Former ToonBox exec Jay Ahn and animation industry veteran Chris Henderson have launched Astro-Nomical Entertainment, a development and production company aiming to make high-quality independent animated family films. Its first project in the works is the feature film Mean Margaret, based on the children’s book by Tor Seidler. Mulan co-director Barry Cook is in talks to direct, and IM Global will handle worldwide sales.

Astro-Nomical will be backed by China-based Characterplan and focus on developing intellectual property and sourcing production financing to develop and produce midbudget animated family films and franchises on all platforms including video games, theme parks, stage shows and music. It will have a particular strategic focus on China.

Mean Margaret

The Mean Margaret books center on a cranky toddler from a family of nine who is taken in by two woodchucks and raised as their own among a community of wacky animal characters. The film project most recently was incubated at Marza Animation Planet, which will lead on story and design. Ahn and Henderson will produce, with production handled by Montreal-based Digital Dimension. Pelagius Entertainment’s Joe Fries and Natalie Khoury will executive produce in the first of several planned tie-ups with Astro-Nomical.

“We feel we are poised to be the go-to place for creators and producers who want to develop and produce high-quality animated films in the independent CGI family film space,” said Henderson, who founded animation studio Kookanooga Toons (Madison’s Adventures Growing Up Wild) and worked at Walt Disney TV Animation, where he served as showrunner on 101 Dalmatians and Hercules. “With our experience and relationships we can maximize the investment in all stages — from development and strong storytellilng, through physical production. We’re in a golden age of animation right now. It’s the right time to bring these films to market.”

Ahn is one of the founders of ToonBox Entertainment, where he most recently was co-CEO and co-president and executive produced The Nut Job, which grossed an indie toon record $120.9M at the global box office. A sequel is in the works, and Ahn remains an adviser.