In March, we reported that Tonko House, an Oscar-nominated studio based in Berkeley, California, was developing an original series called Oni. Netflix has now boarded the project, and announced new details about the project this morning:
- The official synopsis: “In a world filled with the oddball gods and monsters of Japanese mythology, one of the creatures’ free-spirited daughters, Onari, is determined to follow in the footsteps of the mighty heroes of lore, but her unique powers are yet to be revealed. Does she have what it takes to protect her peaceful village from the encroaching presence of the mysterious ‘Oni’ who threaten the gods?”
- The series, which is pitched at kids and families, mixes stop motion and cgi. Tonko House and Netflix are partnering with two Japanese animation studios: Megalis VFX (whose past clients include Warner Bros. and Marvel) for the cg elements, and Dwarf Studios (Rilakkuma and Kaoru) for the stop motion.
- The creator and showrunner, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is Japanese, although he has been based in the U.S. for decades. He has worked as a visual development and color key artist on Ice Age and Robots at Blue Sky Studios, and as lighting art director on Pixar’s Toy Story 3 and Monsters University.
- In 2014, Tsutsumi founded Tonko House with fellow Pixar alumnus Robert Kondo, shortly after the pair had co-directed their independent short The Dam Keeper. The film picked up a bag of awards and an Oscar nomination, and a feature adaptation is currently in the works at Tonko House. We interviewed Tsutsumi and Kondo about their partnership in 2014.
- Megan Bartel will serve as producer on Oni, and Kondo, Kane Lee, and Zen Miyake of Tonko House as executive producers.
- Commenting on the show, Tsutsumi said, “Having spent my entire career in the American animation industry, part of me always wondered if there would ever be a place in the stories I tell for the other half of my identity, as a Japanese native. This Tonko House collaboration with Netflix is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to freely embrace my unique background to share with the rest of the world the wonderful stories I grew up with in Japan, particularly ones I believe are timely to the society we live in today.”
- Aram Yacoubian, director of original animation at Netflix, added, “We are thrilled to be partnering with Dice and the rest of the Tonko team on this incredibly sweet story of self-discovery rooted in Japanese folklore. Dice is a renowned filmmaker with a deep passion for celebrating Japanese culture, and we’re honored to support his foray into animated series together with the team at Tonko. We fell in love with Onari and the specific Japanese mythology built around her, and we’re confident that her very personal, relatable story of self-discovery will resonate with audiences around the world.”