EXCLUSIVE: New Line is scratching at a start date on Hello Kitty. The studio, which set the rights to make a film based on the global brand in 2019, has set Jennifer Coyle and Leo Matsuda to direct what will be an animated/live-action hybrid effort.
Plot details surrounding the trendsetting Japanese pop icon are under wraps, but the intention is for it to be catnip for the global consumer audience. Known Universe’s Lindsey Beer wrote the script.
Beau Flynn and his FlynnPictureCo. will produce the film and pursued the Hello Kitty rights for over five years with New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. The film will mark the first time a studio has ever brought Hello Kitty to the big screen. Chanel Bowling will oversee the project for FlynnPictureCo. Known Universe is executive producer and New Line executives Richard Brener, Celia Khong and Paulina Sussman will oversee for the studio.
Coyle and Matsuda bring years of animation experience to the project and have worked on numerous animated films and TV shows, but this is their first collaboration and first studio film for either as they beat out many other directors for the job.
Coyle recently served as supervising producer on the animated HBO Max series Harley Quinn and was director on six seasons of the hit show Bob’s Burgers. Early credits include work on King of the Hill and The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Matsuda began at Walt Disney Animation and worked on films such as Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Ralph Breaks the Internet and most recently Abominable for DreamWorks Animation. His original animated feature Yokai Samba is in development at Nickelodeon. Matsuda’s directorial debut was the heartwarming short Inner Workings which premiered before the Disney hit Moana, and was shortlisted for the Oscars in 2017.
New Line president/chief creative officer Brener said the studio was “extremely lucky to have found in Jennifer and Leo, two directors who not only share a profound connection to the unforgettable characters Shintaro Tsuji and Sanrio have created over the past 40-plus years with Hello Kitty and her friends, but also have the imagination, talent and heart to bring this iconic world to life on the big screen.”
FlynnPictureCo. is currently in post on Disney’s upcoming Jungle Cruise directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and the Rawson Marshall Thurber-directed Red Notice for Netflix that stars Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, with a spring production start in the Johnson-starrer Black Adam for New Line and DC.
Coyle said “this is not only a rare chance to bring a beloved character to life, but also to spread the message of love, friendship and inclusivity that Hello Kitty stands for. The world so needs her brand of joy and happiness.”
Said Matsuda: “Growing up in Brazil with a Japanese family, I was surrounded by the whimsy of Hello Kitty and it served as a reminder that it’s okay to be different. Along with Jen, FlynnPictureCo. and New Line, I am delighted by this incredible opportunity to work with one of the most universally beloved characters and expand their relatable Sanrio stories even further.”
Coyle is repped by UTA; Matsuda by UTA, 3 Arts and Hirsch Wallerstein.
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