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

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

  • Jimmie Fails Signs With CAA

    'Last Black Man in San Francisco' Star Jimmie Fails Signs With CAA

    Jimmie Fails, co-writer and star of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” has signed with CAA for representation. The drama, inspired by Fails’ own life, had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In his review for Variety, chief film critic Peter Debruge described the film as “a gorgeous and touchingly idealistic [...]

  • Stuck

    Film Review: 'Stuck'

    A stalled New York City subway carriage serves as a toe-tapping musical Petri dish for six socioeconomically diverse souls in the unique stage-to-screen musical adaptation “Stuck.” Sharing a stylistic template with its 2016 left-coast cousin “La La Land” (which it predated Off-Broadway by a good four years), the film’s 2017 copyright suggests a missed opportunity [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content