Australian animation studio Animal Logic has announced a deal with Hollywood filmmaker Ron Howard’s production company to make six family movies in the next five years.

They are teaming up to make both animated and live-action/animated movies – so-called hybrid productions – with hefty budgets of between $US75 million and $US85 million each.

The means the deal covers production worth more than $500 million.

It’s a significant expansion for the animation studio as it builds on the success of The Lego Movie, a surprise hit that took more than $US460 million at the worldwide box office in 2014, and The Lego Batman Movie, a hit this year that has taken almost $US300 million so far.

Animal Logic chief executive Zareh Nalbandian says Howard, the Oscar-winning director of Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code, will direct one of the animated movies.

“Both Imagine and Animal Logic brought their family slate to the table so we’re spoilt for choice in terms of what we’ll prioritise,” he says. “The first place we’ll look is always Australia for the filming but it’s got to make sense for the project.”

Describing Animal Logic’s work as groundbreaking, Howard said they were looking to make movies with “engaging, inventive and h
eart-warming stories that appeal to families … the possibilities for new material are limitless in this highly coveted space.”

Having also animated George Miller’s Oscar-winning Happy Feet, Animal Logic currently has three movies in production – Peter Rabbit, a hybrid movie about the famous Beatrix Potter character starring Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson with animated characters voiced by James Corden, Daisy Ridley and Margot Robbie; the animated The Lego Ninjago Movie, which is out in September; and the animated The Lego Movie Sequel, which is out in early 2019.


It is also due to shoot two more Lego movies in its new animation studio in Vancouver, Canada.

Nalbandian says two other movies that Animal Logic has been developing are outside the Imagine deal – one based on the famous Japanese manga character Astro Boy is being developed with New Line Cinema and the other is a partnership with Johnny Depp’s production company and 20th Century Fox for an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s children’s novel Fortunately, The Milk.

The new deal is with Imagine Entertainment, the company run by Howard and long-time producing partner Brian Grazer.

As well as producing such other movies directed by Howard as In The Heart of the Sea, Rush, Inferno, Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the company’s credits include J. Edgar, American Gangster and 8 Mile, as well as the television series 24, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, Empire and Curious George.

Animal Logic’s chief business officer, Robert Norton, said the joint venture was “an incredible creative platform for the next evolution of our company.”

Fortunately, The Milk, about a father who goes to buy milk for his children’s breakfast cereal only to be abducted by aliens, captured by pirates and befriended by a time-travelling dinosaur, is being written by Bret McKenzie (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords) and will be directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim versus the World) as a mix of live action and animation.

The Animal Logic-Imagine joint venture is raising equity financing to fund 50 per cent of the production and development of the slate over five years.

Excerpt from SMH April 4th:  Garry Maddox