Laika Leaps Into Live-Action: Oscar-Nominated Animation Studio To Adapt John Brownlow’s Debut Action Thriller Novel ‘Seventeen’

Laika President & CEO Travis Knight
Laika president and CEO Travis Knight Courtesy of Laika

Laika is expanding into the world of live-action filmmaking for the first time, with an adaptation of John Brownlow’s upcoming debut novel, Seventeen.

Known for its groundbreaking work in stop-motion animation, the Oregon studio secured rights to Seventeen following an intense bidding war. The option announcement was made Wednesday by Laika’s president and CEO Travis Knight.

“For the past 15 years, Laika has been committed to making movies that matter,” he said. “Across mediums and genres, our studio has fused art, craft and technology in service of bold, distinctive and enduring stories. With Seventeen, Laika is taking that philosophy in an exciting new direction.”

Seventeen is a stiff cocktail of wicked wit, exhilarating action and raw emotion,” Knight added. “John has such a wonderfully unique voice. He’s crafted a brilliant universe with its own powerful identity. Seventeen is a thriller with soul, a sinuous adrenaline-fueled actioner with a sincere heart beating underneath its rippling pectorals.”

Well known for his work in film and TV, Brownlow previously penned the Sylvia Plath biopic and romantic drama Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig, along with four-episode limited series Fleming, which starred Dominic Cooper as James Bond author Ian Fleming. Additionally, he wrote and executive produced BBC’s three-part limited series The Miniaturist, which starred Golden Globe winner Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit).

“I am absolutely thrilled to be developing Seventeen for the screen with Laika,” said Brownlow. “As a longtime fan of Laika’s movies for their vision, heart, craft, intelligence and ambition, I couldn’t have hoped for the novel or the universe it inhabits to have found a better or more exciting home. I’m beyond honored to be part of their plans for the future.”

Founded by Knight in 2005, Laika has thus far scored Oscar nominations for each of its animated features—Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link—along with a Scientific and Technology Oscar plaque, which recognized its innovations in 3D printing. Receiving an additional Oscar nom for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Kubo also won the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film.

The studio’s most recent feature, 2019’s Missing Link, won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Film, and it is currently in production on its sixth animated feature.

In retrospect, Laika’s live-action ambitions are not entirely surprising. After making his feature debut in stop-motion with 2016’s Kubo, Knight went on to direct Paramount’s live-action Transformers pic Bumblebee. Subsequently, the three-time Oscar nominee boarded Warner Bros’ adaptation of The Six Billion Dollar Man, with Mark Wahlberg attached to star, though that long-in-the-works feature remains in pre-production.

UK publisher Hodder & Stoughton preemptively acquired worldwide publishing rights to Seventeen, which Hanover Square will publish in the U.S. in 2022.

Laika was represented in the film deal by CAA. Brownlow is represented by George Davis at Nelson Davis LLP, Jessica Sykes at Independent Talent Group and CAA.

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