Sherlock Gnomes – a whole new animated adventure for garden gnomes

GNOMEO

Someone is stealing London’s yard ornaments, and there’s only one detective small enough for a mystery this big: Sherlock Gnomes.

The beloved garden gnomes from Gnomeo And Juliet are back for a whole new adventure in London.

When Gnomeo and Juliet first arrive in the city with their friends and family, their biggest concern is getting their new garden ready for spring.

However, they soon discover that someone is kidnapping garden gnomes all over London.

When Gnomeo and Juliet return home to find that everyone in their garden is missing – there’s only one gnome to call… Sherlock Gnomes.

The famous detective and sworn protector of London’s garden gnomes arrives with his sidekick Watson to investigate the case.

The mystery will lead our gnomes on a rollicking adventure where they will meet all new ornaments and explore an undiscovered side of the city.

This action-packed animation film is Executive produced by Sir Elton John, Produced by Steve Hamilton Shaw, David Furnish, and Carolyn Soper. Based on characters by Rob Sprackling & John Smith, Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil, Keely Asbury, and Steve Hamilton Shaw, the story is by Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil and Emily Dee Cook & Kathy Greenburg, with a screenplay crafted by Ben Zazove, and directed by John Stevenson.

“From the beginning, it was integral to a sequel that we embrace a different classic story and ‘gnomify’ it,” says producer Steve Hamilton Shaw. “We had a long list of ideas, but no other character matched Sherlock Holmes in terms of international awareness and offered an opportunity to push Gnomeo and Juliet into an action detective story.”

“We’ve changed genres with Sherlock Gnomes,” explains director John Stevenson. “Our first film was a musical romantic comedy about a feud between two gardens, with a few locations and very low stakes, but Sherlock Gnomes is a comedy action adventure.

Screenwriter Ben Zazove moved the setting to London as a more fitting location for a Sherlock story. London also provided us a much larger canvas, letting us take our heroes out of their familiar garden setting into a city full of hard surfaces, fast moving vehicles and millions of human beings, all things that can easily smash a fragile pottery gnome.

“The sheer scale of London makes it an incredible backdrop for this story,” says producer Carolyn Soper. “All the iconic locations of London seem all the more enormous next to the gnomes, who are very, very small. The design team has done an incredible job creating a modern London that looks so much like the real thing, it makes this whole adventure feel almost plausible, as if we might see the gnomes running around if we weren’t so involved in our phones.”

“It’s a love letter to London, really,” offers producer Sir Elton John, who returns with two original songs, and whose songbook serves as the inspiration for the musical score. “There’s so many great scenarios and so many different locations, it’d be incredibly boring to leave them in the garden for the whole film.

After the cataclysmic destruction of the Montague and Capulet gardens in Gnomeo and Juliet, the once volatile neighbors put aside their differences and uproot their newly integrated lawn families from the quiet life in Stratford-upon-Avon to settle in London. Once settled, Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) retire, leaving Gnomeo and Juliet to struggle with their new responsibilities as garden leaders.

“They’ve got to be a bit more grown up, which rankles them a bit,” says McAvoy. “Juliet dives right into the new job, Gnomeo misses the fun they used to have, and there’s a real disconnect.”

“Juliet is dealing with the changes better than Gnomeo,” says Blunt. “They’re now responsible for the whole Gnome community and cleaning up the garden. It’s not exactly what they had in mind at the beginning of their relationship.”

In the midst of one of their disagreements, an unseen fiend slips into the garden and kidnaps their family and friends. Among the abductees are fan favorites Benny (Matt Lucas), Nanette (Ashley Jensen), Paris (Stephen Merchant) and Fawn (Ozzy Osbourne), returning for more family friendly fun.

“Matt Lucas and Ashley Jensen are consummate professional comic actors,” says Soper. “The hardest thing with both of them is landing on just one version of the line, because they’ve riffed and given us so many options to choose from.”

“Our cast brings so much because they all improvise,” says Shaw. “Stephen Merchant always cracks himself up in the most endearing way. He’s really in the moment, embracing the absurdity of it all.”

The busy schedules of the cast made joint recording sessions a challenge, but resulted in some of the best takes. “We were able to record Michael Caine and Maggie Smith together, which was incredible,” Stevenson recalls. “Dexter Fletcher and Javone Prince, who play the gargoyle brothers Ronnie and Reggie, recorded together, which was hilarious, but they kept breaking each other up and the recording session took twice as long.”

GNOMEO2

Without any leads to their friends whereabouts, Gnomeo and Juliet turn to the world’s finest ceramic detective duo, Sherlock and Watson.

“Sherlock brings a fresh element of mystery and adventure,” says Soper. “He’s such a well-drawn literary character: extremely clever, but emotionally closed off. Despite his brilliant deductive mind, he’s often oblivious to those around him, which lends itself to a lot of humor.”

“There’s a certain gravitas and nostalgia to these characters,” says Emily Blunt, who returns as Juliet. “So there’s something really fun about reimagining them in this world.”

