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‘Minions’ Maker Illumination Signs First-Look Deal With South Korea’s Mofac Alfred

Special delivery! Kyungmin Woo’s Johnny Express is coming to America.

Kyungmin Woo.
Kyungmin Woo.

The animator, director, and writer leading the South-Korea based CG animation and vfx studio Mofac Alfred (formerly Alfred Imageworks) has signed a first-look deal with Illumination Entertainment, which has optioned the rights to Johnny Express and its future work. The goal of the creative partnership — the first such arrangement between a Korean studio and a U.S. film producer, according to Deadline, which broke the news — is to farm Mofac Alfred projects into potential feature films for Illumination, whose CEO Chris Meledandri sealed the deal after an Asian trip to support the launch of Minions.

The agreement fits in well with Meledandri’s philosophy of graduating promising short-form exercises into full-blown Universal and Illumination blockbusters. “When you’re making all this short-form content, there’s a lot of opportunity for artists to move up,” explained Meledandri during a keynote discussion at last month’s Annecy festival. “Making shorts is a fantastic bridge to making longer-form work, especially for us.”

The popular Johnny Express certainly fits that bill. With 4.7 million views on Vimeo, Woo’s tangled tale of a space delivery man derailed by planetary troubles ranks among Vimeo’s top ten most-viewed animated shorts of all time. Seoul-based Mofac Alfred itself also fits in well with Illumination’s international character, which includes a creative team comprising twenty-nine nationalities. “Diversity of cultures in your creative leadership should be broader than the United States,” Meledandri said at Annecy.

Here is a cinematic trailer that Alfred Imageworks just launched for the new MMORPG MapleStory2. It gives a good sense of the studio’s capabilities and explains better than any words can why Illumination would want to collaborate with them: