Terry Rossio, one of the highest-grossing screenwriters of all time, whose extensive credits include Shrek, Aladdin, and Pirates of The Caribbean has penned the screenplay for The Amazing Maurice, an incredibly lively, unique and entertaining animated feature was inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale about the Pied Piper of Hamelin and is based on one of Sir Terry Pratchett’s highly popular “Discworld” novels that have sold more than 100 million books worldwide.
Writing a screenplay for any well known book can be a challenging process, especially for someone as loved and passionately followed as Terry Pratchett. Fortunately, the Producers have been able to take advantage of Narratavia’s close working relationship with Terry Rossio, whose adaptation of Pratchett’s novel “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” is ingenious, crafting a screenplay that both retains the essential spirit and tone of the original book, but which is also a lively and entertaining adventure, keeping the high quality and humour of Pratchett’s characters and dialogue.
The Amazing Maurice is the first animated feature film to be based on a Terry Pratchett novel
“My enthusiasm for this book notwithstanding, a story as extraordinary as this begs the question: how to make it family-friendly? This question has been skillfully answered by scriptwriter, Terry Rossio,” says director Toby Genkel. “He has succeeded in capturing, distilling, and brilliantly bringing to the page, the original, the effortlessly cool and the subtle yet slick humour of Pratchett. For the production, it is by using this atypical Pratchett humour and by carefully editing the visual elements to moderate the darker aspects of the story, so as to ensure and support the family entertainment genre that we strive to retain, all without losing the notorious Terry Pratchett edge.”
Director’s Note – Toby Genkel
Visually, this will be achieved by use of bright colours and upbeat music – for example the opening scene of the marketplace will be a buzzing, vibrant location and the appearance of the rats will be comic and fast paced. The sheer joy that the rats take in their work – tap dancing in the butter and blowing raspberries at the townsfolk – will immediately allow our audience to appreciate the fun and mischief behind the scam. Where we have darker elements of the story we do not wish to shy away from these, but Pratchett’s comic twist will be apparent always, ensuring that the audience appreciate our hero’s jeopardy while laughing at the bumbling antics of the henchmen rat catchers and dogs, who while enthusiastic manage to convey their ineptitude rather than menace.
“I’m impressed with how Pratchett manages to be casual, lighthearted yet at the same time unyielding, critical and edgy. This is exactly the spirit that we will bring to our film.”
I am delighted to continue to work in this fantastic model. The international audience is expecting a lot from a Terry Pratchett movie and we will not disappoint. In doing so, we will create a piece that is in no way inferior to the original in its visual and narrative vigor.
The visual and audio levels have to work in absolute harmony. I am overjoyed to have found the perfect partners in Terry Rossio’s scriptwriting and Carter Goodrich’s character design, who are just as passionate about understanding the spirit of Pratchett and delivering at the same level. We, of course, shall place equal high demands on sound, with voice casting and voice directing playing a particularly important role. Such brilliantly written characters need actors that stand up to this high level of quality.
To say that I am excited about this production is an absolute under-statement. I feel as if I have been preparing for a film like this my whole life. I am ready to dive in head first and introduce a whole new generation of people to Terry Pratchett’s enthralling imagination.
Maurice, a cunning streetwise cat, with the power of speech has the perfect money-making scam. He’s
found a stupid-looking kid who plays a pipe, and his very own plague of rats – rats who, strangely, are educated and literate, so Maurice can no longer think of them as “lunch”. And everyone knows the stories about rats and pipers… However, when Maurice and the rodents reach the stricken town of Bad Blintz, their little con goes down the drain. For someone there is playing a different tune. A dark, shadowy tune. Something very, very bad is waiting in the cellars. But Maurice wouldn’t be Maurice if he and his friends didn’t manage to save the day in the end!
Terry Pratchett was an English author of fantasy novels, especially, comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of 41 novels. Pratchett, with more than 100 million books sold worldwide in 37 languages, was the UK’s bestselling author of the 1990s. He was awarded an OBE in 1998 and knighted for services to literature in 2019. In 2011 he won the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, the first Discworld book for children. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010. In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with early-on-set Alzheimer’s disease. Pratchett died on 12 March 2015 aged 66
Comments from the Producers
Why this project is so relevant to audiences
The age-old, universal fable of the pied piper is well known all around the world, as one of the most enduring folk tales. Children everywhere know of the story, where the Pied Piper leads the rats out of town and then, not being paid for his work, does the same for the town’s children.
Terry Pratchett’s novel: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, takes this folk story and gives it a unique Pratchett ‘twist’ – where the rats are both intelligent and can speak, and with this new found intelligence comes a conscience – unlike the humans in the story who see rats as vermin to be trapped and killed. The film follows this narrative and so challenges the audience to ask who are the vermin and who are human?
We come to recognise that the rats are caring and peaceful, seeking a world where they can live in peace and harmony with other animals and humans. They reluctantly take part in the scam as they are told by Maurice that this is the only way to be able to reach their goal, and that it’s OK, as humans like being scammed so much they elect governments to do it for them.
