A new company is joining the theatrical animation distribution game in the United States. Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures (ESMP), the new film division of tv producer/comedian Byron Allen has acquired global rights to Animal Crackers.

A wide release for the film is planned for sometime next year.

Directed by Tony Bancroft (Mulan) and Scott Christian Sava, Animal Crackers is based on a graphic novel by Sava, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Dean Lorey. It’s the story of a family that inherits a rundown circus and discovers a magical box of animal crackers that converts people who eat the crackers into the animal they’re eating.

The film, which premiered in competition at Annecy last June, had been scheduled for release in spring 2017, but a disagreement between the film’s producers and an earlier distribution company wiped out the release date.

Allen is making an aggressive entry into the film world, in addition to the dozens of low-cost tv shows that he makes for the seven HD networks that he owns. ESMP’s most major release to date – the live-action 47 Meters Down – is currently the highest-grossing independent film of 2017, with over $44 million box office.

Next year promises to be a banner year for independent cg animation distribution in the States, as Animal Crackers is currently one of three cg features that will be distributed wide by first-time theatrical animation distributors: the other two films are Sgt. Stubby, which’ll be distributed by Fun Academy Motion Pictures, and Gnome Alone, distributed by Smith Global Media. All three films target the super-competitive and oversaturated family-friendly cg market, which has long been dominated by the major studios.

Animal Crackers was produced through Sava’s Nashville, Tennessee-based Blue Dream Studios, with production handled in Spain at subsidiary studio, Blue Dream Studios Spain, operated by Jaime Maestro and Nathalie Martínez. Other producers on the film include Storyoscopic Films, Beijing Wenhua Dongrun Investment Co., and China Film Group.

Voice cast includes Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Sylvester Stallone, Ian McKellen, Danny DeVito, Harvey Fierstein, Wallace Shawn, Patrick Warburton, Raven-Symoné, and Gilbert Gottfried.

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