Earlier today—in a deal reportedly worth nearly a million dollars—Sony Pictures Animation won a three-studio auction for an animated movie pitch centered around Emoji’s. That’s right, these guys:


The project will be helmed by Tony Leondis (who, in 2011, directed the short film Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Master) and recently finished production on a DreamWorks animated feature called B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, which stars Melissa McCarthy, Bill Murray and Seth Rogen. Leondis will co-write the project with Eric Siegel, who has written for TV shows like Men at Work (2014), Traffic Light (2011) and The Hard Times of RJ Berger (2010).

Perhaps the most interesting twist to this story is that although these yellow-face, clever-cutesey emotion-clad characters are so pervasive and popular, nobody actually owns the underlying rights to this “property” (unlike, say, LEGO; whose movie made $468 million at the box office last year). What this means is that effectively, any film studio can make a similar/competing project. Effectively, it’s not any different than films based on public domain stories (see: Cinderella, Sherlock Holmes and every Shakespeare story). As a result, and perhaps not surprisingly, Sony Animation has already hinted at a desire to fast track this project…

Lastly, of course, comes the obvious question: why? Who the heck wants to see a film about the smiley face from our cell phone? To a large degree, that remains to be seen, but in terms of our interests here at IdeaRocket (animation, business videos, deconstruction of big ideas), the hype surrounding this deal (and the price paid for the pitch) is perhaps a reminder of the following things:

  1. Animation is powerful. And more than that: it’s profitable. Unlike other forms of storytelling, animation is almost inherently built to appeal to men, women and children of all ages.
  2. People like to see familiar things presented with a twist. We all know what emojis are and many of us use them in a daily lives. That said, I’d guess that few of us ever wondered what an Emoji movie would look like. But, because this is something we are familiar with, there’s a built in curiosity to see what this turn into. Good or bad, at least people will be watching on. And, whether you like it or not, counts for a lot.
  3. Playfulness is important. Ultimately, what makes the Emojis so popular is not just their utility but the playful tone to the characters. When we think from a place of logic the fun factor of playfulness is a lesson that’s easy to forget. But on days like today—when we can’t help but smirk and scratch our heads—it’s nice to be reminded of that lesson.

Monkey emojis

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