Actor and director Rob McElhenney was at one point attached to direct a film based on Minecraft.
But the $150 million animated movie never came to fruition.
“I’m comfortable talking about it, because f–k them at this point,” McElhenney said on the podcast Happy Sad Confused.
“I thought one of the greatest assets to Minecraft was they didn’t have a fixed narrative. It was an open world experience,” McElhenney explained.
“All you were essentially give was the building blocks to do whatever you want. I thought, what an amazing tool, much like Legos except now you’re talking about infinite possibilities because it’s digital, to give to kids–and not just kids, but any person who feels powerless. Kids mostly feel powerless; all day long they’re being told what to do, how to dress, do your homework, go to bed. I felt like that could extend to other people.
“I think everybody feels marginalized to an extent. Your boss is telling you what to do all day long, or your spouse is. You just feel like you don’t have this sense of agency over your own life. The game gave you that, and I thought that’s a really profound experience.”
McElhenney was asked to visit Pixar to learn the process of creating animated films, meeting with a “braintrust” of high-level creatives including Andrew Stanton whose resume includes Wall-E and Finding Nemo. He returned to Warner Bros. with a story-centered pitch involving “people taking agency over their experience in this digital landscape.”
Warner Bros. were enthusiastic at the idea and agreed to spend $150 million to produce the title, according to McElhenney.
“I really felt supported, all the way through,” he said.
That was until the film studio’s movie chief Greg Silverman left the studio in 2016. Silverman was replaced by Toby Emmerich, who had a different vision for Warner Bros. And that didn’t include a Minecraft movie which, according to McElhenney “slowly died on the vine.”
Early production of the film was already underway at the time, he says. Actor Steve Carell had already signed a contract to appear in the movie, and a visual effects and art company had been hired. In addition, stages were booked for filming in Vancouver and McElhenney had a house rented in the city for him and his family to stay during filming.
McElhenney had worked on the project for over two years before being replaced with director Peter Sollett, who worked previously on the film Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The film is due in theatres on March 4, 2022 and will feature a different storyline to that originally planned by McElhenney.
“I don’t harbor any resentment. I get it. I get the way that it works,” McElhenney said.
“With these kinds of numbers and this kind of scale, $150 million, which is what we were budgeted for, it can fall apart at any moment. You have to live in that mystery,” he added.
Minecraft: The Movie is the result of a collaboration between Mojang and Warner Bros. Previously, Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy had been tapped to direct.
Mcelhenney has since released Mythic Quest, a comedy mockumentary following a game studio creating the world’s most popular MMO. The show is currently available on Apple TV.