Arctic Justice Thunder Squad

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s Ambi Pictures, at Venice as co-producers of Barry Levinson’s Al Pacino-starrer “The Humbling,” are venturing into animation with “Arctic Justice Thunder Squad.”

The ecology-themed 3D English-language family film is helmed by Canada’s Matthew Lyon in his homeland.

“This movie will be Pixar or Disney quality,” said Iervolino who has set up an animation studio in Toronto. “The team behind this film are all top-notch animators.”

The budget for “Arctic Justice,” which will be ready in 18 months, is being kept under wraps. But Iervolino said it was bigger than any previous Italian toon. Ambi is producing with financing from private investors.

“It’s our first big-budget, CGI animation film that will come from our studio in Toronto, which is a factory of young creatives,” said Iervolino.

The tale turns on a sinister walrus who plots to accelerate global warming and melt the Arctic Circle. A rag-tag group of inexperienced heroes, led by a fox, must come together to foil his nefarious plan and save the Arctic.

Ambi, which has a sales office in Los Angeles, will kick off international sales of “Arctic Justice” at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it will also announce new live-action features on its expanding slate. Iervolino said he was confident he would soon close a deal for U.S. distribution on “Arctic Justice.” If he does, it will be quite an achievement.

In the past 10 years the only Italian company to crack the international animation market is Rainbow Studios with its “Winx” fairies.

Rainbow has also made two animated features, most recently “Gladiators of Rome,” but despite being part-owned by Viacom it failed to get a U.S. release.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain’s “Planet 51” animated movie did get a U.S. release but failed to fly.

“Our goal is to gradually make bigger movies that get distribution all over the world,” Iervolino vowed.

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