Amblin Partners has begun principal photography on A Dog’s Purpose sequel, A Dog’s Journey with Dennis Quaid and Josh Gad returning to reprise their roles from the original. Co-financed and co-produced by Walden Media and Alibaba Pictures, A Dog’s Journey is set for domestic release via Universal on May 17, 2019. The studio will also handle select offshore markets while Alibaba will provide marketing support in China as it did on the last film which did $196M worldwide including $88M from the Middle Kingdom.

Directed by Gail Mancuso, A Dog’s Journey has added Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Kathryn Prescott and Chinese pop star Henry Lau to the cast. The follow-up to the 2017 pic is also based on the bestselling books by W Bruce Cameron who wrote the script with Cathryn Michon and Wally Wolodarsky & Maya Forbes. Gavin Polone is producing.

Published by Forge Books, A Dog’s Journey spent weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and has been released in 36 countries around the world. The story, told from the dog’s perspective, follows a Bailey (Gad), a pooch who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

A Dog’s Purpose was, paws-down, a hit in China and the sequel comes at a significant time for the market’s pet industry. Earlier this year, the China Pet Products Association reported a total of 50M registered dogs in the country, while pet ownership has been growing at 15% a year. In 2016, the Chinese spent $2.54B on their pets, a figure that is expected to reach $6.8B by 2020, according to research firm Euromonitor.

A Dog’s Journey is the latest feature to receive marketing and financial backing from Alibaba Pictures, along with the upcoming Middle Kingdom release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout and the recently-announced tie-up on Peppa Pig pic, Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year.

Alibaba took a minority equity stake in Amblin in October 2016. Under the deal, the companies formed a comprehensive strategic partnership to co-produce and finance films for global and Chinese audiences, as well as collaborate on the marketing, distribution and merchandising of Amblin Partners films in China.