Open Road Films has acquired domestic distribution rights to "The Nut Job," a 3D animated action-comedy featuring the voices of Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl and Will Arnett, the company announced on Thursday.
The independent distributor will release the film, the first animated movie in Open Road's two-year history, Jan. 17, 2014.
Based on director and co-writer Peter Lepeniotis' 2005 short "Surly Squirrel," the film follows a mischievous squirrel (Arnett) and rat whose plans to rob a nut store propel them into a far larger adventure.
Lorne Cameron wrote the screenplay for the film, which also features the voices of Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Srah Gadon and Jeff Dunham.
Open Road made the deal with Redrover Ltd., a Korean 3D company that is the main financial backer of Warner Bros.-based production company Gulfstream Pictures and Canadian animation studio ToonBox Entertainment. Gulfstream is producing the film, which is being made at ToonBox's studio in Toronto.
"'The Nut Job' is a smart, fresh and funny movie that family members of all ages will certainly enjoy," Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg said in a statement. "We are excited about working with Mike Karz and 'The Nut Job' team and thrilled to add this clever family title to Open Road's growing slate."
Open Road sealed the deal at the end of last week, moving aggressively after the project as its founding partners, theater chains AMC and Regal, urged it to pursue family fare.
Graham Moloy and WK Jung are producing the film while Gulfstream's Mike Karz and Bill Bindley are executive producing it with Jay Ahn, Daniel Woo, Hong Kim and Tom Yoon.
"It was a long journey for an independent animation studio to secure a wide-release distribution in the U.S., but we have made it," ToonBox's Ahn said in a statement. "This historic collaborative production between Korea and Canada marks the first such CGI movie in history to be released widely in the U.S.."