An animated film about a heroic dog, produced by a studio headed by former Buckhead and Sandy Springs state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, will be showing in theaters nationwide April 13.
“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” is based on the true story of a World War I military dog. The Georgia-based film company Fun Academy Motion Pictures tapped Wilkinson to be its president to coordinate the logistical side of making the movie.
“I think people are going to really fall in love with Stubby,” Wilkinson said.
The film will be released in 3,000 theaters nationwide and has a $25 million budget, said Jordan Beck, the company spokesperson. Fun Academy’s previous film, World War II series “The American Road to Victory,” aired on PBS, according to the company’s website.
The movie will be shown in major theater chains such as AMC, spokesperson Jacy Jenkins said, but exact locations were not yet available.
After being adopted off the streets by Private J. Robert Conroy, Stubby reputedly sounded the alarm for incoming attacks in 17 battles and caught a German spy in the trenches. He was the first dog to be promoted in U.S. Army history, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History website. The stuffed body of Sgt. Stubby is now on display at that museum.
Wilkinson said they “took a few liberties,” but the film for the most part stays true to Stubby’s story.
There are already plans in the works for two sequels focusing on Stubby’s life after the war, which including becoming Georgetown University mascot, Wilkinson said.
Voice actors include Helena Bonham Carter, Logan Lerman and Gérard Depardieu. It was scored by Patrick Doyle of “Thor” and “Cinderella.”
Most of the film’s production had to be done outside of Georgia, but distribution, including promotion and everything needed to get the film in a theatre, is being handled in the state.
“We’re first to distribute on wide scale from Georgia,” Beck said.
Beck said the company is opening the state’s first film distribution center in Columbus, Ga., where the company is headquartered. The company has not moved forward with initial plans to open a Buckhead office yet, but that option is still on the table, Wilkinson said.
“With the sequels coming up, it may very well be needed,” Wilkinson said.
There are no local animation companies that could handle the film and a live film wasn’t an option, Wilkinson said.
“There’s no way to do this with a live animal,” he said.
Because of this, the studio could not take advantage of the popular tax credits that are recognized for massively expanding the movie business in Georgia, Beck said.
The company is working with about 90 animal rescue groups across the country to coordinate adoption events during the film’s release, including PAWS Atlanta, Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson there are no plans yet for an Atlanta release party or special event, although he would like to have one.
“We did not receive as strong of a response as we did in other places in the country,” he said.
Wilkinson has been more involved in the financial side of the business than the promotion, which he said is a major change of pace for him.
“It’s not my usual role as an elected official, being on the business side,” he said.
It’s also unusual for him to be in the background instead of orchestrating events and promotions, like he did in his long career at Coca-Cola, serving as the U.S. spokesperson and helping with the introduction of Diet Coke in 1982, he said.
“It’s odd for me to not be the [public relations] man,” he said.