China’s Pearl Studio has selected Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) as the lead animation vendor for its film Over the Moon, which will be the feature animation directorial debut of animation legend Glen Keane.

Over the Moon continues a growing trend for animated features with lead Chinese producers to “reverse-outsource” the animation back to North American studios. Other recent examples include Next Gen, which was animated in Toronto at Tangent Animation, and Rock Dog, animated at Reel FX in Dallas.

The cg animation musical adventure, launching on Netflix in 2020, tells the story of a girl who builds a rocket ship and blasts off to the moon in hopes of meeting a legendary Moon Goddess. When she gets to the “other side” she unexpectedly discovers a whimsical world filled with fantastical creatures – some of whom threaten her and others who ultimately help her find her way home.

“I am thrilled to work so closely with the innovators, animators, and digital pioneers at Sony Pictures Imageworks as we bring the magical story of Fei Fei and her dream of a moonshot to life in Over the Moon,” said Keane. “To use an appropriate space metaphor, they have the right stuff to make this film visually stunning and completely unique in keeping with the style, tone, and sensibility we plan to establish.”

The Culver City, California and Vancouver, Canada-based Imageworks has had a banner year in 2018, producing top-notch animation for three visually distinct animated features: Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Smallfoot, and the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.

Unlike many in-house feature animation studios that have defined pipelines and set approaches to production, SPI has proven itself more flexible in adapting to the unique needs of different feature animation projects. Its history as a vfx vendor certainly plays a role; this kind of flexibility is common among vfx producers, who have to quickly develop custom approaches for each live-action or hybrid film. SPI has transferred that model to character animation better than just about any animation service provider. It should be interesting to see what they do on Over the Moon.

David Smith will serve as the vfx supervisor at SPI, Sacha Kapijimpanga will be animation director, and John Kreidman wil produce for the studio.

Over the Moon is written by Audrey Wells (Shall We Dance, Under the Tuscan Sun), who passed away last month. The film is produced by Gennie Rim and executive produced by Janet Yang. Songs are written by Christopher Curtis (Chaplin: The Musical), Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park (Kpop).

The film will be distributed worldwide in 2020 through Netflix streaming, except in China where it will receive a theatrical release.

"Over the Moon."
Character concept sketches for "Over the Moon" by Glen Keane.
Character concept sketches for “Over the Moon” by Glen Keane.

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