Simon Cowell is betting that "Frozen" and "Despicable Me 2" are not isolated incidents of animated films creating musical hits.
This article first appeared in the May 17th issue of Billboard Magazine.
Animal Logic Entertainment ("The Lego Movie," "Happy Feet") and Cowell's Syco Entertainment have formed a partnership to make and develop music-based animated films and hybrid animation/live-action movies. Sony Pictures purchased their first film and has scheduled it for release in 2016.
"These musical animations are doing great box office," says Cowell. "From a record label standpoint, we're always looking for different ways to sell music and do it in a cool way. This is something we dreamt of doing."
Conversations between Cowell and Animal Logic CEO Zareh Nalbandian began eight months ago, after Creative Artists Agency's Jon Levin introduced the two. Cowell, whose Syco operation is a joint venture with Sony, was seeking an animation house for one of Syco's film projects. Coincidentally, Australia-based Animal Logic had a music-related idea on the boards. The partnership was created with Animal Logic's Jason Lust and Syco's Adam Milano, a former Sony Pictures executive who has run Syco's film division since its inception two years ago.
"Animal Logic is always looking for that challenge that's innovative and fresh, and I feel Simon does the same with music," says Nalbandian, who will spearhead the partnership.
While they believe their first project could be a franchise, Cowell and Nalbandian are looking for multiple ideas - straight musicals like "Frozen," song-driven films such as "Despicable Me 2" and movies that bring together live action and animated sequences. "We will become a magnet for people who have ideas," says Cowell, noting neither company is tied to a specific distributor.
Predicting the future can be tough in the film business -- especially in animation, which has a lengthy production process. Recent hits like The Lego Movie and Frozen were one-of-a-kind shows in the marketplace at the time of their releases. Pharrell Williams' No. 1 single "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2" became a hit long after the movie had completed its theatrical run.
The film venture is Cowell's first significant foray into visual media since Fox canceled The X Factor after three seasons. He continues to believe the U.K. edition will create stars, but thinks soundtracks are just as important as contest winners.
"Films are a great vehicle for breaking records," says Cowell. "Using Frozen as an example, the movie pushed the music and the music enhanced the movie. I think that's how we're going to work."