Last October, Universal pushed back their planned release of The Voyage Of Doctor Doolittle nine months, from an originally planned April 12, 2019 bow to January 2020. At first it was thought that the Robert Downey Jr-starring fantasy wanted to get out of the way of another Downey vehicle that was sure to dominate the box office just a few weeks later – Avengers: Endgame. But a new story from the Hollywood Reporter is stating that the move was to accommodate some major reworking of the film which saw writer/director Chris McKay and director Jonathan Liebesman offering input as well as a 21-day period of reshoots.
According to several of the Reporter’s sources, producers Sue Downey, Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum all looked at the film last fall and felt that director Stephen Gaghan had not fully realized the film’s premise of a human doctor (Downey, Jr.) who has the ability to talk to animals. With dramas like Traffic and Syriana on his resume, Gaghan may not have been well versed enough in working with the computer generated effects needed for the story.
Enter McKay, director of The Lego Batman Movie and the both the studio and the producers’ choice to see what could be done to restructure and save the film. McKay offered several suggestions and helped to oversee the writing of new material for the eventual reshoots. However, a previous commitment kept him from overseeing those reshoots, at which point Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles director Liebesman was brought in for the four weeks of new shooting.
There is no word as to how much this has added to the price tag of the film. Universal had originally budgeted the project at $175 million, before advertising and distribution costs. Now that price tag could easily be over $200 million. It is certainly a sign of faith that the studio has in the project overall to spend that extra money, when Doctor Doolittle‘s break-even point is already pretty high. We’ll find out if it turns out to be a good gamble for the studio early next year.