Chinese animation firm Mili Pictures has opened a division in Los Angeles.

The unit is headed by Bill Borden, a US producer with credits including “High School Musical,” “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Mission: Impossible 3.”

The LA offshoot has now begun pre-production on Mili’s second feature movie “Ping Pong Rabbit.” Mike Johnson (“Corpse Bride”) is directing.

The company’s first movie “Dragon Nest,” an adaptation of the Shanda Games online game of the same title, is substantially completed and will premiere in July at the China Joy gaming convention on July 31.

“Ping Pong Rabbit” will move into the animation process in China in the fall, and is slated for release in early 2016. The film is scripted by “High School Musical” writer Peter Barsocchini.

“While some other companies are exploring the strategy of releasing big-budget movies in the China market, we feel there is even more potential in making family entertainment at a reasonable cost that can travel all over the world,” said Jack Zhang, chairman of Mili. “With the stunning quality of Mili’s animation and Hollywood experience in storytelling, we think Mili offers something very special.”

Mili was formed two years ago by a group of animators who had been working together on commercials, short films, and theme park rides, found backing from Shanda, China’s biggest online game operator.

Mili has also attracted financial backing from some of China’s top venture capital firms, such as China’s number one fund, Shenzhen Capital Group, and the well-known Ivy Capital.
The company has its headquarters in Shanghai, with production offices in Suzhou, China with another outpost in Auckland, New Zealand, used to create alliances with New Zealand special effects houses.