China's Huayi Brothers to Launch Animation Unit Led by Hollywood Veteran

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Huayi Brothers president Wang Zhonglei

The Chinese studio, which has an 18-picture financing and distribution deal with STX Entertainment, has hired former DreamWorks Animation and Fox executive Joe Aguilar to lead the new division.

Leading Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers said on Monday that it would launch an animation division headed by veteran Hollywood producer Joe Aguilar, formerly of Oriental DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox, as CEO.

"The establishment of an animation company signifies that the company will enter the animated movie industry with world-class production skills," Huayi said in a statement.

The publicly traded Chinese studio has been expanding its ties with Hollywood. The company signed a landmark 18-film co-financing and distribution agreement with Bob Simonds' STX Entertainment last April.

Over the past six months, animation has emerged as a particularly hot genre at the booming Chinese box office. In January, DreamWorks Animation's first official Chinese co-production, Kung Fu Panda 3, grossed $146 million, a new record in China for an animated title. Aguilar is understood to have overseen the production of the Chinese contributions to the film. Disney Animation's Zootopia is currently topping the Chinese charts, having pulled in more than $112 million after 10 days in cinemas.

Huayi said it plans to announce additional Hollywood hires for the startup animation unit in the coming weeks.  

Aguilar has most recently worked as chief creative officer of DreamWorks Animation's China joint venture Oriental DreamWorks.  He had joined the studio as head of production for DreamWorks Television after serving as a film production executive at Fox.