Ah, the end of summer. Who doesn’t remember, as a kid, those last few days of August spent running around, using your imagination, and creating worlds within your world to escape the impending school year?
School might start, but kids with any sense of imagination aren’t in favor of missing the late summer release from Skydance and John Lasseter. Their first feature-length animation, Luck, was just released on August 5th, and there’s nothing unlucky about it!
Filled with a star-heavy cast, some cute and quirky characters, and a plot unlike any other out there, Luck has been captivating hearts young and old. Luck is John Lasseter’s first film since joining the Skydance team as its leader, and it doesn’t disappoint. But the making of Luck was one for the history books – filled with relative historical bad luck, but also with resilience.
Ultimately, it all paid off, kind of like the end of Sam’s (the main character’s) story. Let’s know-how!
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Luck’s Unlucky Origin Story | Development Of Luck!
Skydance has been around for quite some time. However, Skydance Animation is a relative newcomer to Hollywood. Created in 2010 by David Ellison, it wasn’t until their 2017 collaboration with Illion Studios that Skydance Animation started to light up the animation scene.
Their collaboration with Ilion ultimately landed the company a deal with Paramount, which kickstarted their ability to create. While the company had a vision for its work, all they were missing was a leader in animation. Cue the arrival of John Lasseter, former head of animation at Pixar.
John Lasseter’s arrival on the team in 2019 came with excitement – after all, the animation giant had been integral to some of the most beloved animated films of all time. But, as the world discovered, everything drastically changed within the next year. Just their luck.
As John Lasseter and the animation team planned their first animated short (Blush) and began plotting out Luck’s development, the COVID-19 pandemic began to shape the world’s future. Even their deals expanded, landing an exclusive deal with Apple TV+.
But how do you make a movie when it’s unsafe to be in the studio? To meet their deal with Apple TV+, they would have to improvise. Luckily, their team was ready and willing to work within the confines of Zoom and other streaming services to craft the movie’s narrative.
Home Voice Studios & Zoom Director’s Meetings | The Luck Was Getting Ready!
Recording can be challenging, even for seasoned voice actors like Whoopi Goldberg (Luck’s Head of Security) and Simon Pegg (Bob the Lucky Black Cat). You aren’t always recording together, so you must sell your interaction with your fellow characters in the recording studio.
Voice recording can be a lonely business even when you’re not in a pandemic. But when you’re required to socially distance? It can throw off the on-set dynamic. During the pandemic, many actors had to work using Zoom meetings, some of whom had never met.
One of the most significant issues? Some of the most prominent actors, like Jane Fonda, had never worked with the director, Peggy Holmes. Holmes is known for animated films and series, so for actors who have not done much with animation, Holmes might not be a household name.
Luckily, many of the actors working over Zoom had a positive experience despite the circumstances. Fonda recounted this in an interview,
“I didn’t know who Peggy Holmes was. All I knew was there was this young woman — I’ve never met her in person…She directed me from Zoom. So all I knew was, “Oh my God, there’s this young woman who is so good!” I will try something, and she will give me another idea about how to do it, and yet again, another one. She was always full of ideas that were very, very helpful. I loved working with her. I found her very creative and positive and very, very helpful as a director.”
For Fonda, the filming of Luck was one of many first. It was her first time recording over Zoom (as for most others). It was also Fonda’s first animated feature. She played the Luck Dragon, who was the CEO of the Land of Luck.
“I found it very interesting. In the future, I’d love to be involved a little bit earlier in the process, because I had some ideas for this character of the Dragon. Some of them were incorporated into the movie, and I think that they added a nice layer to the character of the Dragon. I wish I could have done more of that. I’d love to have more input into mannerisms and things that the character does, that it would be fun to give voice to. What this experience working on “Luck” did for me was that I want to do more of it, and I want to be involved a little bit earlier in the creative process.”
Simon Pegg, who was not new to voiceover acting, also spoke fondly about recording in a post-pandemic world. He played the voice of Bob, the lucky black cat.
“It wasn’t a huge upset not to be in a sound studio; I actually preferred it because it meant that I could go to work in my dressing gown.”
Having such a positive cast to help navigate a pandemic-changed Hollywood made all the difference in the project’s success. But Luck’s heartfelt and carefully crafted plot also significantly impacted the film’s success. That’s the type of storytelling you’d expect from seasoned animation storyteller John Lasseter.
How Does Luck’s Plot Hold Up?
True to many of the animation giants out there, Luck’s plot finds a way to make you feel all the feels. This time, the story centers around a former foster care child who is bound and determined to make her way in the world once she turns 18. Unfortunately, luck would have otherwise.
No matter how hard she works, she always runs into some sort of bad luck that negatively impacts her day-to-day life. It seems like everything she touches turns to chaos, and the only thing that keeps her going is the thought of her old bunkmate back at the foster home.
But after Sam gives part of her sandwich to a black cat she meets on the street, her luck suddenly changes. The cat leaves behind a little penny, and she notices her life getting better when she picks it up. Things go great the morning after until she accidentally flushes her lucky penny down the toilet.
When she finds out Bob can talk and confronts him about his penny, he’s horrified to learn that she’s lost it. When she falls into a portal chasing after Bob, she finds herself in the Land of Luck – a place where luck is made and where humans aren’t welcome.
Humans, it seems, disrupt the normal operations of the Land of Luck, which manufactures all of the good and bad luck for the human world. So, Bob and Sam must go on a many-fold quest to ensure they can get Sam out of the land of Luck unnoticed.
Dressed up as a Leprechaun (a “Latvian Leprechaun,” to explain the height difference), Sam’s bad luck is still hard to disguise. But, without ruining the plot of the movie, the quest to get Sam out of Luck might be more multi-faceted than just making sure the normal operations of Luck go undisturbed.
Initial Reviews Of Luck? Mostly Positive
The release of Luck was a big gamble for both Skydance and John Lasseter because a lot was riding on its success. It was the first full-length feature animation from Skydance Animation and John Lasseter after he left Pixar. It also was the first movie released in the exclusive deal held between Skydance and Apple TV+. However, one of the biggest hurdles the movie had to undergo was filming and production through an unprecedented black swan event: The COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite all the seemingly bad luck thrown its way, Luck managed to pull ahead to the front. Reviews of the movie have been mostly positive, with 90% of Google reviewers leaving a positive review. This mostly seems to be because of its plot, which though complex in places, manages to maintain the sense of heart vital to animated features from similar studios.
The complexity of the story’s mythology speaks to the complicated nature of human mythology, period—it at once nods to the futility of trying to change one’s own luck through ritual (like holding on to an ordinary penny) while also acknowledging that it is those little things that give us hope and keep us going. Which, ultimately, is what changes our story’s outcome.
The plotline of Luck addresses complex questions in simple ways. These types of stories tend to live on in Hollywood history. John Lasseter is no stranger to plotlines like this. And while Luck may not (yet) be up in the legendary status with some of his biggest hits (like Toy Story and Cars), it’s got all the makings of a story that’s begging to be told to future generations. And where does it fit in with Skydance? Luck may be the first of many heartwarming stories in the Skydance Animation collection.