Businessman/entrepreneur Phil Knight announced today (July 19, 2005) that he has absorbed animation company Vinton Studios, which Knight acquired in September 2003, into a new entertainment and media venture called LAIKA.
LAIKAs first film offering is CG animated short film, MOONGIRL, director Henry Selicks (NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH) a charming fable which re-imagines lunar mythology. Footage of MOONGIRL is available now for viewing at www.laika.com.
The advertising division of Vinton Studios will move under the LAIKA umbrella this fall and is in the process of expanding its directing roster and style offerings over the next few months.
For the past year, weve been creating the infrastructure of a new, independent feature film animation studio, said Knight. Now, with director Henry Selick bringing his unique vision to our creative efforts, our first CG animated short film about to make its mark on the film festival circuit, and with a feature film pipeline established, it seemed an appropriate time to tell the world about LAIKA.
Knight continued, We are very proud of the talented people who made Vinton Studios a leader in the entertainment industry for the past 30 years. LAIKA will honor that rich legacy by moving forward with confidence and the determination to produce the very best family-oriented animated films in the world.
LAIKA Ent. plans to produce animated films in the $50 to $70 million dollar range. It has greenlit CORALINE, based on the Hugo Award-winning, international bestselling childrens book by Neil Gaiman. Selick is set to direct the feature length CGI animated project, which LAIKA will produce in association with former Fox Filmed Ent. chairman/ceo Bill Mechanic and his Pandemonium films. Mechanic produced DARK WATER, currently in theaters, and is exec producer of Terrence Malicks upcoming release, THE NEW WORLD.
Somethings definitely going on here in Portland, says Selick, who joined the company as supervising director in May, 2004. It reminds me of early days at Skellington Studios where, with the same blend of super strong artists, storytellers and brilliant technicians, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS was made. NIGHTMARE broke the rules for what family animation was supposed to be and succeeded. And thats what were going to do here at LAIKA, with a great roster of projects including a buddy comedy, a ghost story, a mystical fairytale, and an alternate universe crime story.
We have new directors who have proven themselves as superb storytellers on some of the most successful films in the last decade; eye-catching designs from international artists; a solid animation foundation, and great musicians to score our films and write songs for them, Selick continued. And, best of all, not only has our owner Phil Knight committed the marketing and financial resources to make all this possible, he also brings his indomitable maverick sensibility to the mix.
To further feature film production, LAIKA Ent. has appointed Fiona Kenshole, formerly publishing director of Oxford University Press Childrens Books and a major force in international publishing, as head of worldwide literary scouting operations. Through her unique contacts within the publishing world, Kenshole continues to identify hot literary properties for LAIKA Ent.
Over the past three decades, Vinton Studios has amassed honors at festivals around the world and became synonymous with innovation, achieving many industry firsts, from the groundbreaking and award-winning Claymation (a technique the studio trademarked) to television specials starring the enormously popular California Raisins; as well as the multiple Emmy Award-winning series The PJs, co-produced with Ron Howard and Brian Grazers Imagine Entertainment and Eddie Murphy Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television, the first ever stop-motion animation series on primetime television.
Explaining the company name LAIKA, Knight, co-founder/chairman of the board of Nike Inc. and a branding expert, said simply, The studio staff came up with hundreds of names and, truthfully, I just thought that LAIKA sounded right. It seemed to fit who we are. LAIKA will continue to be headquartered in Portland, Oregon.