China’s Original Force Animation Pushes Into Feature Films With 2 Hollywood Vets

Sandra Rabins and Penney Finkelman Cox, who oversaw launch of DWA and Sony Animation, named co-presidents

Top, from left: Sandra Rabins, Bob Bendetson, Harley Zhao, Christopher Jenkins, John Eng and Penney Finkelman Cox

China’s Original Force Animation is expanding into feature films, having named Hollywood veterans Sandra Rabins and Penney Finkelman Cox co-presidents and opened a Los Angeles office, company founder and president Harley Zhao said Wednesday.

Rabins and Finkelman Cox, who were instrumental in the launch of DreamWorks’ and Sony’s animation arms, yielding blockbusters “Shrek,” “Prince of Egypt” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” said Original Force’s goal is to deliver a computer-generated animated film every 18 months.

The company’s foray into features is the latest example of China’s burgeoning film industry muscling into a sector dominated by American companies for decades, both in terms of box office and competition for creative talent.

“There is no one more talented, skilled or experienced in leading animated films than Sandy and Penney,” said Zhao. “Each has had an extraordinary career and their track record co-running DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation has given them a completely unique perspective on building a contemporary animation studio from the ground up. They have a love and respect for great stories and relatable characters that is incredibly infectious and which drives our production philosophy.

Rabins and Finkelman Cox have assembled a team of veteran artists, writers and filmmakers, including Christopher Jenkins, producer of the recent DreamWorks Animation hit “Home,” John Eng (“Rugrats Go Wild”) and Bob Bendetson (“The Simpsons”). Peter Adee, who formerly was president of marketing at Universal Pictures and MGM, is consulting with Original Force on the launch of its initial titles.

duck_duck_gooseThree features are currently in production: “Duck Duck Goose,” directed by Jenkins; “Oldzilla,” written and directed by Bendelson and co-written by Art Everett; and “QQ Speed,” a co-production with Tencent Holding based on one of China’s most popular online racing games. Eng is developing and will also direct.

Original Force has an active development slate that includes “Where The Mountain Meets The Moon,” based on the Newberry Honor Book by Grace Lin, and “Riding Giants,” to be adapted by Greg Johnson from his original manuscript.

Established in 1999, Original Force has become a leader in creating state-of-the-art TV and video game animation for a wide range of global clients including Disney, DreamWorks Television, Sony, Tencent, Activision, and Electronic Arts.

While the establishment of another outlet for animated creative types is good news, China’s rapidly growing animated film industry is at some point likely to pose a serious threat to Hollywood’s decades-long dominance of film animation. Chinese animated films drove roughly $250 million in 2013. Last year, that number was up to more than $500 million and is expected to hit $900 million in 2015.

China’s 3D animated family film “The Monkey King: Hero Is Back” this year surpassed the results of every American animated movie ever released in China. Written and directed by Tian Xiaopeng and produced by Zhejiang HG Entertainment, the picture has grossed $139 million to date, more than 50 percent better than the previous American record holder in China, “Kung Fu Panda 2.”