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Ash Brannon Writes and Directs US/China Co-Production Animation Film ROCK DOG (2015)


Actor EDDIE IZZARD (Boychoir, Valkyrie, Ocean’s Thirteen and Ocean’s Twelve), one of the leading voices of ROCK DOG, accompanied Academy® Award nominated writer-director ASH BRANNON (Surf’s Up, Toy Story 2) in Cannes to promote their new animated film ROCK DOG (2015).

Film Origin: US/China Language: English Genre: Animation Running Time: 82 minutes

Director: Ash Brannon

Writer(s): Ash Brannon / Kurt Voelker

Producers: Amber Wang, David B. Miller, Lou Rui Executive Producers: Deng Feng, Wang Zhong Lei, Wu Xue Qin Production Companies: Huayi Brothers, Mandoo Pictures, Eracme

Composer: Rolfe Kent

Editor: Ivan Bilancio

Production Designer: Elad Tibi

Art Director: Christian Schellewald

Character Designer(s): Matthew Bates / Pete De Seve  

Bodi: Luke Wilson Angus: Eddie Izzard Khampa: J.K Simmons Linnux: Lewis Black Riff: Kenan Thompson Darma: Mae Whitman Germer: Jorge Garcia Trey: Matt Dillon Fleetwood: Sam Elliott.

SHORT SYNOPSIS Bodi (Luke Wilson) is a wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff is expected to be the next guard of a village of sheep, but fears that he doesn’t have the strength and passion to assume the role from his dad Khampa (J.K Simmons). Everything changes when a radio literally falls out the sky and Bodi hears a song by an old-school rocker named Angus (Eddie Izzard) that opens his heart to a musical world he must explore.  Leaving home to chase his destiny in the city, Bodi attracts the attention of Khampa’s nemesis Linux (Lewis Black) leader of a gang of wolves who believe that Bodi may be their ticket back into the village.  Bodi must figure out a way to save his village from harm without giving up his newfound dream.  


"When I started on Rock Dog as a story consultant, I never planned to direct it. But it was like the girl who’s just a friend, until one day you’re suddenly in love with her. There was a lot to love about the project - producers at Mandoo who generously allowed me creative freedom, the challenge of making a high-quality movie with only a fraction of the budget of the major studio features (in itself a worthy creative endeavor), and the seeds of a compelling story already in place.

"Having had a lengthy background at Pixar, I share that studio’s love for simple storytelling and a focus on finding great depth and humor within each character. My approach to directing is to guide the film as gently as possible, and allow for everyone to plus the ideas, making room for possibility and happy accidents. This approach extended to the recording of our actors; the usual method is to record each actor separately. In the case of Rock Dog we brought them together, allowing them the freedom to play off each other and to improvise, and we walked away with superb performances and deeper characters.

"With our characters and natural performances in place to ground the film, I wanted to embrace a “cartoon” style with the animation and look of picture. The character designs are intentionally simple, borrowing from the strong shapes and silhouettes of hand-drawn animation. We even used “smear frames” and multiple limbs on characters for the more frenetic moments. With the music we had the opportunity to make the most of the animation medium; when Bodi hears a rock song on the radio for the first time, we go into his mind’s eye and see abstract visuals sync’d with the music. Bodi’s journey through this world of colors, shapes and sounds allows us to feel how the song makes him feel, and it becomes his de facto “I want” song.

"Because the main plot of Bodi’s musical journey was potentially thin for an 82-minute run time, we staged another story around it - a revenge plot involving a wolf gang aiming to attack Bodi’s village of sheep. By carefully weaving the two plots together, we found a way to create additional conflict, tension and humor, and give Bodi something bigger to fight for beyond just becoming a musician. That led to the discovery of the theme of the movie: “You get what you give.” Bodi’s dilemma, how to chase his own dream and also fulfill his responsibility to his family and community, is something we all encounter in our lives, and I hope the movie strikes a chord. But most of all I hope that Rock Dog reminds us that making music is a joyful thing."



Amber Wang, CEO Mandoo Pictures / Producer Amber Wang is an award-winning entertainment industry executive and producer with a history of facilitating China-U.S. collaboration. She brings extensive experience and connections on both sides of the Pacific Ocean to her leadership of Mandoo Pictures, and the background in both finance and production to manage projects from concept to completion. Among other credits, she produced both The Robbers (2009) and An Inaccurate Memoir (2012), which won a eight awards combined on the festival circuit. She is currently producing Rock Dog and previously worked as a vice president at Mirage Entertainment, facilitating the company's expansion into China and serving as its chief representative in Asia. David Miller, Producer David Miller brings over three decades of international entertainment industry experience to the Mandoo Pictures team. For the past ten years, he has been forging key partnerships between Hollywood and China; managing key projects for CCTV, China's largest government broadcaster; facilitating international studio relationships for 9eyestone and the Tianjin Hi Tech Investment Group, including the introduction of the Jim Henson Company to China; and helping the Wuxi government establish a joint film fund with Morgan Stanley/Asia Pacific Capital to develop ChinaWood Film Studio. He has worked for many of the world's leading film studios, television broadcasters, and advertising agencies, with a special focus on animation.  

Mandoo Pictures Mandoo Pictures makes animated and live action films, television series, and comic books that draw their creative inspiration from China and their production value from Hollywood. Mandoo Pictures aims to revolutionize entertainment in the global market with its unique Sino-American sensibility and its partnerships with top-flight talent from around the world. Mandoo Pictures was originally formed to produce Rock Dog, a 3D-animated film adaptation of company founder Michael Zheng's graphic novel Tibetan Rock Dog (2009). As a true co-production between China and the U.S., Mandoo Pictures has blazed a new trail for collaboration between the Chinese and American entertainment industries. Mandoo Pictures has since embraced this leading role and has a variety of entertainment industry co-ventures in development out of its offices in Los Angeles, Beijing, and Tianjin.  
Rock Dog will be released in China in October 2015 by its investor and distributor the Huayi Brothers. The film is directed by Ash Brannon, co-director of Pixar's Toy Story 2, and features voice talent including actors J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, and Kenan Thompson. Huayi Brothers Group Ltd Huayi Brothers Group Ltd. is one of China's largest film studios, and will be distributing Rock Dog in China.  

Described as "China's Warner Bros of tomorrow" because of its potential in the booming market, Huayi Brothers holds about a 30-40 percent market share in domestic movie production, and 30 percent in movie distribution. Huayi was established by brothers Wang Zhongjun (Dennis Wang) and Wang Zhonglei (James Wang) in 1994. The Wang brothers hold a combined stake in Huayi of more than 50 percent. Other major investors include Tom Group Ltd., Focus Media Holding Ltd., and Yahoo China. The company has solely or jointly produced more than 50 movies since 1998, including award-winning A World Without Thieves (2005) starring Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, The Banquet (2006) by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, Assembly (2007) also directed by Feng Xaiogang, and If You are the One (2008). Huayi has also worked with Sony Pictures in the past to jointly invest in or produce Chinese movies, some of which target overseas audience markets. Due to the rapid growth of new cinemas in China, Huayi has significantly grown its China operations and has made a name for itself internationally as a producer of quality foreign films. Huayi also runs a variety of other businesses including music recording and agent services for artists. Huayi has begun to build a theatre network in China with plans for 150 to 200 screens within five years.  


-Edited by Vanessa McMahon


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