The Gotham Group, the Los Angeles talent management firm, is banding together with a provincial government in South Korea and other investors to capitalize on the global appetite for animated movies.
Gotham, which specializes in representing animation filmmakers, has partnered with the province of Chungnam, a government-owned media center, and various South Korean corporations and private investors to commit about $300 million to finance up to eight animated movies, including some live-action hybrids.
The deal is similar to one Gotham announced 18 months ago with the Weinstein Co. The companies touted plans to produce a series of animated movies in South Korea, but no films were made.
People familiar with the partnership said the earlier plans were stalled by funding hurdles in South Korea and Weinstein's focus on other projects.
The independent film studio, which declined to comment, has struggled with a string of box-office disappointments and several high-level executive departures.
Gotham said the new partnership would replace or augment the earlier deal with Weinstein, although the two companies would still work together on one or more animated movies. The management firm said it would tap its contacts in the animation field to direct the animation work, which will be done mainly in South Korea, where production costs are considerably below those in the U.S.
Several of the movies will be based on original material from Gotham's clients, which include illustrators, publishing houses and comic book companies, including works from Simon & Schuster and Dark Horse Entertainment.
"There's an enormous base of talent in South Korea in the animation industry," said Gotham founder and Chief Executive Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, a producer on the kids' fantasy film "The Spiderwick Chronicles." "They are relying on us to bring A-level creative talent over from the U.S."
Gotham clients include Henry Selick, director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the upcoming animated film "Coraline"; and Aardman Animations Ltd., which created the popular "Wallace & Gromit" series.
The movies will be produced in a new $40-million government-built media center that includes an animation studio and a visual arts training program.
Long a hub of outsourcing for TV animation, South Korea wants to partner with U.S. companies to build up its own feature animation industry.
Hak Min Kim, chief executive of Chungnam Techno Park, said in a statement that the deal with Gotham would "launch [the park] as a major production entity on the worldwide CGI animation landscape."
Although family-oriented computer-animated movies are popular worldwide, the Gotham partners nonetheless are moving into a highly competitive market dominated by established players such as Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar Animation Studios and DreamWorks Animation. In addition, Hollywood studios such as Sony Pictures and Fox also have digital animation divisions.