Sony Pictures Animation is continuing to build its brand by tapping an animation vet for its latest, most diverse title yet. On the heels of the Oscar-winning success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it seems like Sony is doubling down on diversity with Tao, a “female-driven sci-fi story” set in China. Sony has tapped Emily Dean, a longtime Asian-American story artist who has worked on films like The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part as director.
Deadline broke the news that Emily Dean, who has worked on high-profile animated flocks like The LEGO Movie 2 and The LEGO Batman Movie, is set to make her feature directorial debut with Sony Animation’s Tao. Tao is in early development with Tonya Kong attached to write the film described as a “female-driven sci-fi adventure story that is set in China,” according to Deadline.
The plot is being kept under wraps for now, but this sounds like an exciting new project from a studio growing in prestige post-Spider-Verse. Sony’s animation wing has been steadily churning out modestly-received franchises like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania since 2006, but attention on Sony Animation has increased exponentially since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won this year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar, became the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win the award since 2011.
It seems that Sony is putting a lot of stock in new, diverse talent after the success of Into the Spider-Verse, and Dean seems like a great choice to direct Tao. The Chinese-Australian animation artist studied at CalArts before starting her career in Pixar’s story department, and previously worked in the Story Department at Warner Bros. under Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who produced Into the Spider-Verse. She worked as their story artist on The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Movie 2. Dean also has some awards under her belt, having won an Australian Academy Award for her animated short film Forget Me Not in 2012.
It’s exciting to see more Asian-led projects being greenlit at major Hollywood studios following Pixar’s Oscar-winning short Bao, with DreamWorks’ lavish Abominable heading to theaters soon, and now Tao. Let’s hope Dean’s work with Tao will live up to her impressive resume.
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