Clare Knight and Harry Cripps are set to helm an animated film with a focus on Australian fauna for Netflix, with a stellar cast that includes Isla Fisher, Tim Minchin, Eric Bana, Guy Pearce, Miranda Tapsell, Jacki Weaver, Celeste Barber and Keith Urban.
The comedy-adventure will also feature voice contributions from Angus Imrie (The Kid Who Would Be King), Rachel House (Moana), Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park), Aislinn Derbez (La Casa de las Flores), Diesel Cash La Torraca (Little Monsters), and YouTuber Lachlan Ross Power.
The story follows a ragtag group of Australia’s deadliest creatures as they plot a daring escape from their zoo to the Outback, a place where they’ll fit in without being judged for their scales and fangs.
Leading the group is Maddie (Fisher), a poisonous snake with a heart of gold, who bands together with a self-assured Thorny Devil lizard Zoe (Tapsell), a lovelorn hairy spider Frank (Pearce), and a sensitive scorpion Nigel (Imrie).
When their nemesis — Pretty Boy (Minchin), a cute but obnoxious koala — unexpectedly joins their escape, Maddie and the gang have no choice but to take him with them.
The film marks the directorial debut of Knight, editor on The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, and Cripps, the scribe behind Penguin Bloom, The Dry and The Magic Pudding.
US-based Daniela Mazzucato will produce, with Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) and Greg Lessans, of Weed Road Pictures, on board as executive producers.
The animation for the Back to the Outback will be done in the US by REELFX, with voicework taking place wherever the talent is due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Music for the production will be provided by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Aquaman) and Minchin.
Knight said the animated adventure would prove something was not devoid of beauty just because it was different.
“I have always been touched by stories of hidden beauty,” she said.
“Maddie is both beauty and beast, and to get to present that message in comedy is the icing on the cake.”
For Cripps, who also wrote the film, the story was a “love letter” to Australia’s incredibly diverse and unique wildlife.
“Growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time in the Blue Mountains which has many different types of snakes and spiders, and I always preferred them to the cute cuddly animals,” he said.
“It’s such a treat to make a film where the heroes are these poisonous but beautiful little creatures.”
Cripps and Minchin had previously worked together on Larrikins, another animated feature about Australian animals and boasting stacked cast, before it was apruptly cancelled after Comcast/NBCUniversal bought Dreamworks.