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Pan-Pacific 'toon alliance formed

Weinstein and Gotham will team with a South Korean province to make animated features.

June 29, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Underscoring the animation industry's globalization, a South Korean province has agreed to co-produce a slate of animated movies with Weinstein Co. and Los Angeles-based Gotham Group.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but people familiar with the transaction said the province of Chungcheongnam-do agreed to co-finance with Weinstein Co. six to 10 computer-animated films costing about $40 million each.

The movies will be produced in the province, many of them in a government-built media center that includes an animation studio and training school.

Long a hub of outsourcing for television animation, South Korea wants to build its own animation industry by partnering with U.S. companies. Although governments often provide incentives or subsidies, they rarely invest directly in movies.

"This is a ground-breaking deal, marrying up great content and great talent on both sides of the Pacific," said Jon Vein, advisor to Gotham Group.

Kim Hee-sup, chief manager of the media center, said the partnership would help make the studios a "world class source of animated content."

Weinstein Co. -- the New York-based independent film company launched in October 2005 by Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein -- will release the films as part of a broad strategy to tap the lucrative animation market.

The company, which released the successful "Hoodwinked!" in 2005, last month signed a deal to jointly produce animated films with Los-Angeles based Exodus Film Group.

The South Korean venture is especially attractive because it enables Weinstein Co. to produce animated movies more cheaply than in the U.S., where labor costs are higher.

Gotham Group will co-produce and supply talent under a long-term deal with the Weinsteins. Gotham represents top writers, directors and producers in the animation industry. Headed by veteran talent manager Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Gotham is producing several animated films, including "Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper."

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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