Netflix Acquiring Animation Studio Animal Logic

Netflix is acquiring Animal Logic, the Australian animation studio for an undisclosed price. The deal aims to support Netflix’s growing animated film slate, including Academy Award-nominated Over the Moon, Klaus and recently released The Sea Beast.

Completion of this transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Netflix said it hopes to close the transaction later this year.

The 30-year-old Animal Logic is headquartered in Sydney, with a second studio set up in Vancouver, Canada in 2015. The company has worked on Hollywood theatrical hits, including Happy Feet, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, the “Lego Movie” franchise and Peter Rabbit 1 & 2, in addition to a catalog of visual effects work for The Matrix, Moulin Rouge!, 300 and The Great Gatsby.

The announcement builds on the existing partnership between the two companies, with a full slate of films that include The Magician’s Elephant, directed by Wendy Rogers, and the recently announced The Shrinking of the Treehorns, directed by Ron Howard.

“Netflix has been investing in animation over the past few years and this furthers our commitment to building a world-class animation studio,” Amy Reinhard, VP of studio operations, at Netflix, said in a statement.

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Led by CEO and co-founder Zareh Nalbandian, the Animal Logic teams and leadership will remain operating under the Animal Logic brand and will fulfill production of existing and ongoing commitments and continue to collaborate and work with longstanding studio partners. 

“After 30 years of producing great work with great people, this is the perfect next chapter for Animal Logic,” said Nalbandian. “Our values and aspirations could not be more aligned with Netflix, in working with diverse content makers, producing innovative and engaging stories for audiences around the world. Our collective experience and talent will open new doors for all our teams and will empower a new level of creativity in animation.”

Netflix’s growing original slate of animated features and shorts also include Academy Award-nominated Robin, Robin, Kris Pearn’s The Willoughbys, Back to the Outback directed by Clare Knight, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood from Richard Linklater, as well as upcoming releases, including Henry Selick’s Wendell & Wild, Nora Twomey’s My Father’s Dragon, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and an Aardman sequel to Chicken Run.  Recent animated film acquisitions by Netflix include the Academy Award-nominated The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Vivo!, Spongebob: Sponge on the Run and Wish Dragon

Disney+ to Bow ‘Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation’ Animated Special Aug. 5

The Disney+ streaming service Aug. 5 will premiere Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation, a new animated special from Lucasfilm and the Lego Group.

Set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Summer Vacation finds Finn arranging a surprise vacation for his friends Rey, Poe, Rose, Chewie, BB-8, R2-D2 and C-3PO aboard the Galactic Starcruiser, the Halcyon. But when Finn is separated from the group, he encounters three Force ghosts: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Leia Organa, who each share their own unexpected stories of vacations gone wrong, helping him to understand that holidays are about more than just having fun.

Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic as Vic Vankoh; Yvette Nicole Brown as Colvett Valeria; Thomas Lennon as Wick Cooper; Paul F. Tompkins as Rad; Dee Bradley Baker as Boba Fett; Ashly Burch as the Tour Droid; Kyliegh Curran as Sidero; Anthony Daniels as C-3PO; Trevor Devall as Emperor Palpatine; Allie Feder as Sy Snootles; Jake Green as Poe Dameron; Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker; Ross Marquand as Han Solo; Omar Miller as Finn; Kevin Michael Richardson as Jabba the Hutt; Matt Sloan as Darth Vader; James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi; Kelly Marie Tran as Rose; Helen Sadler as Rey Skywalker; Billy Dee Williams as Lando; Matthew Wood as Ben Solo; and Shelby Young as Leia Organa.

In addition, the special includes the new original song “Scarif Beach Party” performed by Yankovic. A trailer for the special debuted June 21 and features the new song.

This will be the third Disney+ “Lego Star Wars” episode, following 2020’s Lego Star Wars Holiday Special and 2021’s Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales.

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Animated Feature ‘King Tweety’ Due on Digital and DVD June 14

The animated family feature King Tweety is set for release on digital and DVD June 14 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. 

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, King Tweety finds Tweety, Sylvester and Granny jet-setting to the Canary Islands where Tweety learns he’s a royal descendant and the next in line to the throne. When the queen of the island paradise disappears, Tweety unexpectedly becomes next in line for the crown. His entourage includes motorbike daredevil Granny and sly Sylvester, whose allegiance is tested when he uncovers a sinister plot to eliminate Tweety for good.

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The release includes three bonus classic “Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries” cartoons: “Something Fishy Around Here,” “The Maltese Canary” and “The Cat Who Knew Too Much.”

