As Cartoon Brew reported earlier this year, Blazing Samurai is the first feature film produced through former Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Yair Landau’s Mass Animation, which originally launched as a Facebook application to crowdsource and produce global animation, including Live Music, which Mass Animation bills as the “first ever theatrically released crowdsourced animated film.” Landau is producing Blazing Samurai with The Lion King director Rob Minkoff and Mass Animation’s Susan Purcell.
But the film’s international partnerships extend further. Blazing Samurai is co-produced with Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, one of China’s largest film and television studios, as well as Minkoff’s multi-platform production company Flying Tigers Entertainment and London-based GFM Films. Mel Brooks is executive producing alongside The Boondocks’ Reginald Hudlin and Pietro Ventani, from a screenplay by Ed Stone and Nate Hopper.
Hewing lightly to not just Blazing Saddles but also Kung Fu Panda’s lovable loser storylines (and race jokes), Blazing Samurai stars Cera as an upstart dog named Hank who enlists the mentorship of Jackson’s past-it cat warrior Jimbo to transform himself into a samurai to save the crappy town of Kakamucho (get it?) from villainous felines like Gervais’ power-mad Ika Chu.
Much like in Blazing Saddles, Brooks stars as a bumbling but benevolent leader, this time named Shogun. “There is no business like Shogun business,” Brooks said in a press release. “What is wonderful about the film is that it is going to have great appeal not only for kids but their parents too. It’s funny and smart.”
Rounding out Blazing Samurai’s substantial cast, Takei voices the enforcer, Ohga; Hounsou voices the sweet giant, Sumo; Mandvi and Iglesias star as Kakamucho towncats, Ichiro and Chuck; acclaimed author Tsing Loh voices the crotchety “grand dame,” Little Mama; and Chinese cinema’s superstar and stuntwoman Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) voices Yuki, protective mother of the five-year-old Jerkins’ warrior kitten, Emiko.
Handling international sales, GFM Films hosted a presentation of Blazing Samurai’s early animation and visual development last week at Santa Monica, California’s American Film Market. Open Road Films acquired U.S. distribution rights earlier this year, while Landau’s ex-studio Sony Pictures recently picked up several global territories worldwide. Huayi Brothers is distributing Blazing Samurai in China.