Imagine chairman Brian Grazer and Animal Logic CEO Zareh Nalbandian have formed a joint venture they said will generate six animation and hybrid animation projects over five years, all in the lucrative family film space. Animal Logic has become a preeminent animation company, generating the animation for Happy Feet and The Lego Movie, its sequels and spinoffs with Warner Bros. It has Peter Rabbit coming in 2018 with Sony.
Imagine has always done a lot of family film efforts, mostly live action, that have included How The Grinch Stole Christmas, directed by Grazer’s Imagine partner Ron Howard.
Imagine and Animal Logic are raising 50% of the production and development money required during the five-year term of the deal to co-finance these films. They have also begun talking to studios that might comprise the other piece, for a series of films they believe will cost between $75 million-$85 million per picture. Why now? Seven of the top 12 most profitable films of 2016 were in the family film space in either animated or hybrid animated formats, according to a Deadline profitability breakdown that concludes today. These movies also have a high ratio of franchise launches compared to other genres. They greatly bolster the fortunes of the studios that do it best, Disney and Universal.
“This marriage was a fortuitous situation, an opportunity for a unique chemistry for what we have done,” Grazer told Deadline. “Ron and I have always been narrative storytellers, the goal to reach people emotionally. Many times that has been movies and TV that are thematic family comedies. Ron has been in that space since he was an actor, and movies like Grinch, Liar Liar, Curious George and The Nutty Professor. What Animal Logic brings as the perfect complement is its ability to extend that family sensibility, and to make things look amazing. When we saw The Lego Movie, we, along with most anyone else who saw the movie, found it to be uniquely progressive creatively. The simple things that matter here are, how things look and make you feel. We believe this is a perfect marriage of skill sets.”
While Animal Logic has done distinguished animation mainly from its Australia facilities, the company has its own Hollywood production company that helped put together the hybrid Peter Rabbit. CEO Nalbandian wants the opportunity to extend its creative muscles, and will be involved in development, and both want to play in the emerging sandboxes of VR and AR for projects.
“We are both known for wanting to tell great stories, looking for things different and innovative, and not formulaic,” Nalbandian told Deadline. “Strong characters, world creation but with a universality. We came up with slate of ideas we want to make as soon as we started talking. The thing is, it sounds like a no-brainer to make family films in animation and hybrid animation. But it all comes down to compelling IPs, great ideas, high concepts that capture audience imaginations and that look different, whether it’s original creations, licensed IP, or great public domain characters that are ripe for reinvention.” Nalbandian said Animal Logic is located in Canada, the U.S. and Australia but the animation effort will be focused in the latter locale where, he said “there is high-level talent, and also rich financial incentives that allow you to make movies for very competitive prices.”
Grazer said he was eager for the creative collaboration, while tapping the talent and creative relationships he and Howard have developed over more than three decades. “That is a competitive advantage,” he said. “All this has evolved organically for us, going back to when we made this Eddie Murphy claymation TV series The PJs, and Curious George. It was so hard. There weren’t creative design and animation shopes like Animal Logic to make these dreams come true, but now there are. And most of the movies that make the most money these days are consistently animated or partly animated films. The thematic is family, and you always root for family. Blend that together with the super progressive way Animal Logic approaches things and this should be fun. All the visual formats, from 3D animation to VR and AR, is stuff we were contemplating now.”
Nalbandian said they’ve already got some firm ideas on the drawing board, and hope to have the first film in an early stage of production by later this year.
CAA reps Animal Logic along with Loeb & Loeb. CAA reps Imagine.