If you’re keeping up with news out of Cannes, one of the biggest deals so far at the festival this year is for a computer animated feature.
Netflix has paid a whopping $30 million for Next Gen, which marks the feature directorial debut of animation and vfx veterans Kevin R. Adams (art director, Free Birds, 9) and Joe Ksander (animation director, Yogi Bear, 9).
The deal definitely caught our attention. It’s an obscenely large sum to pay for streaming rights to a foreign animated feature that appears to be already completed, doesn’t have ‘name’ directors, comes from a Chinese company that has no track record of animated features, and doesn’t offer any A-listers in its voice cast (the English voices include Charlyne Yi, Jason Sudeikis, David Cross, Michael Pena, and Constance Wu).
Industry site Deadline, which first reported the sale, noted that there was “competitive bidding” for the project. They didn’t report though why the project is attracting so much attention from distributors, and none of the other media sources that subsequently republished the news added any new details, beyond the initial report that the robot-filled film is based on the original online comic 7723 (pictured below) by Wang Nima.
After a bit of digging, Cartoon Brew learned that Nima is the founder and editor of China’s leading ‘rage comics’ website Baozou Manhua.
Rage comics, and their offshoot biaoqing (“facial expressions”) are hugely popular in China — this Vice piece is a primer on the subject.
In recent years, Baozou has branched out beyond the crudely drawn rage comics, and built a mini-media empire that produces all types of entertainment content. While much of that content is available only in China, the company shares a regular series it produces on Youtube:
The film looks nothing like the comics, and uses standardized cg aesthetics. The only image from it released so far is the one below, which appears on the film’s barely-updated presence on Twitter and Facebook.
Baozou financed and produced the film, which Chinese majors Alibaba and Wanda will release in China this summer.
Netflix won global rights to Next Gen, except for China, where the streamer doesn’t operate. There’s no word yet on when Netflix will launch the film on its service.
The animation for Next Gen was produced in Canada at Tangent Animation, which also made the animated feature Ozzy.