Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is a 2023 American computer-animated action-comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures. It was directed by Kirk DeMicco, co-directed by Faryn Pearl, and written by Pam Brady and the writing team of Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi. The film stars the voices of Lana Condor, Toni Collette, Annie Murphy, Colman Domingo, and Jane Fonda, with Sam Richardson, Liza Koshy, Will Forte, Jaboukie Young-White, Blue Chapman, Ramona Young, and Eduardo Franco being featured in the supporting roles. The film follows a shy but kind 15-year-old girl named Ruby Gillman (Condor) who is desperate to fit in at Oceanside High, but when she went into the ocean by breaking her mother’s (Collette) rule with any would-be friends, she discovers that she is a direct descendant of battle-hardened krakens who have protected the land and sea from evil mermaids for generations, and is also destined to inherit the throne from her commanding grandmother, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas (Fonda).
The film was first pitched to DreamWorks Animation by Brown and DiGuiseppi, and had been in the works for several years. It was announced in June 2021 as its original title Meet the Gillmans, with casting taking place to play the role and an expected release year of 2022. Paul Tibbitt came on board to direct, with Brady signing on to write with Brown and DiGuiseppi, and production was expected to start in 2022. The majority of the voice cast members were announced in March 2023, along with DeMicco replacing Tibbitt as director. The film draws inspiration from Easy A (2010), Lady Bird (2017), and Booksmart (2019), and the different John Hughes films. The musical score was composed by Stephanie Economou, in addition to two original songs performed by British singer-songwriters Mimi Webb and Freya Ridings.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken had its world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 15, 2023, and was released in the United States on June 30, by Universal Pictures. The film has received mixed reviews from critics and became a box-office failure, grossing $34 million against its $70 million budget.
In June 2021, TheGWW reported that a film originally titled Meet the Gillmans was in production at DreamWorks Animation, with casting taking place and an expected release year of 2022. Former SpongeBob SquarePants showrunner Paul Tibbitt was announced as the director, with Pam Brady confirmed to write the film. Lana Condor, Laura Dern, and Michael Sheen were circled for the roles of Ruby, her mother, and father, respectively, while Annie Murphy was attached to play the role of Clarica. Chris Kuser and Christi Soper were set to serve as executive producers. Production was also expected to start in 2022.
On March 14, 2023, the cast and crew were announced via Universal Pictures Ireland’s website. Along with Condor and Murphy’s roles confirmed, other new cast members of the film include Toni Collette, Sam Richardson, Liza Koshy, Will Forte, Colman Domingo, Jaboukie Young-White, Blue Chapman, Eduardo Franco, Ramona Young, Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, and Jane Fonda, while Kirk DeMicco (replacing Tibbitt), Faryn Pearl, and Kelly Cooney Cilella were revealed as the director, co-director, and producer, respectively. DreamWorks Animation also announced its official title as Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken. The cast, crew, and official title were publicly announced two days later. Following the release of the film’s second trailer in May 2023, longtime DreamWorks director Mike Mitchell was revealed to have served as executive producer.
According to Animation Magazine, Cilella stated that the film has been in the works for several years. It was first pitched to DreamWorks about a family of sea monsters that were moved to the land and are hiding in plain sight. She stated: “Our heroine is such a lovable character and I’m so excited for audiences to meet her and fall in love with her the way we have because she starts the movie as a quirky, slightly insecure but bighearted character, but she’s harboring a secret that she can’t tell her friends. But ultimately the Kraken is awakened inside her and there’s no hiding this. She learns that her destiny is so much more than being an average high school teenager, and she’s destined to be the next big protector of the seas. Her journey is self-discovery and embracing that side of her that had been dormant for so long, and for her to become a fully actualized character was such an exciting story for me to tell on such a grand scale.” DeMicco stated that he cited John Hughes films, Easy A (2010), Lady Bird (2017) and Booksmart (2019) as his inspirations. Pierre-Olivier Vincent serves as the production designer, taking inspiration for the main character from the body of an octopus and bringing the “curviness to all the design language of the film”, from the cars to the underwater world.
The film was dedicated to Nick Levenduski, who died before the film was released.
- Lana Condor as Ruby Gillman, a shy freshman who is desperate to fit in at Oceanside High, despite being a kraken. She is described by the film’s producer Kelly Cooney as “a really normal teenager”.
- Toni Collette as Agatha Gillman, Ruby and Sam’s overprotective mother, Grandmamah’s daughter, Brill’s older sister and Arthur’s wife who works as a real estate agent and does not want her daughter to go to the sea with her would-be friends.
- Annie Murphy as Queen Nerissa/”Chelsea Van Der Zee”, the evil queen of the mermaids with a vendetta against the Gillman family who poses as the snobbish, popular new girl at Oceanside High in order to manipulate Ruby for her own malevolent ends.
- Colman Domingo as Arthur Gillman, Brill’s brother-in-law, Ruby and Sam’s supportive father and Agatha’s husband.
- Jane Fonda as Grandmamah, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas who is Ruby and Sam’s grandmother and Agatha’s mother.
- Sam Richardson as Brill, Agatha’s little brother, Grandmamah’s son, Ruby and Sam’s enthusiastic uncle, and Arthur’s brother-in-law.
- Will Forte as Captain Gordon Lighthouse, a crazy old sailor in Oceanside who works as a tour guide.
- Jaboukie Young-White as Connor, Ruby’s skater-boy crush who only seems to admire her for her math skills, though he becomes genuinely interested in her.
- Liza Koshy as Margot, a dramatic girl and Ruby’s best friend.
- Blue Chapman as Sam Gillman, a second-grade student and Ruby’s energetic and loyal younger brother.
- Eduardo Franco as Trevin, a gamer and one of Ruby’s friends.
- Ramona Young as Bliss, a goth girl and one of Ruby’s friends.
June 30, 2023
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