Reimagining the look of the iconic literary heroes as gnomes proved tricky. Says Stevenson: “Traditionally, Sherlock has been depicted as tall and rangy, whereas gnomes are more short and squat. Trying to meet in the middle made him look like a dumpy Victorian farmer, so we elected to go the more recognizable route, with subtle gnome motifs – points on Sherlock’s deerstalker hat and Watson’s bowler, and Sherlock’s ‘white croissant’ beard on his chin. They’re meant to look like the garden gnome factory idea of Sherlock and Watson, sillier, kitschier interpretations based on hundreds of film and television adaptations, but instantly recognizable.”

Animator Neil Boyle was recruited to bring the kinetic workings of Sherlock’s mind to life in a series of black and white 2-D animated sequences. Says Soper: “Neil is an extremely talented animator, and being able to cut to his hand drawn animation helped us show Sherlock’s thought process in a way that added variety and humor.”

“In London, Gnomeo and Juliet find themselves venturing into the unknown, and relying on the help of Sherlock and Watson,” says Stevenson. “They’re out of their element and vulnerable, which puts a strain on their relationship. Where the first film was overcoming outside pressure to be together, this film is about the challenge of staying together.”

“The arrival of Sherlock and Watson complicates their relationship,” says Blunt. “They’re helping them find their friends, but also pushing them apart. They learn a lot about themselves on this journey.”

“Gnomeo isn’t that impressed with Sherlock,” says James Mcavoy, back as Gnomeo. “He’s annoyed that Juliet is impressed by this arrogant, bigheaded showoff. He finds himself relating more to Watson, who is living in Sherlock’s shadow.”

GNOMEO3

“Gnomeo and Watson both feel isolated in their relationships,” says Ejiofor. “They both have a lot of work to do in learning to communicate better with their respective partners.”

“Sherlock and Watson have always been an interesting odd couple,” says McAvoy. “Sherlock is perplexing, obtuse and seemingly silly at times, but ultimately clever, and Watson is the patient, devoted friend. Our Sherlock and Watson retain that classic dynamic while taking them in some unexpected directions.”

“When they sent me the script, I didn’t expect it to make me laugh out loud,” says Johnny Depp, who plays Sherlock. “There’s a brilliance to this character that kind of comes from his clumsiness. He’s a bloodhound, so sure of himself, and incredibly fun to play with.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Sherlock’s long suffering partner, Watson, was also drawn to the humor of the script. “There’s an irreverence to the characters that’s a lot of fun, but being pottery, they’re quite fragile as well, which makes it tense in its own way.”

Stevenson praises Depp and Ejiofor the complexity of their performances: “Johnny can move effortlessly between comedy and drama, arrogant, then vulnerable a moment later. Chiwetel may have the hardest role in the film, playing what appears to be a conventional reading of Watson at first and negotiating the deliberate ambiguities of the role.”

One step ahead of our heroes is Sherlock’s oldest foe, Moriarty, a maniacal pie mascot obsessed with Sherlock and the gnomes he’s sworn to protect. Says Shaw: “Moriarty is a classic agent of chaos who finds Sherlock a worthy opponent.”

“Developing Moriarty was a process,” Stevenson admits. “Since he couldn’t be a gnome, we considered making him an evil Hummel figurine: innocent on the outside, evil on the inside. Logistically, he needed a way to get around the city. We decided to make him the wide-eyed mascot of ‘Goobarb Pies’ a nutrition-less junk food filled with an artificial substance made from industrial waste and sugar and have him ride around on top of a delivery truck. In contrast to the most of the other characters, who are pottery, he’s made of Goobarb. He can warp and stretch and be unapologetically cartoony.”

Moriarty’s voice came from an unexpected source. During production, actor Jamie Demetriou had recorded a temp track for Moriarty, an offbeat performance the filmmakers immediately fell in love with.

“Jamie deserves a lot of credit for discovering the voice of Moriarty,” praises Shaw. “We gave him some crazy dialogue and he just ran with it.”

“Moriarty’s the most extreme character in film. We struck gold with Jamie,” says Stevenson. “We couldn’t imagine Moriarty speaking any other way.”

As in Gnomeo and Juliet, the presence of Elton John is felt throughout Sherlock Gnomes, providing some legendary music support to the proceedings.

“Elton’s involvement in anything brings a whole other dimension,” says Depp. “He and Bernie Taupin have written a billion classic, brilliant songs. They give so much of themselves, and put it out there for the world to hear.”

John and Taupin collaborated on two new songs for the film, “Better Together” performed by Jessie Ware and “Stronger Than I Ever Was,” sung by multiple Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee, Mary J. Blige. Blige performs the song in character as Irene, a Victorian doll with some less than warm feelings for Sherlock.

“Elton’s music is another character in this film,” says McAvoy. “There’s such a positive energy about it, and a great sense of not only nostalgia for adults who grew up listening to it, but also for the kids whose parents have played it for them. It’s appealing across generations.”