We also follow the journey of Maurice, our fast-talking conman of a cat – who is scamming the humans by pretending that the intelligent rats are a plague of rats that only the pied piper – their accomplice Keith – can solve. At a price of course! He is also scamming his ‘friends’ the rodents – as he knows this is the best way to raise money for his own ‘deluxe retirement plan’.
Genre of film, its positioning in market
Working within the universally accessible genre of animation, this charming, ambitious film packs a strong message. The audience is immediately drawn in through the charm and warmth of the characters and it is impossible not to be drawn into the mystery that unfolds. This film is firmly positioned within the family audience market segment and appeals to both children and adults, with fast paced action and witty dialogue.
Why this film suits the intended target audience
Although the rats are seen as adults, their naiveite and lack of understanding of the human world makes them instantly relatable to a younger audience. Their antics in the town are seen as a ‘show’ and so presented as a fun, mischievous activity. Maurice’s cunning and aloof attitude also instantly make him relatable to anyone with a real cat – kids or adults – and our human protagonists, Malicia and Keith, provide a comedy counterpoint as well as some surprisingly deep and insightful comments.
Our villains – Billy and Ron – are classic comedy bad guys, with limited intelligence and are easily outwitted by Maurice and Malicia and Keith. Boss Man, while intelligent, is an accidental villain, crated by Billy and Ron and fighting back against the human’s cruelty – and while the film has drama and tension, the story is light enough and interspaced with comic relief that it does not overwhelm a younger audience, but still keeps an older audience engaged and interested.
The use of 2D Mr Bunnsy scenes and Malicia breaking the fourth wall, adds to the storybook style and also gently pokes fun at the whole story as it unfolds.
Circulation potential and international appeal
This film is aimed at a wide international audience and has performed well in sales already completed at the markets to date. The combination of a well-known and successful author with a wide international fan base, and a leading screenwriter, means that the story is well crafted and original, and stands out amongst the other films in the market as a unique and high-quality film.
The animation and character designs are significantly above market expectations for a film of this budget and have been beautifully created to appeal to all audiences, with the rats shown as both believable yet loveable, and Maurice an archetypal fluffy cat. The dialogue can be dubbed seamlessly into any language and the universality of the story of the pied piper allows for simple and effective exposition; we can plunge the audience right into the heart of the story without the need for a lengthy set up.
We like to coproduce with partners who share the same vision and who are eager to tell wonderful stories to a family audience. Our production companies Ulysses Filmproduktion (Germany), and Cantilever Media (United Kingdom) have all specialized in the development and financing of high quality, animated feature films, entirely produced in Europe. Our working relationship has been forged over the challenging period of Covid, with all of our teams working remotely across Europe. The diversity among our teams helped to ensure we bring the broadest possible viewpoint to the film. This diversity gives everyone a voice and allows us to challenge the more common narrative coming from the mono-cultural norms of single studio production.
As producers we acknowledge our responsibility to work in a sustainable way and to ensure we minimise our carbon footprint. As part of our co-production we have worked with ‘albert’ – the UK’s film and tv sustainability standards organisation. Founded in 2011, albert supports the Film and TV industry to reduce the environmental impacts of production and to create content that supports a vision for a sustainable future. Qualifying productions go through a rigorous assessment process that includes both minimising the environmental impact of the production and paying for carbon offset to ensure the production is carbon neutral and are awarded the right to include the albert certification logo on the end credits of the production. The Amazing Maurice is proud to be certified by albert.
Toby Genkel – Director
Toby began his career as a storyboard artist and designer in 1991 and has over 20 years’ experience as an animation director. He has worked with Ulysses Films on their most recent animated movies including the award-winning Ooops! Noah is gone… (2015) and Richard the Stork (2017). Toby’s films were nominated for the Crystal Bear at the Berlinale and for the Golden Goblet at the Shanghai International Filmfestival for ‘Best Animation Feature Film’, they won the Bavarian Film Prize, the Lux Filmfest and numerous national and international awards. In Ooops! The Adventure Continues Toby created, together with his team, a sequel that surpassed the original. For the Terry Pratchett adaptation The Amazing Maurice, Toby
corralled a world-class cast, including Hugh Laurie, David Thewlis, David Tennant and Emilia Clarke, and directed the acclaimed movie in two animation studios based in Germany and the UK, showing the splendour, depth and adventure of Pratchett’s Discworld and its characters in a way that has never been seen before.
Florian Westerman – Co-Director
Florian Westermann is a director with almost twenty years of experience in the animation industry. He learned the craft from scratch, started in times when 2D animation was still the standard, and he was right there when the shift from 2D to 3D took place. As a jack of all trades he went through every department the fine art of animation has to offer. He worked as a line tester, layout artist, animator, render wrangler, compositing supervisor and art director, until he finally fell in love with the very core of every good movie – the story! He worked on Laura’s Star, Niko And The Way To The Stars, Ooops Noah Is Gone, Luis And the Aliens, to name just a few, and most recently he co-directed Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice.
COPYRIGHT – a ULYSSES FILMS, CANTILEVER MEDIA production in Association with NARRATIVIA
Ulysses Filmproduktion www.ulyssesfilms.de
Cantilever Media www.cantilever.media
A German-UK Co-Production under the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production