Walt Disney Studios has formed an alliance with Shrek producer John Williams’ Vanguard Films to produce as many as four computer animated features. The announcement was made by Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook and Williams.
Independent production company Vanguard Films will become Vanguard Animation, a fully financed digital animation studio. Williams will oversee all aspects of the company as CEO, with Neil Braun acting as president. Braun, who has held the posts of president of NBC, chairman and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, president of Imagine Entertainment and Sr. VP of HBO, was instrumental in getting financing to expand operations. Also credited with pulling Vanguard Animation together are Directors Roy Furman and Tom Lewyn.
The first film on the slate is Valiant, about a ne’er-do-well prankster pigeon who aspires to the prestigious post of messenger homing bird for the Royal Air Force during WWII. Pre-production starts this month in Los Angeles. The production will then move to Ealing Studios in London. Disney plans to release the pic in fall 2004.
Valiant will be co-produced with Barnaby Thompson, producer/partner of Fragile Films and Ealing Studios. Eric M. Bennett, president of production for Vanguard Animation, will co-produce along with Curtis Augspurger and Buckley Collum of Menace FX, who are also overseeing the buildout of Vanguard’s physical animation studio.