The recent trend towards movies based on inanimate objects, following The LEGO Movie and later The Angry Birds Movie, has continued apace, with movies in various stages of development about Mattel toys, the Magic 8-Ball and even Play-Doh. If it’s a brand name that people know and love, it doesn’t even need to speak or move in order to have a movie made about it.

Another of these movies that has drawn eye-rolls from various quarters is the film now known as The Emoji Movie: Express Yourself, which was announced earlier this year after a fierce, multi-studio bidding war, for a film set inside of a smartphone and featuring the little yellow texting icons as all of the characters. After the announcement in April and despite reports that a German video game executive claims he had the idea first, it now appears the project in moving forward, with the first announcement of emoji casting.

T.J. Miller, the actor/comedian best known for his part as Ehlich Bachmann on HBO’s Silicon Valley and as Weasel in Deadpool earlier this year, has been cast in the main role as an emoji, who was born a “meh” emoji but has developed the ability to show other expressions as well. The announcement came in a tweet from Sony Animation, which purports to show Miller’s audition for the role; it’s a riff of the famous viral video of the actor auditioning for Yogi Bear.

In the video, Miller shares silly facial expressions, mean to correspondent to various emojis, before giving his mistaken impression that he’s auditioning to play the part in a “live-action” emoji film. The video ends with a look at the movie’s logo, as well as our first look at one of the emojis itself: a circular head with tiny arms and legs. Miller joins the film that’s being directed by Tony Leondis, and written by Leondis and Eric Siegel, with a release date set for the summer of 2017.

Even if you’re an Emoji Movie skeptic (and many are), the casting of Miller is a positive development. The guy’s a real talent, and very funny, and has excelled in the past in animated voice roles, most notably as Fred in Big Hero 6. We don’t know what the rest of the cast will be, or even what the film will look like, but the casting of Miller represents a good start.

Then again, Sony Animation isn’t really anyone’s idea of Hollywood’s top animation studio. Even with some success from the Smurfs, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania franchises, Sony is clearly behind Pixar, Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation and Universal/Illumination Entertainment in animation. Silly as the idea sounds, The Emoji Movie could be the franchise that lifts the studio. After all, nobody expected the Minions to become cultural icons that are on the backpacks of half the children in America. Might they be replaced in a couple of years by different little yellow guys?

The Emoji Movie: Express Yourself will be released in U.S. theaters on August 11th, 2017.

Source: Sony Animation

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