In 2011, Gore Verbinski, fresh off one of the largest modern franchises in "Pirates of the Carribean", set his sights on a western and an animated talking animal movie that were actually the same movie..."Rango". We look at this unheralded masterpiece that delicately balances multiple genres in entertaining ways.
The western genre has been played in and out of each decade since the 1940s. Movies like Unforgiven breathe new life into it, but that movie came out over twenty-five years ago. To look at the modern western, you can look at No Country for Old Men and even the Coen's remake of True Grit. But I pose that maybe one of the best modern westerns is actually a talking animal movie with multiple references to Fear and Loathing...
Yeah, let's talk about Rango.
Rango was released in 2011 by Paramount. It cost roughly 135 million to make but drew in a worldwide box office of $245,724,603. The film won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win since Happy Feet in 2006.
While is all seems average for an animated movie, I want to talk about what makes a movie like this unique.
Check out this video essay from Josh Keefe where he breaks down how this film became an unheralded masterpiece.
What this video highlights so well is the attention to detail in each character. It's not only about physical limitations, missing ears, and legs, but each one looks like they have a specific backstory. When you're creating your character bios, think about the backstory of each person...or animal.
Then you want to build from there.
Another great lesson from Rango is how to use genre to your advantage.
The western has a ton of tropes that Rango pulls from and then adds refreshing twists. We have the lone gunman who wanders into town. But instead of being a macho man, Rango is an accidental hero. He thrives on happenstance and is learning to find the confidence to believe in himself.
And in the animated genre, we're used to cute things. The animals in Rango are all broken. In pieces.
Rango succeeds because it's daring enough to attack both sets of tropes and brave enough to set the story on its own terms.
So the next time you set out to write your own mashup, revisit Rango and be brave!
What's next? Write a spec script!
Have you heard anyone say "I wrote it as a spec script" and not understood what they meant? We look to debunk speccing myths and talk about screenwriting in Hollywood.
Click the link to learn more!