Production gets under way this month on “Beast of Burden,” the first China-New Zealand co-production of an animated feature. William Morris Endeavor and Canada’s Strategem Entertainment are set to handle international sales.

The film is written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron”). The story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.

“Burden” is a production involving China Film Animation, part of state-owned China Film Group, and New Zealand’s Huhu Studios. Financial backing comes from Qi Tai Culture Development Group, a company that spans film investment, production and marketing.

The film’s producers are Trevor Yaxley, CEO of Huhu Studios, and Jun Huang of China Film Animation. Executive production credits go to Michael Cerenzie of Stratagem and Kenin Spivak of SMI Entertainment.

WME is to secure U.S. distribution, while Strategem handles rights in the rest of the world. “Beast” is scheduled to be released in theaters in 2016.

Auckland-based Huhu is a group of creative and training centers specializing in 2D and 3D animation formats. It has additional studios in Taipei and Beijing that have six years of experience working with Chinese clients on animated movies, TV series, television commercials and theme park designs.

The film was given its official start at a ceremony during the Beijing International Film Festival (April 16-23). Attending were Yaxley, CFG chairman La Peikang, the New Zealand ambassador to China John McKinnon, and New Zealand Film Commission head Dave Gibson.