John Stevenson director

Unified Pictures announced today that Academy Award-nominated director John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda) will direct the company’s first CG- animated feature inspired by “Noah’s Ark,” which is slated for completion in 2016.

The animated comedy adventure is inspired by the classic tale, but tells the story from the point of view of the animals. The story follows an outcast aardvark by the name of Gilbert, who becomes the reluctant leader of a ragtag group of misfit animals that need to be led to the mighty ark before the impending flood. Along their journey, they band together to conquer unforeseen obstacles, and ultimately, Gilbert discovers within himself the inner strength and ingenuity to prove that in a world of “twos,” he was truly destined to be “the one.”

Stevenson is a director and artist who has worked for over 30 years in animation after getting his start in the entertainment industry on “Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show.” While at Henson's he worked on "The Great Muppet Caper", "The Dark Crystal", and "Labyrinth" before moving to DreamWorks Animation to work on such blockbuster animated features as “Shrek,” Shrek 2” and “Madagascar.” As a director on “Kung Fu Panda,” he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature (with Mark Osborne), and also won the Annie Award for Directing in a Feature Production.

“John Stevenson is among the finest storytellers and animation filmmakers in the business and brings with him a wealth of experience. His unique ability to personalize this global story with tremendous heart and humor is sure to make this an inspiring film for all ages,” said Unified Pictures President Keith Kjarval.

Added Stevenson, “As soon as Kurt and Keith approached me with the idea of taking the classic tale of ‘Noah’s Ark’ and telling a more personal story within the story, I jumped at the chance. It’s so exciting to work with everyone at Unified Pictures and we’re fortunate to have assembled such a stellar group of artists to help make the film.”

Currently in pre-production, the film’s script was written by Philip LaZebnik (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Mulan” and “Pocahontas”) and Glen Dolman (“So I Meet a Girl” blacklisted script). The production is being overseen by executive producers Cecil Kramer (“Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” “Flushed Away,” and “Astro Boy”) and Stevenson with Unified Pictures’ Kurt Rauer and Keith Kjarval. The company has also assembled an all-star team of animation veterans that includes production designer Luc Desmarchelier (“Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” “Open Season”), visual development artist Richie Chavez (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Mulan”), editor Stan Webb (“Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Antz”), conceptual story artist Robert Stevenhagen (“Frankenweenie,” “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit”), and story artist Larry Leker (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”).

Founded in 2004 by Keith Kjarval and Kurt Rauer, Unified Pictures is an independent production company that has previously produced six live action films. "A Single Shot" (directed by David M. Rosenthal) just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Unified’s latest completed production “Rudderless” features actor William H. Macy’s directorial debut and will be theatrically distributed on October 17th by Paramount & Samuel Goldwyn Company.