Doug Sweetland, the Academy Award-nominated director of the 2008 Pixar short Presto, is set to direct The Familiars for Sony Pictures Animation. Sam Raimi & Joshua Donen are executive producing. Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson are writing the screenplay for The Familiars, based on their just-published novel.
Sweetland joins Sony Pictures Animation after sixteen years at Pixar Animation, a run that began right out of California Institute of the Arts as an animator on Toy Story (1995) and continued with A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. Sweetland's trajectory at Pixar elevated him to animator and storyboard artist on the Academy Award-winning The Incredibles and supervising animator on John Lasseter's Cars. He is the winner of two Annie Awards for Individual Achievement in Character Animation for his work on Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. He was also nominated for an Annie Award for his character animation on Toy Story 2.
After Cars, Sweetland pitched to Pixar the idea of a magician who forgets to feed his rabbit and suffers the consequences when his neglected co-star exacts some clever revenge. The idea evolved into Sweetland's directorial debut and the animated short, Presto, which was released theatrically with Pixar's 2008 hit, WALL-E. The short earned nominations for both an Academy Award and an Annie Award.
"It was clear from our first conversation with Doug that we'd found our director," said Hannah Minghella, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation. "Not only does he possess a keen story sense and a wonderful sense of humor but his passion for animation and for this project are unrivaled."
"We are very excited about The Familiars and the production team we've assembled," says Sony Pictures Digital Production President Bob Osher. "Doug Sweetland is an extraordinary animation talent who has developed his own style under the tutelage of remarkable mentors. We are delighted that our project affords him the opportunity to make his feature animation debut."
The Familiars, the first volume in the series published this month by HarperCollins, is a magical adventure and an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship between wizards in training and their animal companions.
Publisher's Weekly wrote, "Screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson's children's book debut is a grand adventure with entertaining characters and magic-induced fun, written in an appropriately cinematic style." And School Library Journal said, "The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. This winning combination of action and humor will keep readers turning pages right up to the ending."
Sony Pictures Animation acquired The Familiars in June 2009. Alexa Amin, Sony Pictures Animation's vice president of development, brought the project into the studio after Russell Hollander, an executive at Sam Raimi & Joshua Donen's production company introduced her to the property. Sweetland and author/screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson are all represented by UTA.