Davis: Principals take pay cuts to make The Lone Ranger

True to form, Depp does not play the title character in The Lone Ranger.

One would think that the team behind The Pirates of the Carribbean would get a definitive “green-light” if they wanted to re-ignite another franchise.

However, Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski had the brakes put on The Lone Ranger back in 2011 by Walt Disney Pictures due to budget concerns. After the trio decided to take pay cuts and the budget was reworked, the production went ahead last year.

True to form, Depp does not play the title character but rather his partner Tonto, an American Indian spirit warrior who recounts the tale of John Reid, a lawyer and ex-Texas Ranger who becomes the masked vigilante on a quest to find his brother’s killers.

Along the way, The Lone Ranger is recruited by Tonto to bring justice to those responsible for destroying his tribe’s villages.

Armie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network) is the man in the mask and Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) plays Red Harrington, a brothel madam who assists them.

In the world of animation, Disney and DreamWorks have always been the leaders, but when Despicable Me came out three years ago, the balance of power shifted significantly.

Illumination Entertainment (distributed by Universal Pictures) was formed in 2007 and in 2010, its modestly budgeted (for an animated film) Despicable Me became a $540 million worldwide hit.

Illumination’s next two movies, Hop & Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax were also money-makers and it also worked with Universal to create Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a hugely successful 3-D ride at Universal Studios Florida.

Despicable Me 2 is now out and it looks like Illumination has done it again with Steve Carell returning as the voice of the villainous(?) Gru.   This time, Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. However, the plot is secondary to the antics of Gru, his adopted daughters and, of course, his Minions.

As well as Carell, there are the voice talents of Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan and co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud as the voices of the Minions.

Illumination is not sitting on its laurels. A spin-off starring Gru’s Minions is already in the works and is set for release next year. Also in the works with director Tim Burton is a stop-motion animated film based upon The Addams Family cartoons by Charles Addams and an adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ Flanimals books into a feature film.

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