6767 Forest Lawn Drive | Suite 318 | Los Angeles. CA 90068
Astro-Nomical Entertainment is focused on developing intellectual property and sourcing production financing to develop and produce mid-budget animated family films and film franchises, generating ongoing revenue streams across multiple media platforms, including home entertainment, merchandising and licensing, television, videogames and interactive, location-based entertainment, digital streaming, theme parks, stage shows, mobile, online, and music. Astro-Nomical Entertainment will cater to both the Domestic and international market, with a particular strategic focus on China, based on established relationships with investors, distributors and production partners.
First up for Astro-Nomical Entertainment is the feature film MEAN MARGARET, based on the National Book Award-nominated, children’s book by Tor Seidler, about a cranky toddler from a family of nine who is taken in by two woodchucks and raised as their own among a community of wacky animal characters. Astro-Nomical Entertainment’s Jay Ahn and Chris Henderson will produce with production handled by L’Atelier Animtation based in Montreal. Astro-Nomical is working with Pelagius Entertainment’s Joe Fries and Natalie Khoury, who will serve as executive producers, committing equity funding to Mean Margaret, marking the first of multiple collaborations in the works.
Astro-Nomical Entertainment will soon announce other projects in active development as well as several projects it is executive producing. Astro-Nomical Entertainment is also co-developing projects with TubaN, a South Korean IP company on Larva: The Movie, and The Prototype, written and directed by Brad Raymond with Marina Martin’s Pigmental Studios.
Jay Ahn | CO-FOUNDER
Chris Henderson | CO-FOUNDER
Kevin Niu | CO-FOUNDER | CBO
Astro-Nomical Ties Up with TubaN for ‘Larva the Movie’
Burbank-based Astro-Nomical Entertainment is joining forces with South Korea’s TubaN Studio to develop and produce an animated feature film based on the popular Larva IP, announcing plans to start production on a brand-new CGI feature film this year.
Written by Erica Rivinoja (Trolls, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Addams Family), the movie will take the comedic Red and Yellow Larva duo on a time-traveling, globetrotting action-adventure promising extreme comedy, aimed at a four-quadrant audience.
Ahead of the heroic grubs’ big screen project, Season 4 of the Larva series has launched worldwide, as well as the Netflix Original series Larva Island.
Starting production in 2011, 4 seasons of the Larva series have been released worldwide, including the Larva Island series launched as a Netflix Original. First produced in 2011, Larva boasts more than 5 billion views in the U.S., and over 59 billion views in China.
Astro-Nomical shares that it already has strong interest from Pelagius Productions, Joe Fries and Natalie Khoury to serve as lead investors and executive producers on the movie. “We are very excited to by the prospect of working on this project, it fits our business model on many levels,” said Joe Fries. Khoury adds, “We love everything about it, the creative direction is strong, and the brand is hugely popular.”
Astro-Nomical and TubaN will take the lead in securing financing, setting up the production pipeline and handling global sales & distribution including China, looking to collaborate with Pelagius.
“My partner, producer Jay Ahn (The Nut Job), has many strong relationships in Korea, he has brought us several exciting projects, and this one is amazing,” says Chris Henderson, co-Founder of Astro-Nomical. The studio previously teamed up with another Korean studio and provided IP development and consulting for Young Toys’ preschool brand Kongsuni and Friends.
“I am delighted that Larva, an established global IP is to be made into a feature film partnered with Astro-Nomical. The two companies will work closely together to make a great film that will appeal to global audiences,” said Kim Kwang-yong, CEO of TubaN.
Founded in 2017 by Ahn and Henderson, Astro-Nomical has been rapidly growing its global presence, and has already marked down a success with A Tale Dark & Grimm, which was Emmy nominated for Outstanding Animated Series in 2022. The 10-episode fairytale adventure was produced in collaboration with Novo Media Group and Boat Rocker Studios, streaming on Netflix. Going forward, Astro-Nomical plans to develop and produce its own and third party animated series, adult-skewing comedy projects, animated feature films and live action series.
