Mili Pictures Worldwide, a new animation company based in China, has opened a Los Angeles office and has tapped High School Musical producer Bill Borden to run it. The company, which is launching its first pic — the vidgame-based Dragon Nest — in July in China, has also set its first movie for LA pre-production: the comedy Ping Pong Rabbit. Work is underway with Corpse Bride co-director Mike Johnson directing a script by High School Musical scribe Peter Barsocchini. Under the model, production will move into the animation process in China in the fall to take advantage of lower costs. “I’m incredibly excited to be working with the young team at Mili, which has big ambitions backed by great artists and strong resources,” said Borden,whose producer credits also include Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Mission: Impossible 3. “I saw their animation for Dragon Nest and was blown away by the artistic quality. When I heard how low the budget was, I was blown away again. I saw huge potential to do great work here.”
Mili Pictures was formed by a group of animators working and China. They are backed by China online game operator Shanda Games, which gives Mili access to game properties to tap for movies. That arrangement spawned Dragon Nest, from animation director Song Yuefeng in his feature debut. Ran Zhou wrote the script, and distribution rights outside China are being sold at Cannes by All Rights Entertainment.
Mili also has financial backing from China venture capital firms Shenzhen Capital Group and Ivy Capital. Its headquarters are in Shanghai, with production offices based in Suzhou, China and Auckland, New Zealand.