Animated film with Bullhead City roots set for U.S. release Tuesday

January 14, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — What started as a project to help market Laughlin Ranch more than 10 years ago has come to fruition in a full-length animated movie set for widescale release this week.

“The Legend of Secret Pass,” described as “a charming CGI animated move inspired by American Indian mythology,” will be available on a number of internet platforms beginning Tuesday.

David Lords, developer of Laughlin Ranch and listed as executive producer of the computer-generated film, gave an update on the project at Friday’s meeting of the Bullhead City Council.

“Why did we make a movie?” Lords said in explaining the genesis of the film between 2006 and 2008. “It was to market Laughlin Ranch.”

And to feature an actual landmark that is on the edge of the development east of the Bullhead Parkway.

Lords said the downturn in the economy — which ultimately led to many hurdles for the Laughlin Ranch development — also impacted the release of the film.

“If you think the real estate business got hit hard in 2008, the movie business got hit harder,” he said.

The movie, directed by Steve Trenbirth and animated by Digital Dimension, was released overseas in 2010 by Eagle Films and in Latin America in 2012 by Tayrona Entertainment Group. U.S. release, however, never happened.

“It just kind of sat there with no distribution plans,” Lords said. Then, Lions Gate Films, a major Hollywood distributor, took over the rights.

On Tuesday, it will be available on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox, Playstation, Redbox, Direct TV and Vudu, among other platforms.

“It’s kind of cool that this is finally getting wide distribution,” Lords said. “It’s an actual place. Some scenes in the movie will be recognizable to Bullhead City residents, to residents of the Tri-state.”

A reference to Thunderbirds, paying homage to both the Native American history of the area and to the choice of mascot for Mohave High School, plays an integral role.

Erik Shein, credited with involvement in the story and screenplay under the name Erik Stoops, provided a brief plotline for the film.

“The ‘Legend of Secret Pass’ takes place in the mountains of the Southwest and involves Thunderbirds of Indian mythology and an animal refuge of mystical proportions,” Shein wrote. “An unlikely troop of animals and humans are caught up in a clash of ageless magic. In this moment of crisis, the barest chance to avoid cataclysm falls into the hands of an Indian boy, Manu.”

Lords noted that the film has a wide and talented cast of actors who provided the voices for the animated characters: Frankie Muniz, of “Malcolm in the Middle” fame, is the voice of Manu; veteran character actor Shelly Berman, who died in 2017, is joined by Michael Chiklis (The Thing from “Fantastic Four,” Vic Mackey on “The Shield,” and Nathaniel Barnes on “Gotham”), Cheryl Hines (from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Ron Perlman (from the “Hellboy” franchise and “Sons of Anarchy”) as some of the reconizable names and voices in the film.

Lords said he used his role as executive producer for one cast selection, demanding that Graham Greene be cast as the voice of Granpa. Greene has appeared in scores of films, most notably as “Kicking Bird,” opposite Kevin Costner in “Dances with Wolves.”

Lords, who has been able to resurrect the Laughlin Ranch development, said he is happy that Lions Gate has brought the film back to life.

“Literally millions and millions of people” will see the film, he said, and, in a sense, learn something about Secret Pass, the narrow trail between Bullhead City and Golden Valley in the Black Mountains. “Laughlin Ranch, Bullhead City and Secret Pass are about to become more famous.”