King Tweety features the voice talents of Eric Bauza as Sylvester/Tweety/Larry Bird/the Handsome Stewart; Flula Borg as Harold/Singing Fish/Enthusiastic Crowdgoer; Carlease Burke as Queen Honk/Candice the Crane; Jon Daly as Diego; Regi Davis as Rodrigo the Dog/Charlie Bird Parker/an Owl; Dana DeLorenzo as Izza; Riki Lindhome as Beep Beep; Candi Milo as Granny/Green Bean/Lady Bird Johnson; Maya Lynne Robinson as Officer Gnutz/Dancer; Niccole Thurman as Aoogah/Melaney Blank and Mark Whitten as Officer Siedes/John Foray.

 

Netflix Teams With Aardman for New ‘Wallace & Gromit’ Movie, ‘Chicken Run’ Sequel

Netflix will release a new “Wallace & Gromit” film and the sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget through its collaboration with stop-motion animation company Aardman Animations.

The sequel to Chicken Run, the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time, will be coming exclusively to Netflix in 2023, according to the service. In Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, having pulled off a death-defying escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger has finally found her dream — a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock, far from the dangers of the human world. When she and Rocky hatch a little girl called Molly, Ginger’s happy ending seems complete. But back on the mainland the whole of chicken-kind faces a new and terrible threat. For Ginger and her team, even if it means putting their own hard-won freedom at risk — they’re breaking in. The voice cast includes Thandie Newton (Ginger), Zachary Levi (Rocky), Bella Ramsey (Molly), Jane Horrocks (Babs), Imelda Staunton (Bunty), Lynn Ferguson (Mac), Josie Sedgwick-Davies (Frizzle), David Bradley (Fowler), Romesh Ranganathan (Nick), Daniel Mays (Fetcher) and Nick Mohammed (Dr Fry) .

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Also, Nick Park is returning to his roots with a new film starring his Oscar-winning characters “Wallace & Gromit.” The film will premiere exclusively on Netflix around the world except in the United Kingdom, where it will debut first on the BBC before also coming to Netflix. Park will direct alongside Aardman’s creative director of “Wallace & Gromit” Merlin Crossingham, with Mark Burton onboard to write. In the as-yet-untitled film, set for a 2024 release, Gromit’s concern that Wallace has become overdependent on his inventions proves justified when Wallace invents a “smart gnome” that seems to develop a mind of its own. As events spiral out of control, it falls to Gromit to put aside his qualms and battle sinister forces.

Last year, Aardman and Netflix released the companies’ first project collaboration, the animated musical Robin Robin, which recently made the Oscars shortlist and BAFTA longlist for animated short films.

Genius Brands Acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media

Genius Brands International is acquiring WOW! Unlimited Media for approximately $53 million in cash and stock, according to the companies.

WOW! Unlimited Media, based in Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles, is an animation production company producing for the top broadcasters and IP holders including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sony, Hulu, Dreamworks, Moonbug, Peacock and Mattel. The acquisition includes two studios — Frederator Studios (which produced “Adventure Time,” “FairlyOdd Parents,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Castlevania”) and Mainframe Studios (“Madagascar: A Little Wild,” “Barbie Dreamhouse”).

WOW! CEO Michael Hirsh will join the board of directors of Genius Brands and continue his responsibilities for Mainframe, Frederator Studios, networks and platforms.

Andy Heyward

“The acquisition of WOW! substantially accelerates the financial growth of Genius Brands, delivering on our promise to shareholders to execute meaningful and accretive acquisitions, as we seek to rapidly consolidate the marketplace and become the foremost producer, broadcaster, and consumer product licensor of high-quality children’s entertainment in the world,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “I have known and worked with WOW! Chairman and CEO Michael Hirsh throughout my career, and there is nobody more talented, accomplished or well regarded. His track record of many hits includes the first ‘Star Wars’ animated programs, ‘Magic School Bus,’ ‘Care Bears, Babar,’ ‘Johnny Test,’ and ‘Beetlejuice,’ among others.

“In addition to the animation productions of WOW! today and the exciting new brand brought to the table for Genius Brands, WOW! has a massive social media footprint across YouTube, TikTok, Giphy, etc., expanding the Genius Brands kids’ audience demo into the lucrative teens and young adult marketplaces. The company has over 1 billion views per month on its Frederator YouTube Network, with over 2,500 advertiser supported channels, making it the number one talent driven animation YouTube Network.”

