Weinsteins, Koreans toon up

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The Weinstein Co., animation management powerhouse Gotham Group and the provincial Chungcheongnam-do government of South Korea have joined forces to produce and distribute animated feature films.

The Weinstein Co. and Gotham Group also have entered a multiyear, first-look deal that will give the Weinsteins access to a steady supply of animation and family entertainment talent and content.

The movies will be based on work from Gotham Group's client list of more than 350 directors, writers and illustrators including Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, the creators of "The Spiderwick Chronicles"; Doug TenNapel, who wrote and drew the graphic novel "Creature Tech"; and animation director Henry Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas"). Material also will come from outside sources.

The movies produced will be computer-generated, and while financial details were not disclosed, it is known that the money in place will ensure that six to 10 films in the $40 million range will be made for theatrical distribution.

The Weinstein Co. will handle worldwide distribution on all titles, with the Chungcheongnam-do government providing support in certain Asian markets.

Weinstein Co., the Media Center of Chungcheongnam-do and Gotham Group will serve as producers.

The plan is for the movies to be principally co-produced in the Chungcheongnam-do province, which includes a state-of-the-art animation facility at the Media Center. While communist governments were known to be in the filmmaking game, especially for propaganda purposes, the deal marks a rare moment in which a capitalist government is so actively involved in the production. One reason for the move is that animation can be easily dubbed into any language and work in many cultures.

Chungcheongnam-do, located in the central part of the Korean peninsula, has banked on the growth of the "cultural industry" in which it has invested. There are 18 colleagues teaching animation curriculum at the Media Center.

"Korea and its animation production companies have been at the center of the television animation business for years but have outsourced jobs only to this point," Hee Sup Kim, chief manager of the Media Center of Chungcheongnam-do, said in a statement. "Now we want to extend further to the animated theatrical film business by being co-producer with prominent partners in the U.S.

"Ensuring our access to the best content and talent from the East and West, as well as the best marketing and distribution, will provide a solid foundation to make Chungcheongnam-do's animation studios a world-class source of animated content."

The parties were brought together and the deal was structured by Jon Vein, who worked for more than two years on behalf of Gotham, and Mariel Clemensen of Clemensen Capital, which specializes in investment banking in North Asia.
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