Feature Film

Don’t Count Out Oriental Dreamworks; Chinese Studio Announces 6 Feature Film Projects

Earlier reports of the death of Oriental Dreamworks (ODW) may have been premature.

ODW, a venture backed by Dreamworks Animation and a consortium of private and state-owned Chinese companies like CMC Capital Partners, Shanghai Media Group, and Shanghai Alliance Investment Limited, announced last week an ambitious slate of feature films in development, in addition to the previously-announced Everest, which is in production and slated for release by Universal in 2019.

The key exec heading up the creative side of the studio is Peilin Chou, who has been promoted from ODW’s head of creative to chief creative officer. Chou, who was formerly v-p of original series at Spike TV and director of development at Nickelodeon, in addition to stints at Disney Feature Animation, AZN Television, and Touchstone Pictures, will be based in Shanghai and New York City. She will oversee a slate of more than a dozen active projects.

The studio has also figured out a new way to position its slate, explaining that it will produce family-oriented films “for the global market, with hyper-appeal in China.”

“Animation is a universal language that everyone understands and enjoys whether you live in Shanghai or Queens,” Chou said in a statement. “Creating global animated films, infused with authentic Chinese elements, is a lifelong personal passion of mine. To be able to do that at ODW, with the strong support of [Li] Ruigang [chairman of ODW], the extraordinary partnership of Frank [Zhu, CEO of ODW], and the crazy talented filmmakers we have in our greater ODW family is truly a dream come true.”

The studio has identified five upcoming projects, presumably those which are furthest along in development or in which it has the most confidence will be produced. These projects are:

  • Over the Moon, a modern-day retelling of the classic Chinese myth about a mysterious moon goddess named Chang’e.  Written by Audrey Wells (A Dog’s Purpose, George of the Jungle, Shall We Dance, Under the Tuscan Sun).  Executive produced by Janet Yang, whose credits include such memorable titles as Joy Luck Club, The People vs. Larry Flynt).
  • Untitled Chinatown Project, a comedic, action-packed intergenerational adventure with supernatural elements. Conceived and executive produced by Emmy Award-winner Alan Yang (co-creator and executive producer of Master of None, writer/producer on Parks and Recreation).
  • The Monkey King, an epic adventure featuring China’s most legendary, mystical and mischievous superhero, breaking through for the first time to the global stage. Written by Ron Friedman & Steve Bencich, whose animated movies have grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide, and include Brother Bear and Chicken Little.
  • Illumikitty, an irreverent comedy about the ultimate cat-astrophe: a feline plot for world domination. Written by Jenny Bicks (Rio 2, Sex and the City).
  • Lucky is an animated buddy comedy which takes you behind the scenes of Chinese superstition and the battle between good luck and bad luck.  Lucky  is currently being written by Rita Hsiao (Mulan, Toy Story 2).

Recent industry reports suggest that the new owner of Dreamworks Animation, Comcast-NBCUniversal, doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the Chinese owners of ODW, and is looking to unload its 45% stake in ODW to another company.

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