The guys over at /Film have released the first image of characters for the upcoming animation project by Gore Verbinski- the curiosity that is Rango. The movie, which has cast Johnny Depp as the titular chameleon with an identity crisis, alongside Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant as The Spirit of the West, is based upon an original idea by Verbinski, which has been brought to life thanks to scripter John Logan. Already looks like a strong cast for voices (aside perhaps from Olyphant, though I’ll reserve judgement until I hear him), which is the first tick in the box as far as I’m concerned.
So without further ado, here is your sneak preview at the characters for Rango, courtesy of /Film:
The image’s origin comes from the newly launched official movie site, which is so far in its early stages of development but already feature some interesting  interactive details. The set-up is basically an open road scene, with an odd-looking orange wind-up fish, a small plastic coconut-wielding palm tree, some moveable telegraph poles which when moved in the right order encourage a road-runner to pop out (see the poster below), an old-style radio that plays country music, a large sleeping toad, a large curled-up wood-louse type creature, and a guitar. Each of the objects is interactive, and you can spend a frightening amount of time playing around with them: I’ll not give them all away, but I will say that perserverance when plucking the guitar’s strings and prodding the toad will be worth it after a while (as implied by the image above).
Wider plot detail is still pretty thin on the ground, and the official website doesnt really give many hints, though I got the feeling that each of the interactive features have some relevance to the plot. The most we have so far is that Rango  is “a oddly charismatic household pet that goes on an adventure to discover its true self”- not te most compelling plot line I’ve heard so far this year, but the website offers enough to prick up my interest. It’s particularly fun going Easter Egg hunting and trying to find something you missed the first few times you visited.

/Film are also reportng that Industrial Light & Magic will be  “cutting edge techniques” for the films animation- techniques which  Verbinski says that “will allow us to capture and translate every aspect of Johnny’s performance, using it to drive the computer-generated character in a way that has yet to be seen in an animated feature.” How exactly they will be able to translate Depp’s performance into a chameleon is somewhat beyond my intellectual reach- unless they have a huge lizard-like motion-capture suit that he will be forced to wear during shooting?

The original teaser video that pointed fans in the direction of the official Rango site is here, but in all honesty it doesn’t offer a great deal beyond a very brief teasing look at the animation skills on show.

Verbinski has to rate as one of the most eclectic directors currently working. Having started in adverts (he was responsible for the Bud frogs), he made his debut with surprise hit Mouse Hunt, following it with The Mexican, The Time Machine (he was at least partly responsible for its direction) before moving up to the big big time with the first Pirates of the Caribbean. The genre-hopper seems happiest when he is sticking to his eclectic manifesto, and hopefully he can channel some of the success of the Pirates franchise into this wonderful looking animation project. I still think it’s a huge shame that he won’t be taking  the directorial helm for the developmentally challenged BioShock movie.

What  I have learned today: poking a grumpy toad while he sleeps is an irresistible, and hugely time-consuming activity. Oddly rewarding too.

Rango is set to hit screens in the US on the 18th of March 2011, and not long after in Britain.