A consortium led by Li Ruigang’s CMC Capital Partners has taken full ownership of Shanghai-based animation studio Oriental DreamWorks, relaunching it as Pearl Studio. Universal, which inherited 45% of the joint venture when parent Comcast acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016, had been looking to offload its interests. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The newly-christened studio will be led by CEO Frank Zhu and Chief Creative Officer Peilin Chou. The senior executive team also includes Head of Studio Dagan Potter, Head of Ancillary Business PC Xu and Head of Operation Cindy Zhou.
Oriental DreamWorks, which launched in 2012, is the studio behind Kung Fu Panda 3 which was the first official U.S.-China animated co-production and one of the highest-grossing animated films ever when it released in the Middle Kingdom in 2016. In September last year, the studio unveiled a slate of key development projects.
Among upcoming features is the 2019 Yeti-themed Everest. Universal and DreamWorks Animation, will continue to collaborate with Pearl Studio on the film with Universal Pictures releasing outside China. Directed by Jill Culton, the film finds a group of misfits who encounter a young Yeti named Everest and embark upon an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth.
CMC today reiterated its commitment to build Pearl into one of the world’s leading creators of high quality animated content for every screen and platform.
Said Li, “We are enormously grateful to our JV partners and especially NBCUniversal. As Oriental DreamWorks evolves and relaunches as Pearl Studio, we have successfully accomplished the goals we envisioned when we began building this business many years ago. We have a world-class creative and development team and a robust and exciting pipeline of projects we are committed to bringing to screens around the globe… The animation market could not be stronger right now in China or globally. We believe Pearl Studio is in a very unique and enviable position to be a bold new independent voice in the animation community.”
Universal Chairman Jeff Shell added, “We have tremendous respect for Li Ruigang and CMC, and look forward to many opportunities to work together as they continue to build this business as Pearl Studio.”
Universal also said this morning that DreamWorks Animation’s film, television, consumer products and digital gaming businesses will now be part of NBCUniversal’s product offerings in China.