'Inner Workings' Director Leo Matsuda Sells Pair of Projects to DreamWorks Animation (Exclusive)

Matsuda is on a roll after working as an animator and storyboard artist for several years, only branching out recently to create his own directing vehicles.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney; Courtesy of Pan Macmillan
Leo Matsuda

Leo Matsuda — a veteran animator and storyboard artist who turned heads with the short film he created, Inner Workings, which played before Disney's Moana and was shortlisted for an Oscar — has sold a pair of projects to DreamWorks Animation. 

One is titled Sputnik and is based on a children’s book by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth. The book tells the story of a kid named Prez who is learning to fit in at a new home when he meets Sputnik, a strange kid who can hear his thoughts and manipulate the laws of space and time. Together they go on a mission to save Earth from destruction. Cottrell-Boyce will adapt and write the script, with Matsuda attached to direct.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that DreamWorks landed the project following a bidding war with other suitors including Paramount Animation as well as Skydance Media. Janet Zucker is among the producers. Sputnik would mark Matsuda's feature directorial debut. 

The studio also purchased an original idea of Matsuda's titled Yokai Samba that he will write and direct. Details are under lock and key, but it is known to be inspired by a folk story he heard in his youth about growing up and has Brazilian and Japanese influences. DreamWorks Feature Animation Group president Chris DeFaria and development exec Chris Kuser are overseeing.

In addition to Inner Workings, Matsuda also directed the short PreKissToric Times. He spent several years at Disney, where he worked as a story artist on such hits as Zootopia, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. He received an Annie Award nomination for storyboarding in an animated feature for his work on Wreck-It Ralph.

Matsuda is repped by WME, Gotham Group and attorney David Matlof.