John has nothing but praise for the artists adapting his work: “Chris and Pnau do a wonderful job. I gave them carte blanche to do whatever they want, so I’m very pleasantly surprised when I see the film and hear how it’s been used. When you do an animated film, you always first see it in lumps and bits, and when you see it finished, it’s so much better than you ever dreamed it would to be.”

The Creative Team

Kung Fu PandaJohn Stevenson (Director) has over four decades of experience in film development and production. Starting off in Jim Henson’s puppet studios in London at age 19, Stevenson’s passion for story telling has been at the core of every project he has worked on since.

Stevenson directed Kung Fu Panda with Mark Osborne, four episodes of the DreamWorks prime time television series Father Of The Pride, and held the post of Head of Story at PDI/DreamWorks serving as story artist for the DreamWorks worldwide blockbusters Shrek, Shrek 2 and Madagascar.

While there, he also created storyboards for the animated features Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, and Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas.

The mid-to-late ’90s saw Stevenson working on multiple feature and television animation projects. During this period, he also acted as an independent creative consultant to CBS, NBC, Walt Disney Productions, Colossal Pictures and Protozoa Pictures.  He worked with Henry Selick as head of story/creative development for Twitching Image, Inc., as puppeteer for the animatronic rhinoceros in Disney’s James And The Giant Peach (also drawing storyboards) and directed an episode of Film Roman/CBS’s The Twisted Tales Of Felix The Cat.

As a staff Designer/Director for Colossal Pictures from ‘91 to ‘95, Stevenson worked in multiple capacities on the animated series Back To The Future and Moxy—Pirate Tv Show; created advertising spots for Cheerios, Little Caesars and Parker Bros. and developed show formats and concepts for Nickelodeon/CBS.  He served as art director, character designer and storyboard artist on the Central Television series The Dreamstone.

His previous freelance career as an artist, illustrator, character designer and art director exposed him to projects in nearly every medium, working on theme parks, museums, album covers, commercials, and various feature films and television shows. Films included Little Shop Of Horrors, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Great Muppet Caper. His career began in 1977 working with Jim Henson on The Muppet Show.

Kevin Cecil and Andy RileyKevin Cecil and Andy Riley (Writers) are an Emmy-winning writing team who have written on many of the best loved comedy series of the last twenty years, including Little Britain, Tracey Ullman’s Show, The Armando Iannucci Shows and Smack The Pony. They were supervising producers and writers on seasons 3 and 4 of HBO’s acclaimed Veep.

They were the lead writers on the BAFTA winning comedy Black Books, created and wrote the BBC2 comedies Hyperdrive and The Great Outdoorsand their adaptations of David Walliams’ bestselling books Gangsta Granny, The Boy In The Dress and most recently Kevin’s adaptations of Grandpa’s Great Escape and Ratburger have become a loved and hugely successful part of the annual Christmas schedule. In 2011 they co-wrote the critically acclaimed box-office success, Gnomeo And Juliet.

Andy and Kevin have created, and are currently developing, a period scripted comedy series starring Matt Berry for Objective and Channel 4. Andy is also an author who has been published in more than twenty countries. His books include the Bunny Suicides and King Flashypants series.

Emily Cook (Writer) began her film career as a runner for Working Title Films in London (Four Weddings and a Funeral). After 9 years and a move to LA, she became VP (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, High Fidelity), before leaving to write. Cook and Kathy Greenberg wrote on Pixar’s Ratatouille, Disney’s Gnomeo And Juliet and the TV series Imposters. Together they have written for every major studio and are currently adapting the BBC TV series, Thirteen.

Kathy Greenberg (Writer) began her film career as an executive at IndieProd/Tristar (The Quick And The Dead, Mary Reilly) then as VP at Jim Henson films (Buddy, Good Boy, Muppets In Space) and SVP Working Title (Elizabeth, Hi-Lo Country) before leaving to write. Greenberg is the Co-creator of the Showtime series The L Word and was a writer with Emily Cook on Pixar’s Ratatouille, Disney’s Gnomeo And Juliet and the TV series Imposters.

Richard Sweren (Writer) is currently a writer and a Co-Executive Producer of the NBC series Law & Order: Svu.  Other TV credits include Chicago Justice, Law & Order (14 seasons), Law & Order: Los Angeles  and Taxi: Brooklyn.  He has also written on the soon-to-be-released animated Paramount feature film Sherlock Gnomes.  Richard has also developed drama pilots for ABC, CBS, E! and Legendary TV.  He was a co-winner of the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama in 1998, a two-time co-winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, and a multiple Emmy Award nominee.

Chicago native Ben Zazove (Writer) quit his job as a litigator to pursue his dream of writing movies.  Since then, Zazove has written projects for Fox, Dreamworks, Paramount, and Sony as well as independent financiers and mini-majors.  Sherlock Gnomes marks his first foray into the world of animation.  He just finished adapting The Last Christmas, a hard-R animated Christmas movie, for Sony Animation and is currently writing The Ghost Ghostbusters, an animated Ghostbusters movie as told from the perspective of the ghosts.  He has one wife, one dog, and zero garden gnomes.