Sony Animation goes direct-to-DVD

Sequel to 'Open Season' in the works

Sony Pictures Animation is getting into the direct-to-DVD biz with a sequel to last year’s “Open Season.”

Unit is starting production on “Open Season 2,” with a 2009 release likely.

Though “Open Season” grossed just a so-so $85 million domestically and $105 million overseas, Sony felt the pic performed strongly in homevid and that, with a good follow-up story, it would help meet the goal of increasing SPA’s output.

“We don’t have a deep bench yet , so we’re certainly looking to have more product available,” said Sony Pictures Digital prexy Yair Landau. “We felt we had a really fun story and the marketplace wants more ‘Open Season.'”

Sequel will focus on one of the original pic’s supporting characters, Mr. Weenie, a domesticated dachshund who escapes to join the rebellion of forest animals.

Sony is still in talks with “Open Season’s” lead voices, Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher, and it’s not yet clear whether their characters will appear in the sequel. Mr. Weenie was voiced by Sony animator Cody Cameron.

In order to reduce costs for a homevid-only project, Landau said Sony expects to do much of the production work at satellite offices for its Imageworks f/x house opening in India and New Mexico.

Pic will also be distributed across a variety of digital platforms.

Move comes soon after Disney, which pioneered the lucrative business of direct-to-DVD sequels to animated features, decided to stop making them.

SPA’s second picture, “Surf’s Up,” was a box office disappointment. Unit has its third theatrical feature, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” in the works for 2009 and “Hotel Transylvania” likely in 2010.