×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wink’s Joe Aguilar on Why Animation Co-Productions Are Risky and Slow

China’s Wink Animation, a division of Huayi Brothers, is a Chinese animation company that creates both Chinese-language films and globally-skewing features for the young adult market. It produces both fully animated and hybrid content that combines live action with animated characters.

The company is led by CEO Joe Aguilar, former CFO of Oriental DreamWorks, who led the flagship Sino-Hollywood co-venture while it produced “Kung Fu Panda 3,” the highest-grossing animated co-production of its time. Aguilar will be at FilMart on Tuesday to deliver a keynote address on co-productions in the animation space.

According to Aguilar, it will still be quite some time before globally successful animated co-productions explode onto the scene. “It’s not going to go as fast as everyone wants it to happen. There’s a lot to learn in terms of the risk factors, and culturally about how to work together,” he told Variety.

Since a lot of animated work in China is geared solely for younger children, budgets skew lower, leading to local productions that aren’t visually as strong as other international fare.

“I’m very interested in the domestic Chinese market — it’s rapidly changing, there’s a lot of growing talent here,” he said. “But I’m not attempting to make movies that are going to hit equally on both sides.”

Currently, his studio has four animated titles in its lineup, each with a budget of around $10 million to $20 million. The furthest along is “Extinct,” a feature announced last March that is currently in production with Cinesite in Montreal. It tells the tale of brother and sister “flummels” — a fluffy made-up species — who stumble into a time portal that sends them into the future, where they discover that their kind has become extinct. The duo must find a way to save their species.

It is directed by David Silverman, co-director of Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” and veteran of “The Simpsons,” and written by Joel H. Cohen, John Frink and Rob LaZebnik, all from “The Simpsons.” Creative work such as storyboarding and art was completed in L.A.

Wink is a producer and investor, while distributor China Lion is on board as the main financier. Production will likely finish by the end of the year, with a spring or summer 2020 release date expected.

Wink has two other features in development for the Chinese-language market and one for the global market. “We’ve sort of put our head down for the last couple of years trying to self-develop and work with partners that brought us projects, trying to get them to a mature level instead of rushing into production,” Aguilar said. Those projects are now reaching the point where the company is on the lookout for opportunities in both investment and distribution.

Meanwhile, he is “constantly talking to everyone” in Huayi’s theme park division in preparation for exploiting new properties. “They’re very interested in what we’re developing and seeing how, as movies get closer to production, we can work together on a ride or an event using our IP.”

Wink was founded in 2016 by Aguilar after he decided it was time to part ways with Oriental DreamWorks, now a fully Chinese-owned entity that was re-branded as Pearl Studios, at the end of 2015. Wink is based in Shanghai with a staff of about 10 and has an office in Burbank with a core team of about five employees. Profits for Huayi Brothers have slowed in recent years, but Aguilar maintains that “it hasn’t affected our work.”

“Have we had to tighten our belts? Yes, of course. But it’s just made us be smarter about how we do things and maybe spread work across different people’s abilities. We’re trying to keep our overhead at a lower level,” he said.

More Film

  • wanda Movie Metropolis Qingdao

    Why Simon West Is Making Movies in China (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Con Air,” “The Expendables 2”) is set to dive further into the Middle Kingdom at the helm of his second Chinese action-adventure blockbuster. The Wanda-backed “The Legend Hunters,” hits theaters next summer. West was brought onto the project by veteran producer Eryong, who had approached him about [...]

  • The Eight Hundred

    Chinese Research Group May Have Caused Cancellation of 'The Eight Hundred' Premiere

    Chinese authorities may have abruptly yanked the $80 million patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” the day before its opening-night premiere at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival because it didn’t portray rivals of the ruling Communist Party in a sufficiently negative light, local reports said. Huayi Bros., which produced the film, had on Friday attributed [...]

  • Simon West

    Simon West Directing Chinese Tomb-Raid Movie 'Legend Hunters' (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West, who made Angelina Jolie-starring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” is now co-directing a Chinese tomb-raiding film. “The Legend Hunters” is the next installment in the “Mojin” universe based on the popular fantasy novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light.” Backed by Wanda Pictures and Beijing-based Saints Entertainment, the film is set for [...]

  • Emu Runner

    Sydney Film Review: 'Emu Runner'

    Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ debut feature “Emu Runner” has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy [...]

  • Sophia Antipolis

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Sophia Antipolis'

    There are two Sophias in French director Virgil Vernier’s clever, cunning, chilling fifth feature. The first is its setting, the eponymous “Sophia Antipolis,” a technology park in the south of France, a place self-consciously designed as an experiment in social engineering, where an international community of professionals would, it was hoped, create an environment of [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    Netflix Pickup ‘I Lost My Body,’ ‘Buñuel,’ ‘Away’ Top Annecy Festival

    ANNECY, France  — Fulfilling expectations, Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body, the subject of one of the highest-profile Netflix deals at this year’s Cannes, won this Saturday the Annecy Festival’s top Cristal Award of best feature plus, in a relatively rare Annecy double whammy, the festival’s Audience Award. The first was expected, the second a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content