STX Entertainment and Alibaba Pictures announced today a new partnership to co-produce and co-finance content from the UglyDolls universe and build long-term global IP. The groundbreaking deal includes the previously announced UglyDolls animated feature film, an animated TV series with Hulu, digital and print publishing, mobile and educational games, soundtrack and music, and merchandising and licensing programs covering toys, dolls, arts & crafts, collectibles and other ancillaries.
The venture combines STX’s multiplatform content making, marketing and distribution expertise with Alibaba Group’s entire ecosystem. With more than 600 million consumers across e-commerce, marketing, ticketing, digital media and entertainment platforms, merchandising and consumer insights, Alibaba Pictures serves as the “Gateway to China,” bringing high quality entertainment and content to the region.
STX’s push into animation comes with the deep experience of its film division leaders, STXfilms chairman Adam Fogelson, who prior to coming to STX, was instrumental in establishing Illumination Entertainment, creator of Despicable Me at Universal Studios, and Oren Aviv, who as previous marketing chief for Disney and Fox Studios, handled Disney Animation, Pixar and Blue Sky Films, and notably, the Incredibles franchise.
Alibaba Pictures established its overseas offices in Pasadena, California in 2016 to find stories to invest in, produce and share with the content-hungry China market, one that is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest movie market by 2022, according to Ampere Analysis. Leveraging Alibaba Group’s infrastructure in China, Alibaba Pictures helps its international partners tell stories that resonate across cultures and maximize their potential in China.
“This partnership with STX on UglyDolls is very important to us because it allows us to build out this beloved global intellectual property for years to come leveraging the strength of the entire Alibaba ecosystem,” said Wei Zhang, President of Alibaba Pictures. “More importantly, the values that UglyDolls stand for – believing in yourself, acceptance of differences, and never giving up on one’s dreams – are universal and ones we are proud to promote through our work.”
“It is an honor to bring a company of Alibaba’s unparalleled reputation, high quality and considerable assets into the STX family,” said STX Chairman and CEO Robert Simonds. “After collaborating on a number of projects, including co-producing the upcoming action sci-fi film Steel Soldiers, this new venture further deepens our relationship and provides an incredible platform for us to create universally resonant content for audiences around the world.”
The UglyDolls film is directed by animation veteran Kelly Asbury and features an A-list cast of music superstars and global talent including Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, Janelle Monáe, Wanda Sykes, Emma Roberts, Gabriel Iglesias, Bebe Rexha , Charli XCX, Lizzo, and Pitbull. Also headlining the cast is Wang Leehom, who is hailed as the king of pop in China. STXfilms will release the film in theaters in the U.S. on May 3, 2019.
Created in 2001 as a plush toy line by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, the UglyDoll brand quickly gained a cult following around the world and in 2006, was named Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Association. Beloved by children, teenagers and adults alike, UglyDoll characters are distinct for their endearingly “ugliness,” in a wonderful “uglyverse” where differences are special and unique.