Laika’s planned expansion into the realm of live-action was furthered on Tuesday, with the announcement that longtime Netflix executive Matt Levin will be joining the studio in the newly created role of President, Live-Action Film & Series.
The venerated Oregon animation studio’s hire comes amidst development on its first live-action project — a feature adaptation of the action-thriller novel Seventeen by screenwriter John Brownlow (The Miniaturist, Sylvia).
Levin joins the stop-motion specialist following eight years at Netflix, where he most recently served as Director, Original Independent Film. He co-founded that department and is credited with helping it grow into a full-scale mini-major. His direct report at Laika is President & CEO Travis Knight, who also helmed the company’s acclaimed 2016 feature, Kubo and the Two Strings.
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Knight remarked in a statement that “Matt Levin is an awesome dude. Both a steely-eyed pragmatist and a starry-eyed dreamer, Matt is the perfect partner to spearhead LAIKA’s live-action division. His exceptional leadership skills, creative sensitivity, and sharp storytelling mind will guide our studio to the next phase of its evolution, and into exciting new genres, media, and formats.
“At seventeen years old, LAIKA is grunting our way through the disaffected teenager stage of our development,” Knight continued. “Matt’s gonna help us become a proper grown-up.”
“I’m thrilled to be coming on board at this exciting moment for LAIKA,” added Levin. “I’ve loved and admired LAIKA’s bold, original, and ground-breaking animated films since the studio came on the scene. I’m excited to honor and build on that legacy as we forge ahead into live-action films and series in this promising new chapter.”
Levin’s time at Netflix saw him oversee development and production on 25 films including the upcoming Gareth Evans actioner Havoc starring Tom Hardy, Forest Whitaker and Timothy Olyphant; the action-thriller Kate starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Woody Harrelson; Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game; Do Revenge and Someone Great from writer-director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson; Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things starring Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley and Toni Collette; Tamara Jenkins’ Private Life starring Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti; Nicole Holofcener’s The Land of Steady Habits, starring Ben Mendelsohn and Edie Falco; and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore from writer-director Macon Blair.
Levin also, during his time at the streamer, brought in overall deals with the aforementioned action filmmaker Evans, as well as actor-producer Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
Prior to joining Netflix, Levin held roles at Ben Browning’s New York-based indie production and financing company Wayfare Entertainment, Focus Features, and Anthony Bregman’s banner Likely Story. He worked, during his time at the latter, on films including Sebastian Cordero’s sci-fi thriller Europa Report, Joe Wright’s Hanna, Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, and Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.
Laika notched a Best Animated Feature Oscar nom for each of its first five films, including Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and Missing Link. The company is currently in production on its sixth animated feature, Wildwood, based on the book series by Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis, and is also now developing the animated film The Night Gardener, based on an original idea by Ozark creator Bill Dubuque.
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