Back to newsfeed


Mike Medavoy: “To raise awareness, you need to know how to engage the viewer.”

23 June 2023
le film français - ozi voice of the forest

Mike Medavoy, the founder of Orion Pictures, former president of TriStar Pictures, and current CEO of Phoenix Pictures spoke to Le film Français about his new project, Ozi, Voice of the Forest, directed by Tim Harper, which is directly linked to his commitment to the environment:

Read the full article (in French) on Le Film Français website.

Who is behind the project Ozi, Voice of the Forest?
It’s a collective effort. The original idea primarily came from Keith Chapman, who created the character of Ozi, a young orphaned orangutan, to raise awareness about the devastating effects of deforestation. Rodrigo Blaas took this story and crafted a more entertaining narrative to engage a younger audience. Sometimes, when works have a message and deliver it in a very serious and factual manner, they can miss a certain audience. I believe that to raise awareness, you need to know how to engage the viewer and entertain them. That’s what we tried to do here.

Why did you, Mike Medavoy, specifically get involved in this project?
It aligns with my convictions. You see, I was the executor of Marlon Brando’s estate, and even now, we continue to work on his island, Tetiaroa, to preserve and develop its ecosystem. So this project, initially initiated by the British production company GCI Films and targeting the youth, genuinely excited me. Especially considering that the current youth is already deeply concerned about environmental issues, we must continue to encourage this interest if we want to give our planet a chance. That’s also why I brought Leonardo DiCaprio and his company, Appian Films, into production. Leo is particularly sensitive to environmental matters.

Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t the only person you managed to bring onto the project. Ozi, Voice of the Forest boasts an impressive voice cast ranging from Donald Sutherland to Laura Dern, and including Djimon Hounsou and Amandla Stenberg…
Indeed, I have a good network (laughs). But it’s primarily the strength of the project and its message that attracted these talents. They themselves embody these values. In fact, Donald Sutherland was the first to join the project and saw great value in it. We are thrilled, for example, to have the young and talented Amandla Stenberg lending her voice to Ozi. This actress also has a significant following on social media, which will allow us to reach even more people. She embodies our character Ozi: young, enthusiastic, concerned, and connected.

How was this story about the young orangutan, Ozi, conceived?
It is inspired by a true story, in a way. Deforestation, whether for timber exploitation, mining, or the conversion of land into palm oil plantations, is destructive, especially for orangutans, who unwittingly serve as the most poignant example. But we also wanted to create genuine entertainment with an attractive and immediately charming character. That’s how Ozi evolved into this orphaned orangutan who becomes an influencer in ecology. We needed a character with whom young viewers could immediately identify, and Ozi reflects them—plugged into social media and concerned about the world around them. But she is also a victim of human violence. With the film, we aimed to evoke the “Bambi effect.” When Bambi was released in the United States—and I imagine elsewhere as well—the film had a tremendous impact on how hunting was perceived, both by children and adults. With Ozi, we want to provoke the same wave of empathy. The goal wasn’t to make a film that preaches or forcefully imparts a message but rather to depict a situation and let the audience make their own decision about what they want to do next.

Will Ozi… have siblings?
That’s the objective. We want to develop a collection called Voices, where we expand Ozi’s family and friends to other animals who champion nature and, by extension, our collective future. The next film will actually focus on the oceans, but we haven’t chosen our mascot animal yet. Furthermore, the commitment of this production goes beyond the film; we have established partnerships with established organizations for animal protection and conservation, including International Animal Rescue, with the triple objective of animal welfare, economic support, and reforestation. Lastly, a significant percentage of the film’s profits will directly go to these charitable causes.

It should be noted that Ozi, Voice of the Forest was entirely brought to life by Mikros Animation, from conception to delivery.