Emily Dean and Tonya Kong Give Clues to Sony Animation's Future

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About a week ago, Deadline reported that Emily Dean would be director on the upcoming Sony Animation feature Tao. While the plot is still hidden and the project is in early development, the movie is described as a “female-driven sci-fi adventure story that is set in China”. Tonya Kong is attached to write the script.

Sony Animation has taken some unusual steps lately. For years they’ve followed the trend of many animation studios by appealing to family audiences, with franchises like Open Season, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania. Recently though, Sony Pictures Animation has been positioning themselves to take a riskier direction. Last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has already been praised for its inventive animation styles, and I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said. That’s already getting spun into its own franchise. However, there’s also the upcoming film from Genndy Tartakovsky which will be an R-rated comedy. We touched on this in a previous blog post. Such a production is rare to see in animation, especially from a studio as established as Sony Pictures Animation. As a result, Tao is even more up in the air. Will it be kid-friendly? More mature? Possibly even adult? Many assumptions we could make with something like “upcoming Pixar feature” are not possible here any more - and it is exciting.

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At the moment, our best options for guessing come from the two women involved. Emily Dean, director, has been story artist on movies like The Lego Batman Movie and the upcoming Scoob, both from Warner Bros. She’s produced and directed four different shorts in the past, including the award-winning “Andromeda”, but this is Dean’s first time directing a feature film. Meanwhile, Tonya Kong, the writer, has been story editor on Daredevil and executive story editor for Arrow. Again, these are more mature shows, hinting at a more mature Tao.

Tao will be another step for a studio that has seen renewed attention after winning its first Academy Award this year. It has an unusual setup coming this year and in 2020 onwards, working with some of the most unique established talents in the industry - and bringing more to the forefront with Dean and Kong. It’s a risky endeavor, but only time will tell to see if it’ll pay off.


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.