Netflix recently bowed Next Gen, which it picked up at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The SVOD paid a handsome US$30 million for worldwide distribution rights (excluding China) to the CGI-animated sci-fi feature from Toronto’s Tangent Animation and popular Chinese comics website Baozou Manhua. Chinese distributors Alibaba and Wanda, which bought the Chinese distribution rights, released the movie on 8,000 screens across the country on August 17.
Next Gen is based on the comic 7723 by Wang Nima, founder and editor of Baozou Manhua. It follows the adventures of a girl named Mai who accidently awakens a robot. The unlikely friends team up to battle bullies and thwart an evil plot.
Voiced by an all-star English cast that includes John Krasinski and Constance Wu, the project marks the feature directorial debut of VFX veterans Kevin Adams (art director, 9) and Joe Ksander (animation director, 9). It’s the second animated feature for Tangent after 2016′s Ozzy.
Tangent boarded the project three years ago when the original studio backed out, says CCO and producer Jeff Bell. Baozou also stepped up to finance and co-produce at the time.
Toronto pre-production studio House of Cool came on board to work on storyboards, while Skywalker Sound and Technicolor split the film’s post-production duties. The majority of the production work was handled in Canada at Tangent’s facilities in Toronto and Winnipeg.
“Baozou played a large part in the story and approvals over character design, picture and artwork,” Bell says. “Creatively, they liked [when we] overturned the apple cart on things like look, story and feel.”
Bell says the number of different film versions that needed to be created—including a 3D CGI non-stereo English version for Netflix, as well as English and Mandarin stereo versions for China—was the production’s biggest challenge. “Essentially, we had five movies,” he says.
Now that the pic is out, Tangent is in various stages of development with director Peter Lepeniotis (The Nut Job), with whom the company signed a deal last October to develop three animated feature films. Tangent has also not ruled out a TV series just yet.
“I find episodic [formats] drive you to find efficiencies in 3D production, which you sometimes don’t look for on the film side because the budgets are larger,” says Bell. “If we were to do something outside of features, we would probably create another division to handle it.”