''I got a phone call from my producer, Baker Bloodworth, and I was a huge Elton John fan growing up, so the first thing he said was, 'Kelly, how would you like to direct an animated film that has music written by and is executive produced by Elton John?' That was the first thing, and I said, 'Wow, tell me more.' He said, 'Well, its an animated film about garden gnomes.' And I was like, 'Wow! They havent done that yet!' Then he said, 'And its Romeo and Juliet told with garden gnomes!' And I think there was a long pause, and I went, 'Wow, I have to think about that one.' ''
So said Kelly Asbury, the director of Gnomeo & Juliet. He also recalled meeting with Elton, who wanted him on board, and that he was permitted to ''reboot'' the project completely.
''We started from scratch. I was given the opportunity, along with Steve Hamilton Shaw, my producer; we re-wrote the script sort of from scratch, we worked really hard to get a very good, clean story that was an interpretation of the play in some form, obviously with a different ending. And because of that, and because of using the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin sort of as the emotional bridge, sort of like in The Graduate where the emotion thats on screen is supported by the music thats playing and sort of an emotional queue. Those things all sort of evolved and it became sort of this dream project, and the challenge of all those very separate elements, as a director, thats kind of what you want.''
As mentioned previously, a sequel is planned. As of this writing, production was to commence this fall on Sherlock Gnomes.
Reuniting the gnome cast from the films predecessor which grossed $194 million worldwide last year, the sequel begins when a number of gnomes start disappearing from the suburban gardens of England. Gnomeo, Juliet and friends must now enlist the help of Sherlock Gnomes, 'the greatest ornamental detective,' to track the culprit, but unfortunately he is not as insightful as his human counterpart. As the crimes against gnomanity continue, the threat to their world becomes bigger than they ever imagined.
''Action detective stories need some gnomes to liven them up, Im sure Arthur Conan Doyle would agree,'' said Rocket Pictures Steve Hamilton Shaw. ''It will be a fun, broad family film building on the popular foundation of the first. We believe the wide appeal of our world and characters combined with strong musical elements create a terrific franchise opportunity.''
The writing team behind the first picture, Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil, return for the sequel, which will boast some new songs from Elton. The vocalist is also to serve as executive producer, whilst Shaw and David Furnish are producing, and Gnomeo & Juliet director Kelly Asbury acts as a creative consultant.
Meanwhile, Gnomeo and Juliet can be seen on U.S. TV. It's on Starz Kids & Family this Saturday at 1:35 p.m. and 8 p.m. Next month, it comes to Encore, where it premieres at 6:30 p.m. on August 3.