Korea Claims Credit for $45 Million ‘Nut Job’

HONG KONG – The South Korean government is claiming a major share of the credit for Open Road Films’ “The Nut Job,” an animated movie set to open on some 3,000 North American screens next month (Jan. 17, 2014).

The film is co-produced by Toronto, Canada-based ToonBox Entertainment with finance from Korean visual effects turned production company Redrover.

The action-comedy is directed by Peter Lepeniotis as a derivative of the short comedy “Surly Squirrel” he directed in 2005. The feature was co-written with veteran Disney animation screenwriter Lorne Cameron (“Over the Hedge”).

With a voice cast that includes Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigel, Will Arnett and Brendan Fraser, the film is set in the late 1950s in fictional Oakton and follows the travails of Surly, a mischievous squirrel, and his rat friend Buddy, who plan a nut store heist of outrageous proportions and find themselves embroiled far greater complications.

But, underscoring its Korean connections, the picture also sees the main characters sing and dance to “Gangnam Style” and includes an animated version of the song’s artist Psy.

Thom Chapman and Graham Moloy produce. Daniel Woo, Hong Kim, Mike Karz, and Tom Yoon executive produce, in association with sales agency Gulfstream Pictures, headed by Karz and Bill Bindley. Warner has rights in the U.K. and The Weinstein Company in certain other territories.

Pegging the film’s budget at $43 million, the South Korean Ministry of Culture said that it had directly and indirectly helped finance the picture. It promised to increase its funding for the animation sector from next year.

“Nut Job” received $8.5 million from a government investment fund and a further $600,000 from the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). Their backing triggered a further $8 million of lending by two banks; Korea Exim Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea.

The ministry said that it has increased its budget to support the Korean animation sector by from KRW17.2 billion (($16.3 million) to KRW22.4 billion ($21.3 million) in 2014.

Redrover and Toonbox have been producing 3D stereoscopic animation movies and television series since 2008, including the Lepeniotis-directed “Bolts & Blip” series

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