Pelagius Productions LLC was founded in 2005 by Fries and Khoury. The independent content, finance and production company has produced award-winning films (Talk To Me, Adjust Your Color) and developed multiple projects in all genres. Pelagius currently has projects set up with Cedric the Entertainer, Pure Imagination Australia and Zero Gravity Management, among others.
TubaN, the IP owner and production company of Larva’ is a global content specialist that develops and produces new contents focused on 3D animation and has been expanding its business into L&M, game development and distribution. Its current IP lineup includes Larva, Dino Core, Winkle Bear, Rotary Park and Oscar’s Oasis, among others.
Netflix Trailers the Comical and Enchanting Kids’ Series ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’
On the heels of announcing the series premiere as part of its “Netflix & Chills” Halloween lineup, Netflix today unveiled the trailer and first-look images for animated comedy A Tale Dark & Grimm, inspired by the magical and messed up stories of European folklore. The 10 x 26′ CG-animated series will make its streaming premiere October 8.
Based on the best-selling book series by Adam Gidwitz, A Tale Dark & Grimm follows Hansel and Gretel as they run away from home to find better parents … or at least ones who won’t chop off their heads! As Hansel and Gretel leave their own story and venture through other classic Grimm fairy tales, unexpected narrators’ guide us through their encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons and even the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.
The series features the voices of Raini Rodriguez (Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous), Andre Robinson (The Loud House), Scott Adsit (Big Hero 6: The Series), Ron Funches (Trolls), Erica Rhodes (La Vie en Rhodes), Adam Lambert (Playmobil: The Movie), Eric Bauza (Space Jam: A New Legacy), Tom Hollander (American Dad!), Missi Pyle and Nicole Byer (Nailed It).
Industry veteran Simon Otto (Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia), who was head of character animation on DreamWorks How To Train Your Dragon trilogy, serves as supervising director and executive producer on the series. David Henrie (This Is the Year, Wizards of Waverly Place), James Henrie (This Is the Year, The Good Life), Bug Hall, Bob Higgins (Dino Ranch, The Who Was Show), Jon Rutherford (Dino Ranch, Daniel Spellbound) and Doug Langdale (Dave the Barbarian, The Weekenders) are executive producers.
A Tale Dark & Grimm is produced in partnership with Boat Rocker Studios in association with Novo Media Group and Astro-Nomical Entertainment. Animation services by Boat Rocker’s Jam Filled Entertainment.
Hansel and Gretel’s Wild Ride: ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’ Brings Unpredictable Fairy Tales to Netflix
Fans of hilarious takes on twisted European fairy tales will be able to enjoy the new animated series A Take Dark & Grimm on Netflix this month. The highly entertaining 10 x 26-minute show, which is based on Adam Gidwitz’s best-selling books, follows the adventures of Hansel and Gretel as they meet witches, warlocks, dragons and yes, even the devil.
Industry veteran Simon Otto (Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia), who was head of character animation on DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, serves as supervising director and executive producer on the series. “I was approached by Chris Henderson at Astro-Nomical, who asked me to give him my thoughts on Adam Gidwitz’s novel in 2019,” he recalls. “I loved it, so I immediately started listening to his audio series Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest and my whole family got drawn into it. We became instant fans. Chris Henderson and the team at Novo Media, led by David Henrie, very quickly brought a really cracking team together along with Adam Gidwitz, Peter de Sève, Richie Chavez and many more, and we started developing a really great pitch for it.”
Boat Rocker’s exec VP of kids & family content Bob Higgins was blown away by the entertaining pitch. “David, Simon and Chris pitched out the book and their vision for this epic hero’s journey of Hansel and Gretel and their desire to walk a very fine line of ‘scare not scar!’ I was hooked. Boat Rocker came on board to manage the production and brought in our amazing team at Jam Filled to support the A-plus artists in L.A. and we set it up at Netflix.”
