71st Emmy Awards
71st Emmy Awards

Netflix movie to make stars of our deadliest wildlife

Most of the world thinks Australia is full of deadly animals - but a new multi-million dollar animated movie is about to transform them into adorable stars.

Netflix will this week officially announce it has thrown its full weight - and plenty of money - behind the film, which will see an impressive list of Australian stars voice some of the country's most dangerous creatures.

Back To The Outback is billed as a "love letter to Australia" and will be released in more than 190 countries on the streaming giant.

 

 

Tim Minchin is Pretty Boy, an abnoxious koala.
Tim Minchin is Pretty Boy, an abnoxious koala.

It will feature Isla Fisher, who is currently in Sydney with husband and Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, as the voice of Maddie, a friendly but deadly taipan snake, Guy Pearce as Frank the funnel web, Keith Urban as cane toad Doug, Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver as Jackie the croc, Tim Minchin as Pretty Boy, a cute but arrogant koala, and Eric Bana a dodgy zookeeper Chaz.

Comedian Celeste Barber, The Crown's Angus Imrie, popular YouTuber Lachlan Ross Power and Top End Wedding's Miranda Tapsell also lend their voices to the movie.

With a budget believed to be more than $10 million, Back To The Outback is the story of a group of misunderstood animals who escape from the confines of a Sydney zoo and embark on a cross-country journey to find a home where they won't be tormented and judged by the hordes of humans who gawk at them each day.

 

 

Written and co-directed by Australian Harry Cripps, the film is due for release in the latter part of next year.

Thrown into disarray by the onset of COVID and the restrictions that came with it, the film is now being made across the globe, with many of the actors laying down voices from their homes in Australia, Europe and the US.

Co-director Clare Knight, who had worked on big animations projects such as the Kung Fu Panda trilogy and The LEGO Movie 2, was in awe at how the larger team quickly transitioned into a new normal.

She says actors didn't balk at having to roll their sleeves up at home while in lockdown.

"It's amazing how it can just keep moving forward with everyone working from home," she says. "Most of the time we're having to enter into actors' homes and they're having to be engineers. We send out kits for them and we're like 'is the red light flashing?' and we're off."

Minchin, who initially came on board to write the song for the movie's opening credits before being asked to voice one of the lead characters, said Cripps and Knight had done a brilliant job playing up to the familiar tropes about "deadly Australia" then turning them on their heads.

 

 

Keith Urban represents Queensland as cane toad Doug. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Keith Urban represents Queensland as cane toad Doug. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

 

"I find it irritating that Australia is known as a country where you get killed because obviously the vast majority of Australians have never seen a snake in their life outside of the zoo or bitten by a spider," he said.

"What Harry and Claire are doing so beautifully is they're mucking around with those tropes and using them to bring out what we see as ugly and what we see as beautiful."

Cripps says the idea was born out of a meeting with a producer in LA whose child was fascinated with everything "creepy-crawly". He suggested flipping the Australian wildlife stereotype.

 

 

Miranda Tapsell is starring as Zoe the thorny devil lizard. Picture: David Geraghty / The Australian
Miranda Tapsell is starring as Zoe the thorny devil lizard. Picture: David Geraghty / The Australian

"Everyone in Australia, we're all so proud about how many things can kill you," Cripps laughs. "So he said 'how about a film where these are the heroes, the poisonous snakes and the scorpions are the good guys and the beautiful koalas are the bastards, the mean girls?'"

They knew they were onto a winning idea when they eventually sat down with the streamer.

"We took it in to pitch to Netflix and they bought it in the room," he says.

 

 

Originally published as Netflix movie to make stars of our deadliest wildlife

Celeste Barber is koala Skylar. Photographer: Hugh Stewart.
Celeste Barber is koala Skylar. Photographer: Hugh Stewart.

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