The Lion King and Stuart Little director Rob Minkoff (pictured above with his wife Crystal) is continuing his East-West animation immersion in earnest.

Minkoff and producing partner Pietro Ventani’s Flying Tigers Entertainment has sealed a two-picture deal with Le Vision Pictures USA, the American subsidiary of China’s Le Vision Pictures, for the live-action comedy Silkworms and, more intriguingly, the animated adaptation of Lu Jiamin’s hit 2004 novel Wolf Totem. The latter, an environmental allegory analyzing the cultural and ecological clashes of Inner Mongolia, was recently adapted into a live-action film by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Following the recent all-star cast announcement for Flying Tigers Entertainment’s co-production of another East-West cartoon collaboration, Blazing Samurai, Minkoff and Ventani’s deal for Wolf Totem is (yet) another sign that China is becoming a global animation powerhouse to be taken seriously.

Silkworms and Wolf Totem are perfect examples of the ambitious, cross-over projects we look for,” said Le Vision chairman and CEO Zhang Zhao, in a press statement. “As one of Hollywood’s most established and constantly creative talents, Rob is exactly who we look for in a long-term partner, and someone whose passion for each project matches our own.”

“The success of the recent live-action adaptation of Wolf Totem has inspired us to take a different approach and tell the story from the wolves’ point of view,” added Minkoff, who also directed the The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show’s 2014 DreamWorks Animation spinoff feature, Mr. Peabody and Sherman — which, in turn, has been spun off into Netflix’s new cartoon television series, The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show. “It’s what animation does best.”

Minkoff’s addition to its roster is a smart move for the non-government owned Chinese company, which is co-producing acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon, with Legendary East and Universal Pictures — the “highest-budget U.S.-China co-production to date,” according to Le Vision Pictures’ press release. Owned by the online video and consumer electronics powerhouse, LeTV — which is not well-known outside of China — Le Vision Pictures is making a play for American and international audiences in search of Asian content and programming.

“We consider ourselves a global company,” Zhang Zhao explained at Variety’s recent Big Data Summit.

An American release date for Minkoff’s adaptation of Wolf Totem has not been announced yet as the film is still in the early development stages. Minkoff is set to develop and produce the project, but there is no indication that he will direct the film. Flying Tigers Entertainment’s co-production of Blazing Samurai, co-directed by Alvin and the Chipmunks animation supervisor Chris Bailey and veteran Disney animator Mark Koetsier, arrives August 2017.

(Photo: Helga Esteb/