The deal, announced Friday, confirms what was previously revealed in the prospectus of STX’s abandoned IPO in Hong Kong. It includes a previously announced animated TV series with Hulu, digital and print publishing, mobile and educational games, soundtrack and music, and merchandising and licensing programs covering toys, dolls, arts and crafts, collectibles, and other ancillaries.
“This partnership with STX on UglyDolls is very important to us because it allows us to build out this beloved global intellectual property for years to come leveraging the strength of the entire Alibaba ecosystem,” said Zhang Wei, president of Alibaba Pictures. “More importantly, the values that UglyDolls stand for – believing in yourself, acceptance of differences, and never giving up on one’s dreams – are universal and ones we are proud to promote through our work.”
Variety first reported in 2015 that STX had launched a family and animation division with the “UglyDolls” movie as its first project in a deal with Pretty Ugly LLC, the toy company behind the critters. The toys subvert the idea of ugly by turning the adjective into a positive, and include characters such as Wage, Babo, Ice-Bat, and Wedgehead.
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In the film, Kelly Clarkson’s character Moxy and her UglyDolls friends confront what it means to be different and struggle with their desire to be loved. Voice talent includes Chinese pop star Wang Leehom along with Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, Janelle Monáe, Wanda Sykes, Emma Roberts, Gabriel Iglesias, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, Lizzo, and Pitbull.
STXfilms will release “UglyDolls” on May 3 in North America as a launch vehicle for the franchise. Hasbro is the global master toy licensee. Atlantic Records will release the movie soundtrack.
“It is an honor to bring a company of Alibaba’s unparalleled reputation, high quality and considerable assets into the STX family,” said STX chairman and CEO Robert Simonds. “After collaborating on a number of projects, including co-producing the upcoming action sci-fi film ‘Steel Soldiers,’ this new venture further deepens our relationship and provides an incredible platform for us to create universally resonant content for audiences around the world.”