Kung Fu Panda 3
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Joe Aguilar, former head of production for features and TV at Oriental DreamWorks, has been appointed as CEO of Wink Animation, a new, wholly-owned animation division at China’s Huayi Brothers Media.

Aguilar, who has credits including “Kung Fu Panda” and “The Croods” will head the Shanghai-based division for Huayi.

Markus Manninen, a visual effects supervisor with credits including “Shrek The Musical,” “The Croods” and “Over The Hedge,” is to be Wink’s artistic director.

The company will set up a creative center to produce animation, initially for the Chinese market, where local and imported animated content is growing in popularity. The box office this week is headed by Disney Animation’s “Zootopia.” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” co-produced by Oriental DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation, recently broke the box office record for a Chinese-made animated feature.

Thereafter Wink will also develop global animation features. Wink aims to develop four global animation features every year, and expects to release its first movie in 2017, Huayi said.

Huayi say it expects the division to announce other hires of veteran animation staff with Hollywood experience, including alumni from Paramount and DreamWorks.

“Animation movies can more easily transcend the limit of culture and age, and it is easier to develop series of movies and merchandise. Therefore, Wink Animation can enrich the company’s IP three major businesses. It is also a breakthrough for Huayi’s strategy of internationalization,” said Huayi Brothers’ vice chairman & president, Wang Zhonglei.

Huayi has previously invested in other animation projects now in the pipeline. “Rock Dog,” in which Huayi was a co-developer, is to be released in July this year. “Blazing Samuri,” a family animation comedy co-produced by Huayi Brothers, Mass Animation, Cinemation and GFM Films, will be released on Aug. 4, 2018 in both North America and China.

Aguilar said that the potential for animation in China is huge, but competition is intensifying. ” In order to success, there are two key points. The first point is to grasp China’s ‘content wealth.’ Chinese culture is more and more popular in the global market, and can produce infinite original stories with Chinese elements. Creatively this is what we will focus on. The second point is to emphasize international way of expression, which makes the movies globally more acceptable.”

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