John A. Davis Movies
The celebrated American writer/director John A. Davis
made lasting contributions to the animated feature resurgence of the '90s and '00s -- contributions formally recognized, for the first time, when Davis
'Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
(2002) received an Academy Award nomination in the new Oscar category of Best Animated Feature. This effort (Davis
' first turn on the big screen) reeled in the nom alongside rivals Shrek
and Monsters, Inc.
It lost to the green ogre, but from that point on, Davis
held a secure place on the landscape of American animation.
graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1984, where he earned a BFA in Film Production and became the first senior film major to win the coveted Nash Clay Parsley award. Three years later, Davis
and Keith Alcorn
founded DNA productions, a full-service animation house headquartered in Dallas that serves film and television clients with 3-D animations. In 1995, Davis
first created the character of Jimmy Neutron, a preteen superhero of preternatural intelligence, in a short animated film.
Two years down the road, Davis
took his first television bow (and made history in the process) when DNA produced the first 3-D animated special for a primetime slot. Santa vs. the Snowman
-- which aired as an ABC Christmas special -- drew an overwhelming response from viewers nationwide, picked up Gold and Lone Star Awards at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, and continues to run in IMAX 3-D theaters, as a perennial feature at Christmastime. The effort had two immediate consequences for Davis
' career: it led to his assignment on Fox's 1999 Christmas special Olive, the Other Reindeer
, for Simpsons
godfather Matt Groening
, and paved the way for a big-screen animated effort.
That endeavor, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
, debuted in American theaters on December 21, 2001. Despite the lack of schtick for adults and the A-list Hollywood vocal talent that usually decorate such work (principal voices are provided by unknowns Megan Cavanagh
, Mark de Carlo, Debi Derryberry, and others), Neutron became a blockbuster hit and drew generally (if not unanimously) favorable reactions from critics. Typical of the response is Roger Ebert, who surmised, "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
is a Nickelodeon production, frankly aimed at grade-schoolers. It doesn't have the little in-jokes that make Shrek
and Monsters, Inc.
fun for grown-ups. But adults who appreciate the art of animation may enjoy the look of the picture, which is a kind of downsized Toy Story, with a lot of originality in the visual ideas."
That opus spun off a DNA-produced 2002 cable series, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron (which Davis
co-created with Nothing to Lose and Bruce Almighty director Steve Oedekerk); in the mean time, Davis
and Alcorn set to work on a feature-length follow-up to Neutron. Referred to by Film Monthly as "a richer, more layered and complex feature cartoon [than Jimmy]," 2006's The Ant Bully began when no less than Tom Hanks saw Neutron, loved it, and thought of having Davis
produce one of his all-time favorite children's books, Ant Bully, as an animated feature. Hanks' involvement (and the high profile of Neutron) brought to Bully an astonishing array of vocal talent; the cast features Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, and others. The Ant Bully arrived in American cinemas during the summer of 2006; Davis
followed it up with plans to do an animation/live-action combo feature, The Star Beast, adapted from a sci-fi novel by Robert Heinlein, and a third 3-D animated feature (sans live action), entitled Neopets. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi
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A kid who hates ants finds himself living among the six-legged critters in this computer-animated comedy-adventure. Lucas Nickle (voice of Zach Tyler Eisen) is a ten-year-old boy whose family has just moved to a new town, and Lucas isn't enjoying it much -- he hasn't made any friends yet, his big sister ignores him, his parents (voices of Larry Miller and Cheri Oteri) are occupied with their upcoming vacation in Mexico, and his loving but slightly crazy grandmother (voice of Lily Tomlin) is convinced space aliens are casing out the neighborhood. To make matters worse, the local bully has found Lucas and is making his life miserable, so the boy looks for someone he can push around -- and he soon finds a large colony of ants in his yard. Lucas takes out his frustrations by stomping, drowning, and burying the bugs, little realizing the ants see him as a threat to their safety and aren't about take his attacks lying down. Zoc (voice of Nicolas Cage) is a "wizard ant" who creates a formula that shrinks Lucas to the size of an insect, and the tiny boy is brought before the leader of the Ant Council (voice of Ricardo Montalban) and the Queen of the Colony (voice of Meryl Streep) to answer for his crimes against the ants. Showing compassion, the queen sentences Lucas not to death, but to live among them and see how difficult their circumstances can be. Nurse Ant Hova (voice of Julia Roberts) is put in charge of looking after Lucas, and with the help of Scout Fugax (voice of Bruce Campbell) and Forager Kreela (voice of Regina King), Lucas gets an eye-opening picture of how the other half lives -- just in time for Lucas to help the ants in an all-out battle against Stan (voice of Paul Giamatti), a pest-control man brought in to get rid of the bugs. Produced by Tom Hanks, The Ant Bully was written and directed by John A. Davis, who handled the same chores on the film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
- Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, (more)
Originally filmed as a pilot for a Nickelodeon cable network TV series, the computer-animated feature Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius turned out so well that it was decided to release the film theatrically in 2001. One year later, things came full circle, and the weekly, half-hour TV version of Jimmy Neutron was unveiled by Nickelodeon. The title character was a ten-year-old inventor, living in the sitcomish town of Retroville with his mom, dad, and robot dog Goddard. Together with his colorful schoolmates -- many of them even geekier than he was -- Jimmy was regularly called upon to save his family, his town, or his world by concocting a whole slew of intricate gadgets, some of which actually worked properly. Created by John A. Davis and Steve Oedekerk, the weekly version of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius premiered on September 6, 2002. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Debi Derryberry, Frank Welker, (more)
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This animated feature from Nickelodeon is the story of ten-year-old genius inventor Jimmy Neutron, whose penchant for gadget-creation gets him and his robot dog, Goddard, into trouble at home and school. However, when the parents of Jimmy's hometown are kidnapped by the gooey green aliens known as Yokians, it's up to Jimmy, his best friend, Carl Wheezer, and his arch rival, Cindy Vortex, to rally their fellow kids for a rescue effort. Patching together a ragtag armada of interstellar spacecraft, the kid invasion force sets out to rescue the moms and dads who love them and get them home in time for dinner. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001) features the vocal talents of Debi Derryberry, Carolyn Lawrence, Rob Paulsen, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, and Patrick Stewart. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi