Chinese studio Original Force Animation is moving into the world of animated features with the announcement of a new Los Angeles-based motion picture division and its first original animated feature.
The studio is currently in production on Duck Duck Goose, about a bachelor goose named Peng who becomes a surrogate father to two young ducklings, Chi and Chao. The film will be directed by Chris Jenkins, who produced DreamWorks Animation’s recent feature Home and prior to that had worked as an effects animator at Disney in the 1980s and ’90s. Jenkins wrote the script with Rob Muir (Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue).
The studio’s new feature animation division in Los Angeles will be run by two experienced Hollywood animation veterans, who will also serve as co-presidents of the new division: Sandra Rabins and Penney Finkelman Cox. Rabins and Cox were executives in the early days of DreamWorks Animation, helping to set up the studio’s operations while producing films such as Antz, Shrek, and The Prince of Egypt. The longtime producing partners left DreamWorks to set up Sony’s feature animation unit in 2002, where they brought to screen the studio’s first two films: Open Season and Surf’s Up.
“There is no one more talented, skilled or experienced in leading animated films than Sandy and Penney,” said Original Force founder and president Harley Zhao. “Each has had an extraordinary career and their track record co-running DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation has given them a completely unique perspective on building a contemporary animation studio from the ground up. They have a love and respect for great stories and relatable characters that is incredibly infectious and which drives our production philosophy.”
Original Force has also announced development and pre-production on two other features, with the goal of releasing one feature approximately every 18 months. OldZilla, to be directed by Bob Bendetson (a producer on ALF, Home Improvement, and The Simpsons) and co-written with veteran TV sitcom writer Art Everett, is about an aging monster who attempts to rally other monsters at a retirement home to terrorize Atlantic City one final time. (The film includes a real estate developer named Ronald Rump…get it?) QQ Speed, a co-production with Tencent Holding Limited, makers of a popular Chinese online racing game of the same name, will be directed by John Eng (co-director of Rugrats Go Wild).
While this is Original Force’s first foray into producing their own features, the studio is hardly a newcomer to the animation world. Founded in 1999 by Harley Zhao, Original Force currently employs over 1,000 people at its offices in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Chengdu. It was the lead animation studio for the DreamWorks TV series Dragons: Riders of Berk and is also animating on the upcoming Ratchet & Clank feature. The studio also does a lot of videogame work, and has created in-game animation and effects for titles including Grand Theft Auto V, Need for Speed: The Run, League of Legends, and The Sims 3.
There is a growing trend for Chinese studios to bring aboard Americans as producers and directors. Mandoo Pictures’ upcoming Rock Dog also boasts an American director, Toy Story 2 and Surf’s Up co-director Ash Brannon.
The Chinese feature animation industry is booming and the country now produces more animated features than the United States. Last month, China released Monkey King: Hero is Back, which went on to become the highest-grossing animated feature in Chinese box office history.