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WOW!’s Canadian production facilities enable a number of profitable synergies for the company via access to various federal and provincial tax credits, which will allow Genius Brands to transfer its current animation production at great savings from China, according to Genius Brands.

“In addition to WOW!’s 3rd party service production, we will now place many of the exciting upcoming WOW! owned content on Kartoon Channel! and activate it through our consumer products and global distribution sales network, further advancing revenues and earnings,” Heyward said in a statement.

“I’m excited to work with Andy and the Genius Brands team,” Hirsh said in a statement. “This is a powerful partnership that brings immediate and significant value for shareholders. We bring production capacity, new IP, and a robust and profitable YouTube Network with over a billion views per month. Genius Brands, with Kartoon Channel!, has a fully distributed footprint where our content can thrive and also help Kartoon Channel! itself expand. Genius Brands’ world class consumer product licensing team led by Kerry Phelan, will enable us to monetize all of these great characters and brands. This transaction represents the culmination of our extensive strategic review process. We feel that this is a very attractive opportunity for our shareholders with significant potential upside in the months and years ahead.”

The transfer of animation production to Canada is expected to benefit Genius Brands through Canadian Content incentives as well as Production Service Tax Credits, according to a press release.

‘Superman: The Animated Series’ Flying to Blu-ray Oct. 26

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release “Superman: The Animated Series” on Blu-ray Oct. 26 to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary.

Running for 54 episodes from 1996 to 2000, “Superman: The Animated Series” was produced by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, the creative team behind the groundbreaking “Batman: The Animated Series,” leading to crossovers between the two characters and other DC Comics heroes as a precursor to the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” animated series.

Tim Daly led the voice cast as Clark Kent/Superman alongside Dana Delany as Lois Lane, David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor.

All 54 episodes have been remastered from the original 35mm interpositive sources, giving special attention to extensive color correction, dirt and scratch clean-up, and adding a grain reduction pass to create a pristine picture, all while making sure not to affect the original lines in the artwork of the animation. The audio was retransferred from the original audio masters, and the series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 4:3.

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The six-disc Superman: The Complete Animated Series boxed set will include the new retrospective featurette “Superman: Timeless Icon,” a look at the complicated journey of the show and those who created the new mythology for the Man of Steel.

Also included will be a special video commentary for the episode “Mxyzpixilated,” and audio commentaries for the episodes “Stolen Memories,” “The Last Son of Krypton — Part 1” and “The Main Main — Part 2,” with the show’s producers and episode directors.

Also included will be the featurettes “A Little Piece of Trivia”; “Superman: Learning to Fly,” about the creation of the show; “Building the Mythology: Superman’s Supporting Cast”; “Menaces of Metropolis: Behind the Villains of Superman,” a look at the show’s rogues’ gallery of baddies, including traditional opponents Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, Metallo, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Toy-man and Parasite, as well as new villains created for the series such as Live Wire and Luminus; and “The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman.”

The Blu-ray set will also include a code to access digital copies of the episodes.

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Update (9/23/21): Release date changed from Oct. 12 to Oct. 26.

‘Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog’ Due on Digital and DVD Sept. 14

Two of animation’s top canine characters team up in Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog, a new, full-length animated family film set for release on digital and DVD Sept. 14 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog finds the teen sleuths in the town of Nowhere, Kan., where they meet Courage the Cowardly Dog. There they investigate what makes the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners Eustace and Muriel Bagge one of the weirdest places on Earth. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object, putting the team on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her winged warriors.

The release includes three bonus classic “Scooby-Doo!” episodes: the “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” episode “Decoy for a Dognapper”; the “The Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour” episode “The Gruesome Game of the Gator Ghoul”; and the “The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour” episode “Chiller Diller Movie Thriller.”

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Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog features the voice talents of Frank Welker as Scooby-Doo/Fred Jones, Grey Griffin as Daphne Blake, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy Rogers and Kate Micucci as Velma Dinkley. The film also features Jeff Bergman as Eustice Bagge, Marty Grabstein as Courage the Cowardly Dog and Thea White as Muriel Bagge.

Netflix Targets Young Animators in India

All roads in digital entertainment continue to pass through India. Netflix just concluded a week-long (March 15-19) visual storytelling course for students at India’s Amity School of Film & Drama. The virtual event was organized in partnership with Paris-based animation school Gobelins L’école de L’image and focused on animation principles, storytelling fundamentals, character design and gesture design.

