EXCLUSIVE: In a deal near seven figures, Sony Pictures Animation won a three-studio auction for an animated movie pitch centering on the Emoji, those lovable round headed figures that are as much a staple of social media correspondence as adverbs and adjectives. The project will be co-written by Eric Siegel and Anthony Leondis, with the latter directing the feature. Leondis pitched the project around to studios, with storyboards for how the movie would play out. Three studios bid–I’ve heard Warner Bros and Paramount were the others–but none more aggressively than Sony. It’s a big project for SPA president Kristine Belson, who got a quick decision from studio chief Tom Rothman to move aggressively. Michelle Raimo Kouyate is producing. This appears to be a zeitgeist moment for these ideograms that hatched in Japan and have spread worldwide. Unlike like, say Lego, there are also no underlying rights here to purchase, which makes this as much a catnip idea to Hollywood as public domain fairy tales that fuel so many blockbusters. I’ve heard that another pitch is going to be shopped shortly, so there might be reason for Sony Animation to move quickly.
Leondis is director of Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters, and he most recently completed the DreamWorks Animation feature B.O.O.: Bureau Of Otherworldly Operations. That film, which features a voice cast including Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Matt Bomer and Seth Rogen, has been awaiting a release date, pulled from the schedule as DWA went through a restructuring. Now, Leondis has another project to throw himself into. WME reps Leondis. Siegel is a writer and actor who has sold several shows to Fox and NBC and was most recently as producer on the TBS series Men At Work. He’s also consulting producer on Family Tools at ABC. This is his first movie sale and he’s repped by APA, New Wave and Lichter Grossman.
This comes as Sony this Friday rolls out Pixels, the Chris Columbus-directed animated/live action mix that stars Adam Sandler and some of the most popular videogame characters come to life, including Pac Man.