Mutts (lost production material of cancelled film adaptation of Patrick McDonnell comic strip; 2010s)

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Cover of Mutts: The Comic Art of Patrick McDonnell.

Status: Lost

Created by Patrick McDonnell, Mutts is a comic strip published by King Features Syndicate following the daily lives of various pets (primarily centering on Earl the dog and Mooch the cat) and their owners in a New Jersey neighborhood that has been ongoing in print since 1994 to great success. While the series’s media only consists of the comics, in the 2010s, a computer-animated adaption set to be distributed 20th Century Fox and produced by Blue Sky Studios was in development, but ultimately was silently scrapped and never released.


Sometime around the early development of The Peanuts Movie, 20th Century Fox executive Ralph Millero (who had also pitched that film to Fox) had interest in adapting another comic strip, Mutts, meeting with its creator Patrick McDonnell to discuss the hypothetical project. [1] Following several meetings between Millero, and McDonnell, a deal was ultimately struck in July 2011 between Fox and McDonnell to produce a Mutts animated film. Blue Sky Studios, Fox’s main animation division, would animate the film, and aside from executive producing the feature, McDonnell would write the screenplay with his brother, Robert McDonnell. [2]

While information wouldn’t arrive for years, in 2014, McDonnell had handed in a finalized draft of the film’s script to Fox and Blue Sky, all present via a drawing board at the latter’s headquarters in Connecticut. It would be a comedy adventure adaptation of the strip, while retaining the original aesthetic found in the comics and featuring a majority of the Mutts cast. [3] [4] Despite another drought of no news or updates, McDonnell established in an early 2017 interview that Mutts was still in production, with animation and voice acting beginning to shape around that point, regardless of a release date still being far away despite the movie’s revealing nearly six years prior. [1] Despite the positive ongoing progress, Mutts was quietly shelved (potentially due to the 21st Century Fox acquisition by the Walt Disney Company announced in December 2017 and fully completed in March 2019) and failed to see a proper theatrical release before Blue Sky was closed by Disney in April 2021.


In February 2021, following the closure of Blue Sky Studios being publicly unveiled by Disney, animator Jim Jackson uploaded to Vimeo various demos on Blue Sky films he worked on, and among all the released features, an 18-second long animated test of Mutts was published, albeit unlisted and can only be found via viewing his Blue Sky "channel" section, and must require a password to view it standalone. [5] It featured early animation of Earl and Mooch’s models, and a storyboarded version of a scene (dated May 2016) of the duo looking at a snail who is invading the former’s yard, including voices (though the actors have yet to be identified, and it’s unknown if they were their final actors or simply placeholders) and an unnamed music track. It’s undisclosed whether or not any more animation or music was produced, and scripts of the adaptation have yet to be leaked to the public.



Animation test for Mutts, uploaded by Jim Jackson.

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