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Disney Looks To Vanguard For Future CG Slate

SHREK producer John Williams and his company Vanguard Films have partnered with Walt Disney in a deal to provide multiple CG animated projects for the studio. Vanguard will fill the void left by Pixar Animation, which has made no plans to renew its agreement with Disney once the existing production deal is fulfilled with the delivery of Pixar's next three films -- summer 2003's FINDING NEMO, holiday 2004's THE INCREDIBLES and 2005's CARS. As part of the deal Williams will form Vanguard Animation, which will expand Vanguard from an independent production company into a fully financed digital animation studio. Williams will head the new company as CEO, with industry veteran Neil Braun as president. In addition to SHREK, John Williams' credits include SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET and the soon to be released live-action film THE TUXEDO. Neil Braun has held numerous senior positions within the media and entertainment industry, including president of the NBC Television Network, chairman and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, president of Imagine Entertainment, and senior vice president of HBO.

Vanguard's first project for Disney, scheduled for release in 2004, will be VALIANT, a CG-animated comedy written by George Webster and George Melrod. The film, which will start pre-production this month in L.A. and moves to London's Ealing Studios for production, stars a misfit pigeon that enters boot camp during World War II. Co-producers are Eric M. Bennett of Vanguard and Barnaby Thompson of Fragile Films and Ealing Studios.

The deal calls for 4 films total, for which Disney will handle North American theatrical and home video distribution and worldwide licensing rights. Williams stated: "We will make these films for under $40 million each, and they will be delivered within two years of their start date. We will deliver TOY STORY-to-DINOSAUR-to-SHREK-level animation. We came to Disney with confirmed financing, completed scripts, completed budgets, multiple CG tests for each film, advanced character designs and production design concepts." After concluding a successful round of financing for Vanguard Animation, the company looks to scale up operations. Curtis Augspurger and Buckley Collum of Menace FX, who will also co-produce VALIANT, have joined forces with Vanguard Animation to oversee the establishment of the CG operation. The two have worked extensively on digital production with companies including Warner Bros., Disney and Electronic Arts.