Patton Oswalt was a guest on the third-to-last episode of The Best Show on WFMU last night, and during a conversation about movies, he told a story he heard from director Brad Bird about a canceled remake of Don Knotts’s 1964 family film The Incredible Mr. Limpet that was in development with Jim Carrey in 1998. Steve Oedekerk, who wrote and directed Carrey in the sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, was hired to write/direct the Limpet remake. Oedekerk stepped down from the project in 1999, and Oswalt says Brad Bird was brought in for a meeting about potentially directing the movie. Here’s Oswalt telling the story:
They CG-animated a cartoony-looking fish that kinda looked like Jim Carrey. At that point, that’s when you paid $25 million for Jim Carrey, period. That’s what he costs. The studio realized, “So, he’s live action for 10 minutes and then he’s a cartoon and we just paid [$25 million]?” They did this rig - remember in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life where they have the fish bodies? So, they basically did that. It’s a fish with just Jim Carrey’s human face. They were showing Brad Bird ‘cause they were like, “If we’re paying for Jim Carrey, we’re having his face the whole time no matter what.” All Brad Bird said when he described it to me… I go, “What’d it look like?” He said, “If you saw this in the water, you would get out of the water and run screaming and tell everyone the world was ending.” It was the most horrifying thing he’d ever seen. They spent $10 million on the animation tests, and they never made the movie.
I Googled around and found a bunch of sketches and illustrations from the project drawn by cartoonist Bob Camp, who did character/storyboard design on Ren & Stimpy and Carrey’s Grinch remake. Writes Camp, “Lots of tests were done with Jim wearing a motion capture rig with several hundred mocap dots on his face to capture the expressiveness of his rubbery face.” Check out the art from the abandoned movie below: