Indie animation studio Baobab Studios has brought in Oscar-nominated producer Osnat Shurer (Moana) to serve as Co-Chief Creative Officer alongside CCO Eric Darnell (Madagascar).
Boasting 30+ years of experience in animation, Shurer comes to the company from Walt Disney Feature Animation, where she served as VP of Development, having simultaneously held a role as the executive producer of the short films group at Pixar. Going forward, she’ll be part of a creative brain trust which includes Darnell and Kane Lee (Chief Content Officer), and such advisors and investors as Ed Catmull (Pixar Co-Founder and former President, Disney Feature Animation) and Oscar-winning filmmaker Glen Keane (Director, Over the Moon), among others.
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Among the first projects Shurer will work on at Baobab are the Momoguro multiplatform franchise, which includes a digital collectibles game, an upcoming Roblox game, and a TV series in development, and two falling under a TV development deal with Disney+. The first for the streamer is Intercats, an animated cat workplace comedy, based on the fast-tracked Baobab graphic novel series by the same name with First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers. The second announced thus far is an animated event series called The Witchverse, an epic fantasy action-adventure universe for Disney+ based on the company’s three-time Emmy-winning short film and VR experience, Baba Yaga. The latter is set to star Kate Winslet, Jennifer Hudson, Daisy Ridley and Glenn Close.
Perhaps best known for producing the Academy Award-nominated Disney hits Raya and the Last Dragon and Moana, which grossed over $700 million and continues to be one of the topmost streamed kids movie ever, Shurer with the latter birthed a wildly successful franchise that continues to grow with a new sequel series in the works, a Dwayne Johnson-produced live-action remake, ice-shows, toys, and games. Sharing that ability is CCO Darnell, who helmed DreamWorks’ first-ever movie, Antz, and all four Madagascar films, which led to three TV series and TV specials, eight video games, three theme park attractions, and multiple live-stage shows.
Of particular note with regard to Shurer’s time at Pixar are the Oscar-nominated shorts she either produced or exec produced for the studio, including Lifted, One Man Band and Boundin’.
“We are thrilled to welcome Osnat to Baobab,” said the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Maureen Fan. “She has a gift for launching franchises with beloved characters that resonate across ages and cultures. Osnat’s extensive background brings invaluable expertise to our growing story franchises across film, television, games, and books.”
On the subject of Baobab’s new hire, CCO Darnell stated, “I’m excited to partner with Osnat to build out our slate and shepherd new projects into production. She has already hit the ground running at Baobab, proving that she has the creativity, experience, leadership skills, and collaborative instincts to get things done.”
Added Shurer, “I’m honored to join Baobab Studios. Throughout my career, I’ve been at the forefront of shaping stories with fresh, nuanced, powerful female protagonists. You can imagine why I was immediately drawn to Baobab and this fantastic group of mavericks and the opportunity to explore the very cutting-edge of technology and games in service of telling great stories.”
The winner of nine Emmys and three Annie Awards, Baobab Studios has, since its 2015 founding, established a track record of building franchisable family IP and interactive worlds. Boasting a specialty in IP development through VR, its universes are being turned into films for the likes of Disney, and series for premium streamers like Disney+ and Max, as well as books (Penguin Random House, MacMillan) and games (Roblox, web3, Oculus). The company’s recent release, Namoo, from Oscar-nominated director Erick Oh, was shortlisted for the Oscars, won the 2022 Annie Award for Best Special Production, and is now streaming on HBO Max. Other notable projects from the company include Crow: The Legend, Baba Yaga, Invasion!, Asteroids!, Jack, Bonfire, and Paper Birds.
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