Charlie Kaufman Wrote an Existential Animated Children’s Movie for Netflix and DreamWorks

Charlie Kaufman is thinking of starting things: a career in children’s animated films.

The “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” auteur is confirmed to have written Netflix and DreamWorks Animation film “Orion and The Dark,” adapted from a 2014 novel by Emma Yarlett. Kaufman penned the script for the feature, which marks animator Sean Charmatz’s directorial debut, per Variety.

“Orion and The Dark” follows the titular anxiety-ridden elementary schooler, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, as he tries to cope with being afraid of the dark. However, “the Dark” is actually a physical entity, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who takes Orion on a nighttime adventure to prove that there is nothing to fear.

DreamWorks Animation will announce “Orion and The Dark” during the Annecy Animation Festival, along with a sneak peek at three scenes. Netflix will release the film in 2024. Variety reported that a Werner Herzog cameo could be in the works.

Kaufman’s 2020 film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” another novel adaptation, also debuted on Netflix.

“I was looking for something that somebody would let me direct and it’s easier to get something made if it’s based on a book, or a comic book, or a movie that’s already existed,” the “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” screenwriter said at the time. “The producer I work with happened to have a deal with Netflix. I don’t know that Netflix knew going in that I was going to make it into something that was less of a thriller than the book, and I don’t think I knew that either.”

Kaufman continued, “The reason something like Netflix attracts filmmakers is because there’s nowhere else to make those things. It’s infuriating to me when people say Netflix is ruining movies because — no, movies ruined movies, studios ruined movies, and that’s the truth.”

Yet Kaufman’s signature voice endures: the writer-director told IndieWire in 2016 that his career has pivoted according to his filmmaking style which is now riffed on by fellow filmmakers.

“I sometimes see things and think ‘Oh, that may have been influenced by me,’ and people tell me that they’ve been influenced by me,” Kaufman said. “But I’ve also seen critics say ‘This is a Charlie Kaufman-type movie, and so-and-so made it.’ And it’s like…why do they get to make Charlie Kaufman movies and I don’t? I think about that all the time.”

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