A Sprinkle of Old World Magic
Otto says Gidwitz’s books reminded him of the fairy tales he used to read as a kid back in Switzerland. “I remember feeling that there was something very dark, unsettling and often sad about how stories were told in those olden days,” he notes. “But you felt that pull because they spoke to very deeply rooted inner fears and desires that you don’t know how to deal with as a child. The way Adam calls out absurdities and warns the reader about the violence that’s about to unfold via the narration and through humor makes his books very accessible and fun to experience. It was a really creative challenge to find ways to express that in the language of animation.”
Adds Higgins, “I love how Adam Gidwitz took existing stories and characters that ‘we all know’ and mashed them together and twisted them into something completely original. The iconic elements are there (like Mrs. Baker’s cottage or the Seven Swallows) but the overall narrative is new and complex and funny and epic. And our writing team, headed up by Doug Langdale, took Adam’s text and rearranged it into 10 perfectly paced half-hours that feel like you’re on a Brothers Grimm thrill ride!”
The show’s animation was produced at Jam Filled in Toronto under the guidance of Higgins and Audrey Velichka. “I was working out of my home in L.A., so we needed a really experienced episodic director in the time zone of where the production took place,” says Otto. “Jamie Whitney really ran the show creatively and was the person that really brought this all to life with his team at Jam Filled. There are a great number of unsung heroes who managed to pull this off during a worldwide lockdown. The pandemic shut everything down right after we had our last writers’ room meeting. I remember sending Adam Gidwitz off to the airport the Thursday before my kid’s school was closed!”
As Higgins points out, “Everything outside of the pilot script was written, designed, boarded, recorded, etc. from home with artists and actors all over the world. When you see it all together, it’s quite miraculous to think that nobody working on the series spent any time in the same room together throughout the production (unless you count a Zoom room as a real place)!”
According to Otto, the show’s CG asset creation and animation were primarily done in Maya with some additional tools for specific tasks. He adds, “There’s quite a bit of 2D animation and compositing done on the show, and that was done in Harmony.”
One of the big tasks was replacing the human narrator of the books with the show’s ravens, who only played a small role originally. “We wanted them to be unreliable storytellers, making mistakes and correcting each other,” Otto explains. “We believed that would be a lot of fun and also gave us freedom to tackle the vast backdrop in a variety of ways. There is always an element of 2D in the background, but we vary how close to the camera it is, depending on the moment. It’s essentially a road movie and almost every episode takes place in a new environment.”
The idea was to present this world in various degrees of theatricality which could be
cranked up and cranked down depending on the level of dramatic believability required. “We’re essentially living out this story on an imaginary theater stage inside the raven’s memory and fantasy,” notes Otto. “Therefore, backgrounds drop off like a cardboard wall or a 2D moon gets lowered into frame like you would in a play. All this served another really key element, which is that we needed a way to switch styles at critical moments — such as a beheading or a warlock removing a human soul — in order to not cross the line of what would be too disturbing!”
The fact that Gidwitz was along for the ride from day one was a huge asset. “He is obviously a real expert in the field, and he gave all of us a lot of really valuable insight,” says Otto. “Also, our head writer, Doug Langdale (The Adventures of Puss in Boots, The Book of Life, Maya and the Three) had studied the Grimm fairy tales quite extensively himself, which, beyond his vast experience as a lead writer, made him an even more natural fit for taking on this double adaptation job.”
As Gidwitz himself points out, “There are all these unique, iconic moments — like when the stars give the kids a chicken bone to be used as a key to open the Crystal Mountain — that I adapted from obscure Grimm fairy tales for my novel. I remember finding these things, and figuring out how to retell them for my book over a decade ago, when I was a working teacher, living in a Brooklyn studio apartment, writing at night after my teaching day was done. Now to see all these unforgettable moments on screen, scripted by hilarious writers, designed and realized by these incredible directors and artists — it quite literally makes me dizzy. I feel like I’m going to fall over!”