Students heard guest lectures by expert animation studio heads, including Guillaume Dousse (Sun Creature) and Anish Mulani (Fractal Picture). The group also heard from Green Gold Animation founder Rajiv Chilaka, who created Netflix’s preschool series, “Mighty Little Bheem.”

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Netflix and Gobelins in 2019 first partnered on two scholarship programs to help develop emerging talent in animation. Since then, Netflix has backed animators from France, India and Africa through its Japan-based Netflix Animation Scholarship Program as well as Character Animation Scholarship Program.

“We love fresh new creative voices, and were grateful to be able to help support and spend time with this group in a way that celebrates India’s storytelling culture and helps bring more of it to the world,” Karuna Gulyani, corporate and policy communications lead at Netflix India, said in a statement.

Netflix, like Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, among others, has focused considerable efforts tapping into the second most-populous country in the world. Disney, through its acquisition of Hotstar, now counts 30% of its 100 million Disney+ subscribers from India. Netflix launched Indian operations in 2016. In 2019, it pledged to invest $400 million in Indian original content, a move that resulted in the SVOD pioneer’s first original Indian series, “Sacred Games.”

Netflix also bowed its first mobile-only subscription tier in India, priced at $3 monthly. India had more than 1.1 billion mobile telecom subscribers through last September, according to Statista. Netflix hopes to generate 100 million Indian subs, but reportedly ended 2019 with just two million.

‘Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse’ Shorts Coming to Disney+ Nov. 18

Mickey Mouse and friends are heading to Disney+ in the new animated shorts series “The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse.”

From the team behind Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts, the new Disney+ original series will debut on Mickey’s birthday, Nov. 18, with two new shorts rolling out every Friday beginning Nov. 27. Ten shorts will premiere this year, with 10 additional shorts set for summer 2021.

“The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse” follows the adventures of Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto. Each seven-minute short features the classic art style of the “Mickey Mouse” shorts and will include stories inspired by various lands at Disney parks and cameos by classic Disney heritage characters.

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Marked by a contemporary art style that harkens back to Mickey’s 1928 beginnings, the “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts premiered on Disney Channel in 2013 and ran for five seasons, consisting of a total of 96 episodes, and garnered seven Primetime Emmy Awards, two Daytime Emmy Awards and 21 Annie Awards. The shorts inspired a global line of consumer products, toys and clothing as well as the new attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the first ride-through attraction in Disney history starring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, now open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. All five seasons of the shorts are currently available to stream on Disney+.

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“The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse” is produced by Disney Television Animation with Emmy Award-winning artist and director Paul Rudish serving as executive producer and supervising director. Christopher Willis, the Emmy Award-winning composer of the “Mickey Mouse” shorts, also provides the music for this series.

Former Fox Animation and Marvel Exec Grant Gish to Join ViacomCBS Adult Animation Unit

ViacomCBS announced Marvel Studios and former Fox Animation executive Grant Gish will lead its new adult animation unit as SVP of adult animation, entertainment and youth brands, overseeing linear and streaming animation, effective Aug. 31.

Gish joins ViacomCBS on the heels of its expansion into adult animation, driven by such shows as “South Park” and upcoming reimaginings such as Mike Judge’s “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Jodie,” based on the classic MTV series “Daria.”

Gish helped develop the Emmy Award-winning animated series “Bob’s Burgers” and oversaw the Emmy-nominated “American Dad” during his tenure at Fox Animation. He joins ViacomCBS from Marvel Studios, where he launched the adult comedy and animation group within the former Marvel Television division. Gish spearheaded Marvel’s foray into half-hour comedy and adult animation with upcoming Hulu series “M.O.D.O.K.” and “Hit-Monkey.”

“Grant has incredible instincts and a supercharged passion for animation,” Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Along with his extraordinary reputation and impressive successes with some of the biggest hits in the genre, from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ to ‘American Dad’ — his vision is exactly what we’re looking for to lead our adult animation unit.”

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“I grew up on MTV’s Animation Studios content where I’d run home from school to watch ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ eating pretzels on my couch,” Gish said in a statement. “With access to such a vast library of IP that will enable us to break through the clutter coupled with the opportunity to create a fresh slate, I couldn’t be more excited to join the E&Y Group that’s growing in droves under Chris and Nina’s leadership.”

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“We are thrilled to have Grant lead our new adult animation unit as we expedite the rapid expansion of our adult animation content,” Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS entertainment and youth group, said in a statement. “Adult animation is an incredibly powerful asset that truly works on every platform and around the world. It’s also pandemic-proof, which is why we are reimaging many of our beloved iconic IPs, unlocking incredible value.”