STX Entertainment will launch a family and animation division aimed at creating entertainment for film, television and digital platforms, Variety has learned.
The studio’s first project will be an animated feature based on popular toy line Uglydoll. It plans to explore future projects with Pretty Ugly LLC, the toy company behind the cuddly critters, in gaming, television and other arenas.
The toys subvert the idea of ugly by turning the adjective into a positive, and include distinct and unconventionally cute characters such as Wage, Babo, Ice-Bat and Wedgehead. Uglydoll was created in 2001 after David Horvath signed a letter to his college sweetheart, Sun-Min Kim, with a drawing of an oddly proportioned monster. Partnering with co-creator Drew Matilsky, the couple built the characters into an award winning line of children’s products.
“We created Uglydoll on the premise that real beauty is found in the little twists and turns that make us who we are,” said Horvath in a statement. “We could not be more excited or optimistic about the future of the Uglydoll universe in the hands of the STX Entertainment team.”
He lauded the studio for understanding what made the characters “distinctive and relatable” and said he was confident they would maintain the characters’ “integrity.”
STX Entertainment was launched last year by producer Robert Simonds with the goal of fielding 12 to 15 films a year, with budgets ranging from $20 million to $80 million. Upcoming releases include the psychological thriller “The Gift” with Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton; “The Secret in Their Eyes,” a remake of the Oscar-winning Argentinian film of the same name to star Julia Roberts; and “The Free State of Jones,” an action-drama starring Matthew McConaughey.
This marks the studio’s first foray into the family space. The company was partly drawn to the toy line because it has global recognition and is popular in Asia, one of the strongest markets for film.
The film will be produced by STX. Gigi Pritzker and OddLot will co-produce, and Horvath and Matilsky will executive produce on behalf of Pretty Ugly LLC.
“The creative vision behind these dolls is extremely detailed and very rich for storytelling across many platforms,” said Adam Fogelson, chairman of the motion picture group for STX Entertainment, in a statement. “The moment you see these characters, you get their whole world immediately. They are endearing yet fundamentally flawed in some real and identifiable way. That’s what makes them so relatable. Kids and adults love these characters because we all can understand the challenges and triumphs of being different.”
At one point, Uglydoll had planned to make an animated feature film with Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. That animation company has a financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures, which Fogelson previously oversaw as its film chief.