EXCLUSIVE: With Minions minting north of $140 million before its U.S. opening tomorrow, Illumination Entertainment is broadening its offshore reach even further. Chris Meledandri’s Universal-based company has formed a creative partnership with Mofac Alfred (formerly Alfred Imageworks), the leading motion graphic studio based in South Korea, spearheaded by Korean writer, director and animator Kyungmin Woo. This includes a first-look deal with Mofac Alfred and Woo and the collaboration begins with Illumination optioning the rights to Johnny Express, the award-winning short film Woo wrote and directed.
Deal came about after Meledandri traveled across Asia to support the Minions launch. He already was in talks with Mofac Alfred, and things solidified in a visit to their headquarters. That led to the first such partnership between a U.S. film producer and a Korean studio, which they hope will lead to turning homegrown Mofac Alfred projects into feature films. Formed in 2003, Mofac Alfred is one of Korea’s leading CG animation and motion graphic production companies, generating animation and films and commercials.
Johnny Express is set in 2150; the title character is a Space Delivery Man who travels to different planets to deliver packages. When the spaceship arrives at the destination, all he has to do is simply deliver the box. However, it never goes as planned. Johnny encounters strange and bizarre planets and always seems to cause trouble on his delivery route.
Meledandri started Illumination as a global enterprise, centering its animation in France and assembling a creative team that encompasses 29 nationalities. The company’s first film, Despicable Me, grossed $291 million foreign and the sequel did $602 million. The Minions spinoff could give that number a run for its money. Post Minions, Illumination next releases The Secret Life Of Pets next year, followed by Despicable Me in 2017 and Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas in 2017, all through its financing and distribution partnership with Universal.
Here’s a look at the Johnny Express short: