When Finnish developer Rovio first released Angry Birds in 2009, few could have predicted the incredible success that awaited the simple game. Since its initial release six years ago, the game has been downloaded over 3 billion times across various mobile platforms. The franchise single-handedly launched Rovio to international success, with spinoffs and licensed merchandise rapidly appearing in stores around the world. And while Angry Birds 2 hasn’t come close to the success of the first, the free-to-play game has already been downloaded over 20 million times.
It wasn’t long after the release of the first game that we began hearing rumblings of an animated movie adaptation. The project built slowly from there, but after a few years Sony Pictures acquired worldwide distribution rights for the film and set a release date for 2016. With the release date set and producer John Cohen (Despicable Me) brought on board, the film finally began to make progress. Veteran screenwriter John Vitti (The Simpsons) was brought on board to pen the screenplay and Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly were announced as co-directors on the project.
The success of Angry Birds is undeniable, but many were left wondering how such a simple game could possibly translate to film. Speaking with EW, Cohen offered some brief insight into the plot of the upcoming movie.
“The question Rovio gets more than anything is ‘Why are these birds so angry?’ This is the origin story for how that conflict came to exist between birds and little green piggies.”
The film will follow Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), a citizen of an all-bird island who has problems controlling his anger. He’s not alone in this, as the spastic Chuck (Josh Gad) and the explosive Bomb (Danny McBride) are similarly incapable of managing their rage. It’s up to these three unlikely heroes to defend their island from the intrusion of the green pigs.
For a look at those characters and more – boasting a voice cast that also includes Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, and Maya Rudolph – check out the Angry Birds images, below:
Co-director Fergal Reilly spoke with EW about some of the challenges in adapting the property to film.
“These are icons in a game that appear to be characters, but really they’re just icons. So it’s up to us to flesh them out… It’s an advantage that we have such a huge brand. A lot of iconic movies come from branded entertainment. But you have to quickly forget about that when you’re working on the movie because you still have to, you know, make the movie.”
While Angry Birds wasn’t necessarily a game that demanded a film adaptation, it stands a fair chance of being one of the better video game adaptations to date (granted, the competition isn’t especially impressive). The lack of an established story in the game might be the film’s greatest strength, giving the creators a blank slate to build the story from the ground up. Likewise, Vitti’s film script work on Alvein & the Chipmunks and its “Squeakquel” isn’t so impressive, but he did work on The Simpsons back during its golden age in the early ’90s – and he co-penned the well-received Simpsons Movie, too.
Point being, there’s potential there – and considering the depth of talent behind the project and the incredible supporting cast, Angry Birds reads as having enough promise on paper that it should be able to lure in family audiences to the theater (as well as some curious fans of the game franchise).
Angry Birds will open in U.S. theaters on May 20th, 2016.