STX Entertainment is partnering with Alibaba Pictures to co-produce and co-finance content from its upcoming UglyDolls franchise as the studio looks to build a long-term global IP. The animated feature film based on David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim’s popular toy line opens on May 3.
Already, STX is planning an animated TV series with Hulu, as well as digital and print publishing, mobile and educational games, music and merchandising connected to the property.
The venture combines STX’s multiplatform content making, marketing and distribution expertise with Alibaba Group’s entire ecosystem. With more than 600M consumers across e-commerce, marketing, ticketing, digital media and entertainment platforms, merchandising and consumer insights, Alibaba Pictures serves as the “Gateway to China,” bringing entertainment content to the Middle Kingdom.
STX’s push into animation comes with the deep experience of its film division leaders, STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson, who prior to coming to STX, was instrumental in establishing Illumination Entertainment, creator of Despicable Me at Universal Studios, and Oren Aviv, who as previous marketing chief for Disney and Fox Studios, handled Disney Animation, Pixar and Blue Sky Films, and notably, the Incredibles franchise. Alibaba Pictures established its overseas offices in Pasadena in 2016 to find stories to invest in, produce and share for the China market. The territory is projected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest movie market by 2022, per Ampere Analysis.
“This partnership with STX on UglyDolls is very important to us because it allows us to build out this beloved global intellectual property for years to come leveraging the strength of the entire Alibaba ecosystem,” said Wei Zhang, President of Alibaba Pictures. “More importantly, the values that UglyDolls stand for – believing in yourself, acceptance of differences, and never giving up on one’s dreams – are universal and ones we are proud to promote through our work.”
“It is an honor to bring a company of Alibaba’s unparalleled reputation, high quality and considerable assets into the STX family,” said STX Chairman and CEO Robert Simonds. “After collaborating on a number of projects, including co-producing the upcoming action sci-fi film Steel Soldiers, this new venture further deepens our relationship and provides an incredible platform for us to create universally resonant content for audiences around the world.”
UglyDolls is directed by Kelly Asbury and stars the voiceover cast of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, Janelle Monáe, Wanda Sykes, Emma Roberts, Gabriel Iglesias, Bebe Rexha , Charli XCX, Lizzo, and Pitbull. Also headlining the cast is Wang Leehom, who is hailed as the king of pop in China.