Andrew Kortschak and Walter Kortschak of End Cue will produce the stop-motion animated feature with Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries, alongside exec producers Adamson and Lee Stobby. Rocket Science is handling international sales for the title and shopping to buyers at the European Film Market in Berlin, while CAA is handling U.S. rights.
The original and offbeat coming-of-age story will be told in the vein of Starburns-produced Anomalisa, which was nominated for the Best Animated Film Oscar after it caused a stir at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival and was snapped up by Paramount.
Waititi and Gustafson couldn’t be a more perfect fit for such a project: Multihyphenate Waititi, who received an Oscar nom for his 2004 live-action short Two Cars, One Night, has worked on projects including Eagle vs. Shark, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and TV series The Inbetweeners. He is currently directing Thor: Ragnarok.
Gustafson is an Emmy-winning director who is co-directing Pinocchio alongside Guillermo del Toro. He has worked on series including Claymation Easter and The PJs and a number of notable animated films including Fantastic Mr. Fox and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
“It’s an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further,” said Waititi. “Most people know I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it’s respectful of him and his legacy. I’m not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world.
“This film is not about Michael Jackson because that’s not a story for me to tell — or a story I’d be comfortable telling — it’s about a chimpanzee’s fascinating journey through the complex jungle of human life,” he added. “I think animation is the only way to approach a story like this. I really loved Anomalisa because it was beautiful and authentic in its meditation on loneliness. I’m really excited to be working with Dan Harmon and Starburns as we share similar sensibilities and want to tell human stories in unique and artistic ways.”
Waititi is repped by CAA, Morris Yorn and Dan Halsted of Management. Gustafson is represented by Peter McHugh at the Gotham Group, and Adamson is repped by CAA, lawyer Michael Schenkman and manager Lee Stobby. Starburns is repped by CAA.