The author believes that all good family entertainment tries to take care of children, to make them smarter or better equipped for the world — or just a little more joyful. He adds, “A Tale Dark & Grimm takes care of children in a radically different way. It explores their darker emotions — their fears; the resentments, the feelings they don’t even want to talk about — and it makes those feelings okay. It shows kids, through laughter and through the magic of fairy tales, that you can have those complicated emotions and still be a good person, still be a hero, still love your family. In the end, the show is about the fact that being angry at your parents doesn’t make you love them any less: It’s part of loving them. I think the way we use laughs and real fairy tales to explore those emotions makes A Tale Dark & Grimm very special, and very important.”
The show’s executive producer Chris Henderson (Clifford’s Really Big Movie, The Legend of Secret Pass) says he loves how the episodic nature of the book translated into the serialized format. “That works so well for Netflix and it was such a seamless transition from the book to the screen. I’m hopeful fans of the book will appreciate how we handled it. It’s been our goal from the start to create a show that parents and their kids would equally love, that has a sophisticated story, and a quality and style that parents will love, and is safe, entertaining and full of laughs for the children.”
On a visual level, the team was inspired by the works of legendary animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger, Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty and Magic Light’s Revolting Rhymes shorts.
“Richie Chavez, our production designer, during development brought a lot of references from classic Central European art of the Grimm era into the process and then synthesized it all into a coherent look. Jam Filled’s art department, led by Tom Pajdlhauser, took what we had developed and ran with it.”
Otto says overall, getting the tone right was one of the main challenges of the production. “We needed to dramatize and visualize certain aspects, like the narrator for example,” he says. “We wanted to do this in a way that takes advantage of the medium, while still giving the viewers the thrills that are so successful in the books. So, the ingredients were different, but we still wanted to give the audience the key flavors of Adam Gidwitz’s world.
Bingeing Happily Ever After
Now that young viewers will unwrap their big animated gift this month, the creative team is hoping that they’ll enjoy the fun ride. “I want them to be exhausted after bingeing this four-plus-hour journey all in one night!” says Higgins with a smile. “This is a series, but it plays like a feature story, and it’s full of comedy, horror, intrigue, sacrifice and heart. I really hope audiences can’t stop watching until the end. I showed the first couple of episodes to my own 20-something kids and my six- and eight-year-old nephews. They all collectively loved it and clamored to know what happened next (but we were still in heavy post on the remaining episodes, so they need to wait until October 8 to find out). I hope that same audience experience is replicated in Netflix homes around the world!”
“Most of all, we want the audience to laugh, hope and cry along with our characters,” says Otto. “It’s a show that is meant to bring families together and share an experience. And maybe along the way, be reminded that it’s okay to be a flawed family, to not be perfect, but to be there for each other. We all have to take pause in our lives and try to understand each other’s actions. That’s what the show is about.”
A Tale Dark & Grimm has premiered on Netflix as of October 8th, 2021
Peter Lepeniotis Reteams with ‘Nut Job’ Producer on ‘Nullaboo Hullabaloo’
Peter Lepeniotis, writer and director of The Nut Job (2014), is reuniting with producer Jay Ahn to write and direct the feature animation adaptation of Nullaboo Hullabaloo.
The U.S./Canada/Australia co-pro is being produced by Ahn (Astro-Nomical Entertainment), Tristan Barr and David Gim (Continuance Pictures). Visual development is being led by Jang Lee (Big Hero 6; matte painter, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph).
Written by Fleur Ferris, Nullaboo Hullabaloo is set in the tiny country community of Nullaboo, where a young girl named Gemma accidentally captures a fairy when hunting bugs for a school project. It turns out, the fairies need the human’s help to rescue their colony from the silver spiders. But once the secret of the fairies’ existence gets out, they face an even greater threat — luckily, Gemma and her small town are always ready to help a neighbor.
“When I was presented with Fleur’s book, I was instantly inspired by the portrayal of a modern girl discovering the secrets of a magical world hidden from humans,” Lepeniotis told Deadline. “Nullaboo will be a fun, magical look at myth through the eye of our ironic times. I am really excited about the team, and the unique touch we’re going to bring to this charming story.”
