ocean!”
But of all Orion’s fears, nothing compares to the nightly visitor who greets him once the lights go out. Only our Dark is a garrulous and good-time fellow, so he takes the rejection in stride. “I’m going to get you to overcome your fears if it kills me,” he chides the boy. “And I’m immortal, by the way, so I have all the time in the world.”
Subsequent clips channel Kaufman’s impish sense of humor, dropping in a cameo by (or pitch perfect impression of) Werner Herzog, and hinting at a wider universe full of literalized and embodied late-night phenomena. Other characters swirling around this world include Insomnia, Unexpected Noises and Sleep, who carries her targets off to slumberland by smothering them with a pillow or dousing them with chloroform.
Presented in various stages of completion, the excerpts promise an elegant animation style, especially when depicting the central, non-human character. The Dark is a cloak of black mist, casting a pall of shadow beneath him as he soars the night sky and shimmying around the beam of a flashlight with surprising agility once Orion tries to chase him away.