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Original Force Animation Presidents Step Down

It’s never a good sign when the people running a feature animation division step down from their roles before the company has even released its first film, but that’s what has happened with Original Force, the Chinese animation/vfx company that’s trying to enter the lucrative global feature animation market.

Original Force debuted a tired-looking trailer for its first film Duck Duck Goose in early-August, and last week Variety ran an exclusive report that Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins were leaving their roles as feature animation co-presidents of Original Force.

Finkelman Cox and Rabins were announced as co-presidents in August 2015. The veteran producing partners helped set up Dreamworks Animation and produced some of the studio’s early films including Antz, Shrek, and The Prince of Egypt. They left Dreamworks in 2002 to launch Sony’s feature animation unit, where they oversaw the studio’s first two films—Open Season and Surf’s Up.

The spin on their departure at Original Force is that they want to return to producing. “Launching Original Force Animation was a true global effort and we can’t wait for audiences to finally have the chance to see and appreciate the artistry behind Duck Duck Goose, which is a very special film,” the duo said in a statement. “With Original Force up and running with a strong team in place, we chose to transition back to what we love most, which is producing high quality family projects.”

Original Force CEO Harley Zhao added in a statement to Variety: “I would like to thank Penney and Sandy for their creative leadership, vision, and tenacity in turning Original Force into a first class international animation company. Having launched us from our start-up phase and seen us through the delivery of our first film, Sandy and Penney will be following their passion and returning to their roots as producers. They will continue to be key creative partners with us at Original Force as they produce our next animated feature, Ten Lives.

Zhao told Variety that Nina Bass will handle day-to-day studio operations and David Orecklin would continue in his role as vice president of production, while Zhao himself would continue to lead the company.

Duck Duck Goose will be distributed in the U.S. by the Chinese distribution company Open Road Films, which currently has The Nut Job 2 in theaters. The film, directed by American animation veteran Chris Jenkins, opens on April 20, 2018.

Pre-production on Duck Duck Goose was done with a small crew in Los Angeles, while production was handled in China at Original Force. The company is almost one thousand strong with offices in Beijing, Nanjing, and Chengdu.

"Duck Duck Goose" poster
  • Chris Jenkins

    This is Chris Jenkins: The Variety article made it sound like Sandy and Penney were leaving Original Force immediately. In fact, they are still at the studio in Culver City, still with a very talented and active crew, producing another movie. Theirs is a position change – not an exit. Whatever you think of the trailer, just know that we’re all proud of the movie, and that S&P are exceptionally present and pushing for a wide and successful release.

    • PricklyPair

      Good on you Chris! While I’m sure there’s a lot of snorting and derision at your comment in the ‘brew offices, it’s refreshing to an actual professional that someone of your station finally speaks up for all of us in the industry who don’t work for Pixar.

    • sasquatchiscool

      Thanks for clarification on that click baity title.

    • Mark Walton

      Trailers don’t count for very much with me anymore. They can be skewed so easily to look like a very different film than the whole, in context, really is, for good, bad, or just different. I’ve seen awful looking trailers for much better films and vice versa. And the people who actually made the film usually have little if any input into how the film ends up being marketed.

  • Jeremiah

    *blink* The producers of Antz, Surf’s Up and Prince of Egypt-flipping Prince of Egypt!-made THAT?

  • Mark Walton

    This sounds pretty much like business as usual for Sandy and Penny. They do all the hard work of getting a new studio staffed and on their feet, oversee the first one or two features through to the end (which are often the best work the studio does), and move on to creating yet another thriving, competitive place for animation artists to work – the difference here being, they’re sticking around OF3D to focus on producing the features. Doesn’t sound nearly as dire as I first thought.