John Davis hopes that his first stab at feature animation – the ultra cute Jimmy Neutron – is Oscar bound when the Academy recognizes feature animation next year, even when competing with fellow Texan entry Waking Life. “I’m hoping that obviously to get the nomination would be thrilling and the crown jewels for the project.”
Davis is rightfully enthused about this original creation, this futuristic child whose inventions both get him into trouble and ultimately help save his parents from the clutches of some evil aliens, the head of which is voiced by a devilish Patrick Stewart. While most Nickelodeon films, such as Rugrats had their genesis on the small screen, Jimmy Neutron will debut in theatres before heading to television in the Fall. Davis feels his Neutron has a degree of universality that stretches beyond the world of young children, because “Jimmy is sort of the every kind of kid we know, except he is a genius.
So he has all of the same problems that normal kids have, but he you know either solves the problems or complicates them by virtue of being a genius and you know to me personally, he was a character that I could live out my childhood fantasies through. Being able to build a rocket, fly around, and have a robot dog and you know have walk-through walls, and have underground you know labs and secret passages, and to me that was one of the inspirations for the character and I think that all kids sort of really dig that sort of stuff.”
So who is this Jimmy Neutron? He’s clearly light years ahead of the pack, but when it comes to being cool, he’s a little behind. Until one day when his parents and all other kids’ parents on Earth are kidnapped by aliens, it’s up to him to lead all the children of the world to rescue their parents. With his new found heroism and spacecrafts he invents, he quickly becomes the coolest kid on the planet! Davis argues that while Jimmy may appeal to the very young, parents won’t mind some of its more sophisticated elements, that it’s not what we’d call a ‘parent punishing’ film. “There are just a few things the parents will appreciate more than the kids and so there are things for them, as well as for the kids, so I think everyone will be entertained. I think the kids will probably be you know urging and pulling the parents to take them to the theaters and then once they do, the parents will be really glad they came.” There are some very funny references to contemporary pop culture in Jimmy Neutron, from Blair Witch to Star Trek.
In compiling the film’s soundtrack, Davis, and Nickelodeon’s Julia Pistor, who serves as executive producer, wanted the music to reflect “both our target audience as well as a slightly older demographic, “so again, the goal was to not just you know just be for the kids, but for kids and their parents,” hence there is Britney and ‘N’ Sync as well as some more adult-oriented groups.
Nickelodeon and Davis’ company are clearly hoping for a smash hit, because come Fall, young Jimmy heads to a TV screen near you. “We’re doing the opposite of what we normally do,” says Pistor, And Davis insists that the TV version “will be close to our theatrical vision in terms of animation. Also, we’ll be able to experiment with wild story ideas and give him cooler inventions.”
For Davis, a first time writer/director, Neutron is a dream comer true and he is grateful that Nickelodeon “did take a chance on me, because being a first time writer/director of a feature film. This is the first time that our company has done a feature film having started out real small.” In fact, they started with “just my partner and myself back in ’87 out of my duplex.”
From those humble beginnings, Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius was born, and young children and their young-at-heart parents will be able to share in John’s vision when the films storms onto our movie screens tomorrow.