Netflix is bolstering its family entertainment offerings by getting into business with one of the biggest names in animation.
The streaming giant will produce “Jacob and the Sea Beast,” a new film from Chris Williams, the co-director of the Disney films “Moana,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Bolt.” The movie will be Williams’ first as solo director, a rarity in animation, where the scale and complexity of the projects typically demands a few hands at the tiller.
Williams wrote the screenplay, which, according to the log line, follows “a charming seafarer who sails into uncharted waters and discovers an unlikely ally in a sea monster.” The film was partly inspired by the fantastical beasts that adorned 16th and early 17th century nautical maps. Their presence alluded to the undiscovered countries that lay beyond the borders of the known world.
“‘Jacob and the Sea Beast’ is the kind of story I’ve always wanted to take on,” said Williams in a statement. “It’s a tale of high adventure where our hero leaves the known world and ventures out into uncharted waters. As it turns out, I’m doing the same thing.”
Williams also spoke warmly of Disney, offering that he was “…grateful for the opportunities provided by my former creative home” and adding that he was “…excited to leap into a new environment. I feel a great energy at Netflix, as amazingly talented artists from a wide variety of backgrounds are coming together to build something new.”
Williams is an Oscar winner for “Big Hero 6.” He was also nominated for best animated feature for “Bolt.”
Netflix has been investing heavily in original animated programming in recent months. The company recently announced that it is backing Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion adaptation of “Pinocchio” and “Over the Moon,” an animated fantasy film from “The Little Mermaid” director Glen Keane. Much of this work has been done since Melissa Cobb, a former Dreamworks Animation executive, was hired in 2017 to oversee Netflix’s kids and family team.
“Chris is one of the most talented filmmakers working in animation today and his distinct voice comes through in this touching tale of ancient hunters who struggle to capture a beautiful, mythical sea creature on the high seas,” Cobb said in a statement. “His is precisely the kind of grand, adventure-filled story with smart and nuanced characters that we look for in family animated projects at Netflix.”
Netflix expects the feature film to be released on its platform in 2022. Williams is represented by UTA.