Mike Johnson has signed on to direct the CG/Stop-Motion hybrid feature film Oz Wars. The Academy Award and Annie Award-nominee got his start as the Assistant Animation Rigger and Assistant Animator on The Nightmare Before Christmas. He was an animator on James and The Giant Peach, directed three episodes of the lat 1990′s Fox clay animated television series The PJs, and was co-director of the 2005 film Corpse Bride. So basically, he has a long history with stop motion animation.

Written by Rob Moreland (Space Chimps 1 & 2) and Athena Gam (Alien Rock Band), Oz Wars attempts to transform the Wizard of Oz narrative into “a contemporary, freaky action-packed PG-13 audience pleaser, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters.” It’s being described as an animated film thats “not just for kids,” as the world will be “dark, slick, sexy, and dangerous.” Read the press release after the jump.

CORPSE BRIDE CO-DIRECTOR MIKE JOHNSON AT HELM OF VANGUARD’S ANIMATED FILM OZ WARS

(Los Angeles, CA; December 15, 2010) – John Williams, President and CEO of Vanguard Films, announced today the company has signed Oscar™ and Annie Award-nominee Mike Johnson, co-director of Corpse Bride, to direct its CG/stop-motion hybrid feature film, Oz Wars.

“Mike Johnson is a spectacular director and one of the masters of stop-motion,” says Williams. “We all think Oz Wars is a wildly original and commercial project that will thrill and astonish audiences. Additionally, due to revolutionary new stop-motion software, Mike will be making this world-class quality film at an unprecedentedly economical cost point.”

Oz Wars, written by Rob Moreland (Space Chimps 1 & 2 and Vanguard’s upcoming live action City of Dragons) and Athena Gam (Vanguard’s recently announced Alien Rock Band), transforms the Oz narrative into a contemporary, freaky action-packed PG-13 audience pleaser, with Dorothy caught up in a whirlwind of warrior witches, black magic, martial arts and monsters.

“Oz Wars is an animated action-adventure story, but unlike most animated films, it’s not just for kids,” Johnson says. “The Land of Oz will be re-imagined using stop-motion to create a world that’s dark, slick, sexy, and dangerous. It’s long been a goal of mine to create a hard-hitting, grown-up action film using stop-motion animation. Oz Wars is my opportunity to do that.”

The announcement comes on the heels of an ambitious Vanguard production slate released at AFM which includes CG, live action and CG/live action hybrids. Vanguard recently announced an overall producing/directing deal with Kung Fu Panda co-director John Stevenson, whose first Vanguard directorial project will be Alien Rock Band, a live action/CGI hybrid, with musician Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) attached as a producer.

A veteran animator and director, Texas-native Mike Johnson won the British Animation Award and earned Oscar™ and Annie Award nominations (with co-director Tim Burton) for his feature film Corpse Bride. As an animator his credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and the Emmy Award-wining children’s series Bump in The Night. Johnson’s directing credits also include episodes of the Emmy Award-winning television series The P.J.’s, and the award-winning short The Devil Went Down To Georgia, which he also produced.

Mike Johnson was represented by WME on the deal.

About Vanguard Films:

Vanguard Films is a leading independent animation company and the producer of the independently financed films Space Chimps 1 & 2, Valiant and Happily N’ever After, as well as the live action films Seven Years in Tibet and The Tuxedo starring Jackie Chan. Vanguard’s On the Road, a collaboration with American Zoetrope directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), has just wrapped principal photography. Its rock ‘n’ roll comedy film Vinyl, shot on location in Wales, is co-written (with Jim Cooper) and directed by Sara Sugarman (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen). The film is now in post-production.

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