In an environment where The Nut Job can make $60 million at the U.S. box office, is it any surprise that American film companies are gung-ho about animated features? Deals for foreign animated films are being struck at an unprecedented rate, and budding Los Angeles-based distributor Wrekin Hill has joined the fray by acquiring the North American distribution rights to the CG animated film Yellowbird, which centers on a fearful orphaned bird’s journey of self-discovery from Europe to Africa. The film, acquired earlier this month by Wrekin Hill in a seven-figure deal at the European Film Market in Berlin, is currently wrapping production at the French studio TeamTO. It was originally titled Occho Kochoï, and later Gus, before settling on Yellowbird.

Yellowbird has a fascinating pedigree. The film was designed by Benjamin Renner, a co-director on the Oscar-nominated Ernest and Celestine. Renner designed Yellowbird prior to directing Ernest & Celestine, while he was still a student at the French school La Poudrière. Yellowbird’s helmer is industry veteran Christian De Vita, a story artist on Frankenweenie and Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film originally had a second director, Dominique Monfery (director of Disney’s Destino), but it appears that Monfery is no longer involved. De Vita worked from a script by screenwriter Antoine Barraud, French ornithologist Guilhem Lesaffre, and Cory Edwards, the co-writer/co-director of Hoodwinked (2005).

“We believe that Yellowbird will capture the imagination of children, teens and adults alike,” said Wrekin Hill president and CEO Chris Ball. “It is a beautifully written story about the power of self-discovery and community that will surely take audiences on an incredible emotional journey with its characters. With films like Frozen and The Nut Job showing strength at the U.S. box office, it is clear that there is a real hunger for satisfying family entertainment.”

The American dub of Yellowbird will feature the voices of Seth Green, Dakota Fanning, Danny Glover, Jim Rash and Christine Baranski. It is currently scheduled for U.S. release in fall 2014.

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