Twentieth Century Fox Animation is partnering with upstart animation firm Tonko House for a feature version of The Dam Keeper, an animated short nominated for an Oscar in 2015.
Robert Kondo and Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi, a pair of former Pixar art directors who worked on movies such as Ratatouille and Monsters University before founding Tonko House, wrote and directed the original short and are on board to helm the big-screen version. John Henry Hinkel is writing the script.
Kane Lee, an independent producer formerly of Jane Startz Productions and Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios, will lead produce.
The short told of Pig, an introverted and bullied youth who lives in a windmill, protecting a town from a looming dark fog, and his relationship with a new student in school, the artistically inclined Fox.
Tonko House team developed a pitch deepening and expanding the characters and world of the short. Fox Animation executive Darlene Caamano Loquet identified the project and shepherded the development before it was set up. She will continue to oversee for the studio.
The movie's story will take place several years after the events of the short, which was 2D and dialogue free. The movie is intended to be CG with plenty of voice work.
The Berkeley, California-based Kondo and Tsutsumi have turned Dam Keeper into a cottage industry. The pair are writing and illustrating a trilogy of graphic novel for Macmillan imprint First Second Books with the first one to be published in 2017. There is also a 10-episode series in the world for Hulu in Japan, where the short has a strong following, centering on the friendship between Pig and Fox. Another former Pixar animator, Erick Oh, is directing the series, which is set to air summer 2017.
Said Kondo and Tsutsumi in a joint statement,"Since we began working on the story for a feature set in the world of The Dam Keeper, we wondered who the right partners would be to help us take the next steps with Pig and Fox and guide us in introducing them to audiences in this rapidly changing world. We feel that 20th Century Fox, with both its longstanding track record and the exciting direction it's headed, is the ideal home for our characters. We are so excited about the risks we are taking together and the new storytelling possibilities that exist."
Dam Keeper is the latest project to be set up at Fox Animation, which is on a buying spree as it seeks to ramp up its slate.