Mike Johnson to Helm Animated Oz Wars

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John Williams, President and CEO of Vanguard Films, announced today the company has signed Oscar and Annie Award-nominee Mike Johnson, co-director of Corpse Bride, to direct its CG/stop-motion hybrid feature film, Oz Wars.

“Mike Johnson is a spectacular director and one of the masters of stop-motion,” says Williams. “We all think ‘Oz Wars’ is a wildly original and commercial project that will thrill and astonish audiences. Additionally, due to revolutionary new stop-motion software, Mike will be making this world-class quality film at an unprecedentedly economical cost point.”

Oz Wars, written by Rob Moreland (Space Chimps 1 & 2 and Vanguard’s upcoming live action City of Dragons) and Athena Gam (Vanguard’s recently announced Alien Rock Band), transforms the Oz narrative into a contemporary, freaky action-packed PG-13 audience pleaser, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters.

“‘Oz Wars’ is an animated action-adventure story, but unlike most animated films, it’s not just for kids,” Johnson says. “The Land of Oz will be re-imagined using stop-motion to create a world that’s dark, slick, sexy, and dangerous. It’s long been a goal of mine to create a hard-hitting, grown-up action film using stop-motion animation. ‘Oz Wars’ is my opportunity to do that.”

The announcement comes on the heels of an ambitious Vanguard production slate released at AFM which includes CG, live action and CG/live action hybrids. Vanguard recently announced an overall producing/directing deal with Kung Fu Panda co-director John Stevenson, whose first Vanguard directorial project will be Alien Rock Band, a live action/CGI hybrid, with musician Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) attached as a producer.

A veteran animator and director, Texas-native Mike Johnson won the British Animation Award and earned Oscar and Annie Award nominations (with co-director Tim Burton) for his feature film Corpse Bride. As an animator his credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and the Emmy Award-wining children’s series “Bump in the Night.” Johnson’s directing credits also include episodes of the Emmy Award-winning television series “The P.J.’s,” and the award-winning short The Devil Went Down To Georgia, which he also produced.

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