The newly formed TAIKO Studios, helmed by Disney veteran Shaofu Zhang, has announced its first project: an animated short film titled One Small Step.
The short focuses on Luna, a young Chinese-American girl who dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. Luna’s dreams are universal; while not everyone aspires to be an astronaut, everyone has seemingly impossible dreams they wish to attain, and this makes Luna’s character and story relatable. In fact, Luna’s character took inspiration from the early artistic career of the film’s co-director Bobby Pontillas.
“One Small Step is our love letter to everyone who chased that impossible dream and the family that supported them through it,” said Andrew Chesworth, another Disney alum behind the project.
The team behind One Small Step offers an impressive portfolio of work, so it will be exciting to see what they bring to this new project, working in collaboration under the TAIKO Studios banner.
TAIKO founder and CEO Zhang is a former Disney and Imageworks animator, and won a Student Academy Award Gold Medal in 2014 for his short Dragonboy. Head of Development Chesworth was an animator for Disney for six years, after directing over 30 commercials and short films for Minneapolis design studio Make.
Disney animation veteran Bobby Pontillas serves as TAIKO’s Art Director, while other former Disney team members head up the animation system and overall pipeline. Joy Johnson, award-winning animator for Elsa in Frozen, works as CG supervisor and has developed a state-of-the-art animation system to create the film’s unique look. Andrew Jennings, technical animation supervisor on Disney’s short Inner Workings, supervises the pipeline in both the Los Angeles and Wuhan, China studios.
Music will be composed by veteran Stever Horner, who took inspiration from his relationship with his own daughter. Horner calls One Small Step “a dream project,” saying “Andrew [Chesworth] and the team brought me in early and allowed me to start creating the score using their initial character sketches, storyboards and animatics. This dynamic process in concert with my strong connection to the story and characters has allowed me to go deep into the work which has been hugely satisfying.”
TAIKO Studios was founded earlier this year with the goal “to bridge eastern and western culture to create memorable stories with universal appeal,” which it sounds like One Small Step is set to accomplish. The short film is slated to play at animation festivals in 2018.