Animal Logic set to seal LEGO deals

16 October, 2014 by Don Groves

Animal Logic CEO Zareh Nalbandian was eager to talk about the world-class creativity of Australian visual artists, technicians and producers as well as his long-time mentor Murray Forrest before accepting an industry award on Thursday night.

But he was constrained in what he could say about Animal Logic’s participation in the three upcoming LEGO movies on Warner Bros’ slate.


“We are optimistic about making an announcement very soon about Animal Logic’s involvement in future LEGO movies,” he told IF before accepting the Murray Forrest award for excellence in filmcraft.

At the closing night of the Australian International Movie Convention on the Gold Coast Forrest presented the award to Nalbandian and the AIMC lifetime achievement award was bestowed on veteran actor Michael Caton.

WB has announced the LEGO spin-off Ninjago, directed by Charlie Bean and based on the Cartoon Network animated series of the same name, will be released in 2016.

The LEGO Batman Movie will feature the character voiced in the original by Will Arnett, directed by Chris McKay, and is slated for 2017. The LEGO Movie 2 will follow in 2018.

Animal Logic produced the ground-breaking animation in the first film, which has raked in $US468 million at cinemas worldwide.

Nalbandian graciously said he sees his award as a reflection of the skill of Animal Logic’s creative team and Australian artistry.

“I am passionate about developing Australian talent and creating and retaining highly skilled jobs,” he said. “We have this brain drain: I want to stop and reverse it.”

Animal Logic’s VFX unit has just completed 200 shots on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, which opens on Boxing Day, and it’s working on The Monk, Chinese director Chen Kaige’s 3D martial arts action film.

The executive owes his start in the business to Forrest, who was general manager of Colorfilm when he hired Zareh as an intern in the late 1970s.

He worked in every department before ending up in optical effects, still in the analogue era, where he was one of the team that worked on the first Mad Max and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Zareh rose through the ranks to group general manager at Colorfilm until the lab merged with Atlab, run by Forrest.

He went to work for The Video Paint Brush Company for a couple of years, before he and colleague Chris Godfrey orchestrated a management buy-out and rebooted and rechristened the company as Animal Logic in 1991.

Forrest said: “Zareh created a world-class animation and visual effects company and is committed to building a globally competitive digital production industry in Australia."

Accepting his award from Alan Finney, Caton acknowledged the mentors he's had and all the opportunities that had come his way, notably the role in The Castle, for which he says he wasn't the first choice.

He thanked his wife Helen, whom he said “in stormy seas keeps the good ship Caton on a steady course."

Nalbandian is working on Betty Boop, a music-driven, hybrid live action/animated comedy, the first project in Animal Logic Entertainment’s co-venture with Syco Entertainment.

Fleischer Studios, which created and produced the Betty Boop cartoon series, is co-producing. 

The project is out to writers and Nalbandian has been bowled over by the level of interest from writers, directors, music talent and US studios that are keen to be involved.

Nalbandian and his colleague Jason Lust will produce with Cowell and Syco’s Adam Milano.