Tim Minchin in last year's 'Matilda and Me'.

On March 5, a fresh post on Tim Minchin’s blog offered an ominous introduction to the man himself: 

“Composer and lyricist of musicals Groundhog Day and Matilda, Tim is also a pianist, singer, comedian, actor, and – until 2 days ago – a director.”

In a personal message, Minchin went on: “I’ve recently been working in three different continents, missing my kids a lot, sleeping too little and not playing piano enough. And then a couple of days ago, the animated film to which I’ve dedicated the last four years of my life was shut down by the new studio execs.”

That film was Larrikins, the outback-set feature Minchin joined as composer and lyricist in 2013 after sparking to a script from Harry Cripps (Paws, The Magic Pudding). 

The film’s icing comes in the wake of layoffs at Dreamworks, which was bought by Comcast/NBCUniversal last year for $3.8 billion. The new regime also canned a sequel to 2013’s Croods last November. 

As well as providing the songs and music, Minchin was also co-directing Larrikins with Chris Miller (Shrek).

'Larrikins' concept art by Peter de Sève.

The film was set to feature 72 Outback animal characters, all of them speaking in an Australian accent, and the project had attracted a stellar Australian cast, with Margot Robbie, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman and Ewen Leslie all recording their voices last year. 

Talking at Screen Australia’s Family Film Forum last year, Cripps said that Dreamworks had been looking for an Australian story – to do for Australia what Kung Fu Panda had done for China, he said.

The scribe came onboard in 2011, after six of his pilot scipts for the American marketplace had gone nowhere. Part of the appeal was doing something new, Cripps said at the time.

"I don't think there's been a musical about guys and their friendships in Australia", the writer said, "it's not Frozen".

For his part, Minchin described the film to Fairfax as “a bit Star Wars, a bit [The] Gods Must Be Crazy, a big road journey.”

Putting Larrikins into turnaround means Dreamworks will have no animated feature for 2018. Still on the studio’s slate is The Boss Baby (out in Oz March 23 via Fox), How to Train Your Dragon 3 (2019) and Trolls 2 (2020). 

IF reached out to Minchin, who declined to comment further.

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