Beijing-based Xing Xing Digital and Los Angeles production company Pelagius Entertainment are to partner on the feature animation Smart.

John A Davis will direct the film, which the parties claim is budgeted at $22m, from a screenplay by S D Katz and David Freeman.

Pre-production is scheduled to begin this month in Los Angeles. The bulk of animation production will be performed at Xing Xing’s studios in China in time for a 2016 international theatrical release.

Representatives described Smart as “a screwball, animated comedy about an emotional robot that forms an unlikely alliance with two abandoned pets to stop the nefarious plans of an evil toy manufacturer.”

“Chinese audiences have selectively enjoyed Hollywood animated movies,” said Xing Xing CEO Lifeng Wang. “We have learned from the failures and successes at the local box office and even without a North American release, the local box office can support appropriately priced animated movies that meet the high standards of international productions.”

Pelagius co-founder Joe Fries said, “The revenue contribution from China really changes the formula for independent production.”

Pelagius Entertainment’s credits include Don Cheadle starrer Talk To Me (pictured) and the PBS documentary Adjust Your Color: The Truth Of Petey Greene.