Down the Rabbit Hole with Tim McCanlies

Finding a movie to watch these days can be both a challenge and an adventure, given such an abundance of options. Between streaming services and DVDs, the possibilities can be overwhelming. The streaming services’ algorithmic recommendation engines offer unlimited opportunities with limited guidance. But this does mean they can come up not just with obvious suggestions but also obscure gems.

That’s how I ran across “Alabama Moon,” and that was all it took to send me down the rabbit hole of watching the heartfelt films directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Tim McCanlies.

Most of his output as director is readily available, either on streaming services or DVD. I started with that new-to-me discovery, then watched again his directorial debut, a lovely “little” film, “Dancer, Texas Pop. 81.”

Most of his movies fall into the category of “little” movies with heart, even his most popular film, “Secondhand Lions.” Certainly, his Christmas movie was never going to be a blockbuster, but it’s a biggie around here during the holidays.

But whatever happened to “The 2 Bobs”?

Both “Alabama Moon” and “The 2 Bobs” share the same release date of 2009, rather unusual for most directors. In a speech Tim gave at AFI in 2009, he explains how he was recruited to direct “Alabama Moon,” which he did not write. Wrapping up that shoot at the end of 2008, he started shooting “The 2 Bobs” immediately afterwards, finishing it just in time for SXSW as per typical game designer crunch mode.

Somehow, I had never heard of “Alabama Moon” before but now it’s easy to find. The reverse is true of “The 2 Bobs.” Despite a huge splash at the SXSW Film & Interactive Festival for its world premiere, it almost immediately sank from sight entirely.

Not only is it not available for streaming but it has never been released on DVD. In fact, I cannot ascertain if it ever had a general theatrical release. Beyond the SXSW premiere hoopla and a special showing at the Dallas AFI Festival a few months later, I cannot find a single mention online about this film. By the time McCanlies directed his next film (“Angels Sing”) in 2013, neither he nor an interviewer brought it up. It’s almost as if it never existed.

Then, I found the trailer online from a link on the Voodoo Cowboy website — but still no info on how to see the whole movie these days. Wonder if I ought to ask them whatever to Horizontal Bob & Vertical Bob.

Another possibility exists I suppose. The plotline of the missing movie involves a missing new video game: the story of the theft of a highly hyped new video game from its creators.
Could it be that’s what happened to “The 2 Bobs”? Was it stolen before general release?
Or was it some sort of  elaborate hoax?
We may never know.

Tim McCanlies’ Movies

Dancer, Texas, Pop. 81 (1998)

Poignant and personal portrait of 4 lifetime buddies and their solemn vow to leave tiny Dancer, Texas on the first bus out of town after high school graduation.

Some folks don’t belong in a small town.
Some folks…don’t belong anywhere else.

Secondhand Lions (2003)

Probably the most widely known of Tim’s films, this is a true treasure with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as the crazy uncles of Haley Joel Osment.

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most.

Alabama Moon (2009)

Based on the popular middle school novel by Watt Key, this story involves an orphaned 11-year old raised by a survivalist father forced to fend for himself in a world that would rather swallow him whole than let him live free.

Just before Pap died, he told me that I’d be fine as long as I never depended on anybody but myself.

The 2 Bobs (2009)

tAn interesting trivia tidbit for the missing movie: Devin Ratray, Buzz from the Home Alone movies, played Horizontal Bob. Would love to see his performance!

In Austin, Texas, the two legends in the world of computer games, the 2 Bobs. After years of hard work, they’re finally finishing their latest gaming masterpiece…

Angels Sing (2012)

Written by Turk Pipkin, this is a delightful Christmas card of a movie, with Willie Nelson as the mysterious Nick who works a miracle on Scrooge-like skeptic, Harry Connick, Jr. From neighbor Lyle Lovett to Kris Kristofferson to Ray Benson to a host of cameos as front porch carolers, it’s full of Austin musicians and the heartfelt emotions McCanlies loves to bring us as viewers.

Definitely one of our holiday favorites.

What ties a family together? Memories. Memories are the greatest gift a father can give his son.

Make some memories with a Tim McCanlies movie or two.


About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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