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Tonko House to Turn ‘The Dam Keeper’ into a Feature Film

Tonko House, the studio founded by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is developing a feature film based on their Academy Award-nominated short The Dam Keeper.

The creators of "The Dam Keeper" plan to expand the short's universe with a graphic novel series and a feature film. (Click to enlarge.)
The creators of “The Dam Keeper” plan to expand the short’s universe with a graphic novel series and a feature film. (Click to enlarge.)

The announcement was made along with the news that Tonko House is partnering with First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan, to expand their short into a graphic novel series.

“The reason to continue telling stories in the universe of The Dam Keeper is a deeply personal story close to our hearts,” said Tsutsumi.

The first book in The Dam Keeper graphic novel series will be released in 2016, picking up the narrative some years after the original story of the orphaned Pig and his quest to maintain the town dam. It will address two questions unanswered in the film: what happened to Pig’s parents, and how did his world come to be at the mercy of a dark cloud? No details about the feature film have been released.

“It’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to create a cinematic experience in the form of illustrated novels, with the pacing and richness we have learned with film,” said Kondo. Through these books, we are challenging ourselves to take our concept art and storytelling to the next level.”

Last year Cartoon Brew interviewed Kondo and Tsutsumi about The Dam Keeper and life after Pixar:

  • laura

    Yessssssssssssssss yes yes yes

  • tammy

    oh noooo they’re making more dam keeper? all these artists selling out instead of doing more original one-time works! they’re no different than disney doing frozen 2!

    nah jk looking forward to it.

    • WingedArtist28

      Well at least Dice and Robert are creator driven than financial reasons. They loved to continue the stories based on their personal stories in their past. So that’s something interesting to look forward to. They are also making some more original story ideas for shorts to experiment on outside of Pig and Fox universe (I saw a few pics that involve a astronaut like suit and a little anthropomorphic animal with a small caterpillar; plus a dancing rhino from the table sketches and Tonko House website). You can tell that they are ahead of the game in the independent realm to continue a classic short and coming up with new ideas outside of it.

      • Strong Enough

        okay Tonko House rep

  • WingedArtist28

    So glad that Dice and Robert are carrying on from their lose at the Oscars (though they predicted on Patrick Osborne since most of the short nominees treat each other like friends and not worry much on who gets the award). Can’t wait to see the continuing adventures of of Pig and Fox plus the questions raised from the short about Pig’s parents and the poisonous fog.

  • WingedArtist28
  • Charlie

    Are we sure that the feature film is happening? Their Facebook post about the news made it sound like they were originally thinking of making a feature film, but then they got the book offer and went with that. Plus the EW piece announcing the graphic novels didn’t mention a movie at all.

  • Charlie

    Never mind, I just saw The Dam Keeper’s twitter page. I’m surprised there’s not more details about the film yet, but I guess it’s still early days.

  • otterhead

    It’s available on iTunes. I bought a copy a few weeks ago.

  • I’m very excited to see them take this story further. Congrats to them and their team, can’t wait!

  • starss

    … a franchise. So this was their plan allllll along. Sneaky.

  • Inkan1969

    Sounds promising.

    BTW: Could someone clear an issue up with me? As i watched the short, I thought that Fox was female? But is that incorrect?

    • WingedArtist28

      It’s a male as confirmed by Dice Tsutsumi:

      • Inkan1969

        Thanks for the clarification. All through the short, I was perceiving the interaction between Pig and Fox as a child-age crush. I guess that can still be true with Fox being a boy.

  • Santiago Casares

    You can purchase the short film at iTunes (and probably other places too)

  • Apple

    It’s on iTunes

  • You can buy a compilation of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts on iTunes, Vimeo, probably other places. It includes the Dam Keeper, Me and My Moutlon, and other shorts that have been talked about on Cartoon Brew. It’s definitely worth it.

    Just search for: “The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2015: Animation”

  • Anonymous

    The best news I’ve heard for animation in a LONG time. Can’t wait to see what they come up with!!!

  • WingedArtist28

    Not only that, the film was made while Dice and Robert were working on Monsters University at that time. So that explains the majority of volunteers were Pixar workers helping with them to make the film while still getting paid for Monsters University (depending on their schedules).

  • BoBo

    Thanks for the response and thanks for the link. However, after reading the AWN interview it feels even worse to me now. I did not realize it consisted of 70+ “volunteers” in order to get the short done. If a small studio were to hire 70+ people for an 18 minute short film, you are looking at spending $2million+ on a production like that. And yet there is a reason that studios don’t put shorts like this out often…no small studio could afford to do that. No small studio can go hire 70+ people and dedicate them for 9 months or more to produce a short like this. Dice and Robert say that they admire Moonbot, but Moonbot couldn’t even do that. The Moonbot founders originally put their homes up for collateral in order to get a bank loan to start working on the Morris Lessmore short. But they started running out of money while in the middle of production. They had to make a choice, go out of business before they had even begun, or go find an investor to help them finish the short film. They obviously chose to get an investor. So, the Moonbot founders actually took RISKS to start their studio. Asking a bunch of friends and students to do free work in order build a studio takes little to no risk, other than keeping them all motivated while making it. I don’t consider that to be entrepreneurial…only shady and opportunistic. As for the example of Kristy Kay. If you look at Kristy Kay’s school portfolio before working on Dam Keeper, she was going to have no trouble finding a job. I find it interesting that only the top students worked on the short…why not all of the students in that program? Again, the short did turn out great. And had Robert and Dice not decided to start a studio after the fact, the volunteer/intern situation wouldn’t even be an issue. It just would have been a bunch of friends making something cool. But the fact that they have now built a studio, have a book deal, and a feature film opportunity from free work wreaks of some form of industry hypocrisy. No other group or studio would have gotten away with it in the media had they tried this. Still confused on why Cartoon Brew has let this go when they consistently hammer other studios for “taking advantage of their artists”.

  • alex

    Wow. They’re so honest in the interview. It’s cool and refreshing.