After last weeks announcement that San Francisco-based animation studio Wild Brain had inked a multi-year deal to make 3D-animated films with Miramax and Dimension Films, AWN got a few more details about OPUS, the proposed spin-off of the wisecracking penguin from Berkeley Breatheds Pulitzer Prize-winning BLOOM COUNTY strip.
Were in the writing stages with Craig Mazin and expect to start visual development by November or December and in about six months I expect us to be in full-blown production, remarked Wild Brain president Jeff Fino.
Meanwhile, the challenge of adapting Breatheds edgy comedic tone as well as his uniquely illustrative characters and designs are being addressed in relation to the 3D-animated feature marketplace and the family film business model.
Were very aware of what our competition is doing but were going to bring something new to the table, Fino added. This character is being pulled out of BLOOM COUNTY into a spin-off with our own humor. Theres a lot of history with Berkeley, who is a key creative consultant as an executive producer. He has already established an audience and is expecting to see something wonderful. But we want to push it into the next stratosphere and reach out to a broader audience.
Breathed has already done a lot of visual development tests, and Wild Brain expects to have as many as 175 animators when they ramp up to their production peak. Production will take place at their 38,000 square-foot facility, and they hope to begin recruiting very soon, buoyed by the prestigious alliance with Miramax/Dimension (each will provide 50% of the financing) and the clout of Wild Brains new chairman, Jim Miller, formerly Warner Bros. president of worldwide theatrical business operations. Wild Brains funding comes from Europe-based private equity firm Syntek Capital.
The biggest challenge is coming up with a great story and competing story wise with Pixar, DreamWorks and Blue Sky, explained exec producer Nina Rappaport.
Rappaport added that Wild Brain is conducting R&D to best determine how to translate Breatheds stylized 2D world into 3D, but stressed that they are an off the shelf house. Wild Brain uses Maya for modeling and animation and will look to render with a combination of RenderMan, mental ray and Maya. But they may also explore the possibility of using NVIDIAs gelato, the GPU-accelerated final-frame renderer.