After the record-setting success of Red Rover/ToonBox’s The Nut Job –– which had the biggest ever opening weekend for an indie animated feature and spawned a 2017 sequel — Lepeniotis directed another CG indie, Gnome Alone, produced by Vanguard Animation, 3QU Media and Cinesite and released in 2018. The Canada native’s credits list as an animator includes Toy Story 2, Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaur. The Nut Job was based on his 2005 short film, Surly Squirrel.
‘Nut Job’ EP Jay Ahn Adapting Fairy Adventure ‘Nullaboo Hullabaloo’
Producer Jay Ahn — co-founder of Toronto’s ToonBox Entertainment and founding partner of Burbank-based family animation label Astro-Nomical Entertainment — has picked up the rights to adapt children’s fairy-land tale Nullaboo Hullabaloo, written by Fleur Ferris. Ahn’s animation credits include The Nut Job, Spark: A Space Tail (exec producer), The Nut Job 2 (assoc. producer) and series Bolts & Blip (assoc. EP) and The Beet Party (co-EP).Nullaboo Hullabaloo will be developed as an international collaboration between the U.S., South Korea and Australia. Producers are Ahn, Ferris, and Continuance Pictures’ Tristan Barr and David Gim.Published in 2019, the book is set in the tiny country community of Nullaboo, where a young girl named Gemma accidentally captures a fairy when hunting bugs for a school project. It turns out, the fairies need the human’s help to rescue their colony from the silver spiders. But once the secret of the fairies’ existence gets out, they face an even greater threat — luckily, Gemma and her small town are always ready to help a neighbor.The deal was brokered by Ahn, through MBL Media (South Korea), with Tara Wynne at literary agency Curtis Brown Ltd. on behalf of Ferris. Astro-Nomical Ent., which Ahn co-founded with fellow animation veteran Chris Henderson, will be closely involved in the development and production of Nullaboo Hullabaloo as a sister company of MBL.[Source: Deadline]
Joint Venture to Fund ‘Household Pests,’ ‘Mean Margaret’
United Media Capital announced that it has formed a joint venture fund with Pigmental Studios and United Independents Group to co-finance a slate of upcoming animated and live-action films. The first film to be financed will be Household Pests, an original animated feature written and conceived by Sergio Pablos (Despicable Me).
Pablos, of SPA Studios, will produce the film with Pigmental’s Marina Martins, along with Dennis Lorrig, Robert Rodriguez, George Malasek and John Cole. The fund’s project slate will be executive produced by United Media Capital’s managing partners, Co-CEO George Malasek and COO John Cole. The deal was brokered by Marina Martins for Pigmental and United Independents, and Unite Media.
Household Pests follows an imaginative boy named Cole, who battles monsters under his bed every night while his mother refuses to believe they exist. Cole must turn to an undercover monster exterminator named Jeb Dee when the entire town is put in peril. IM Global will handle international sales for both Household Pests and Mean Margaret.
Concurrently, the fund will also help finance a second animated feature: Mean Margaret, based on the popular kids’ book of the same name which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The story centers on Fred, a meticulous bachelor woodchuck whose seemingly perfect life is turned upside-down when a terrible two-year-old human named Margaret is left behind by her preoccupied family.
Mean Margaret is being produced by Jay Ahn (The Nut Job, The Nut Job 2) and Chris Henderson (Return to Neverland). Ahn and Henderson’s Astro-Nomical Entertainment studio is handling creative services lead by Chuck Williams (Brother Bear). Original development for the project was directed by Barry Cook (Mulan), with character designs by Carter Gooderich (Finding Nemo).
Pre-production for Household Pets and Mean Margaret will be handled by Pigmental’s Washington, D.C. and L.A. facilities, in collaboration with Astro-Nomical in L.A.
“With the recent acquisitions and mergers going on the industry today, there exists a space in the animation world for features which apply the tenant of ‘story, story, story,’” said Pigmental CEO and Co-Founder Marina Martins. “Pigmental’s focus is that relentless pursuit of getting the story right, without compromise and without sacrifice, for the establishment of branded content. This goal would be unachievable without the extraordinary talent that has gathered here to form and finance the Pigmental team.”