Franklin father turns ‘animal crackers’ for kids into feature film

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience.

Back when Scott Christian Sava, 45, became a father of twins — Brendan and Logan — 11 years ago, the animator had no idea that fathering twin boys with his wife, Donna, would lead the family to Franklin, Tennessee, and a career as a filmmaker.

“It gave me a voice,” said Sava, who created various comic book stories — “Ed’s Terrestrials,” “Pet Robots” and “Animal Crackers,” among them — to share with his sons.

“I learned that I like telling all-age stories and I wouldn’t have known that had it not been for my kids. It gave me purpose. It gave me a direction.” 


Four years ago, Sava wrote a full-length screenplay for “Animal Crackers,” which is the story of a family who inherits a rundown circus and a magical box of animal crackers that changes characters into the animals they have eaten.

He was unsuccessful in shopping the story and often told he was “just a comic book guy,” so Sava secured the funding from a studio in Spain that he had worked with for 10 years, to make a short film.

Six weeks later, in April 2013, it was done. Legendary producer Harvey Weinstein saw the short in June and by September 2013 he and his brother, Bob, made an offer to buy the rights.

“He fell in love with it and made us an offer,” said Sava, who knew it was risky, but turned it down when “my lawyer said, ‘I think you can do better.’

“It was an offer to make a movie, but he would have owned most of it.”

The risk paid off.

Sava has since received offers from every major studio including Warner Bros., Disney, DreamWorks and Sony, who are all interested in distributing the film. He and his producing partners have yet to make a final decision.

“But we have the financing,” Sava said, “so we can make the movie.

“It’s very surreal. It’s the craziest thing. It’s really weird.”

Sava will co-direct the film with Tony Brancroft, who animated such blockbuster classics as “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” while he’s co-written the most recent draft with Dean Lorey (”Arrested Development”).

In recent weeks, industry trade magazines like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety have announced that Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito and Ian McKellen have been cast as voice actors along with Patrick Warburton, Gilbert Gottfried and Raven-Symone.

“When he said yes it was like, ‘Oh, my God, Gandalf said yes to my movie,’” said Sava, with regard to McKellen, who is best known for his work on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and most recently “The Hobbit.”

“I had to double my voiceover budget, but it was totally worth it.”For Sava, who studied animation at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco, it’s a far cry from being “another cog in the wheel” over the past 20 years as an animator on film and television projects ranging from “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” to “Star Trek” and “Spider-Man.”

He’s been prepping “Animal Crackers” since July — the entire movie has been storyboarded and a temporary scratch track also has been recorded — and indicated the animation process will begin in early December, in Spain, while the voiceover acting will take place in Los Angeles from January through about March.

The entire filmmaking process isn’t expected to be completed until July 2016.

Sava’s twins were 4 when he and Donna moved to Franklin, 7 when he wrote “Animal Crackers” and will be teenagers by the time the movie is released in late 2016 or early 2017.Sava said the family fell in love with Williamson County the first time they visited.

“I’m a hobbit,” said Sava, a native New Yorker who shies away from entertainment parties and feels comfortable living in a small Southern town, “so I don’t get out. I live in my house. I hate traveling and I can connect to everywhere through the Internet. I’m on the phone all day and I’m happy in my sweats. … I’m not social person. I’m an introvert.”

In the meantime, Sava also is completing work on the eighth book of his “Dreamland Chronicles” comic series, which he describes as a long, epic story, and setting up his next film, “Pet Robots.”

“Over these last two years I’ve gone from being an artist to being a producer,” Sava said. “I’ve had to learn every trick in the book. I’ve had to learn all of the pitfalls and everything and just become a producer. That’s pretty much been my life, make as many mistakes as possible. Try everything.”

Contemplating the next couple years, Sava smiled and concluded, “Every day is a life-changing experience.”