Paramount Animation division stocking pipeline with projects from J.J. Abrams, Mary Parent, Nickelodeon
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures’ animation division has kept a low profile since its launch last summer, announcing few projects other than a sequel to THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (2014), and tapping former Walt Disney Animation president David Stainton as its toon topper — only to watch him ankle four months later. But with DreamWorks Animation in talks to move to another studio, Par is reckoning with the prospect of losing its most lucrative partner by ramping up a homegrown slate of family fare. Studio has hired seven scribes to tackle projects, some of which Mary Parent and J.J. Abrams are shepherding. For its first followup to 2011’s RANGO, Par turned to DWA vets Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who wrote KUNG FU PANDA 2, to pen the SPONGEBOB sequel that Paul Tibbitt (a scribe for the series) will direct and show creator Stephen Hillenburg is exec producing; Parent will produce. Paramount chief Brad Grey is also turning to sister division Nickelodeon to supply much of the IP including DORA THE EXPLORER, THE LEGEND OF KORRA and MONKEY QUEST. The division is also trying to spark development with on-the-lot filmmakers who have no prior animation experience — Parent and Abrams among them. Details of Abrams’ project have yet to be revealed, but Parent and producing partner Cale Boyter also are overseeing NEW KID, an adaptation of Penny Arcade’s comic about a lone earthling in a school for aliens. With DreamWorks Animation likely out after its contract runs out this year, Paramount will need these projects to fill its pipeline. -- Justin Kroll and Marc Graser.