Ontario boosting Starz Animation

Aim is to create and retain local jobs

TORONTO -- The Ontario provincial government said Tuesday that it will pour CAN$23 million ($20.5 million) into the Starz Animation Toronto 3-D cartoon studio over the next five years to create and retain local high-tech jobs.

As part of its agreement with the Ontario government, Starz Animation Toronto, which opened in 2007 as a division of Burbank-based Starz Media, is to invest another CAN$130 million ($116 million) in the Toronto animation studio, also over five years.

The first project from the expanded 3-D animation facility is the Miramax Films animated feature "Gnomeo & Juliet," a spoof on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," to be produced by Elton John's production shingle, Rocket Pictures. The animated film will feature lovestruck computer-generated garden gnomes and music and lyrics by John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.

John and Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty were on hand at Starz Animation Studio in Toronto to make the announcement.

The cash injection from the province is the latest government investment in local studio work.

The city of Toronto in April acquired a 20% stake in the Toronto's Filmport as part of an ownership restructuring that will see Britain's Pinewood Studios Group manage the film studio.

And Disney/Pixar said this month that it will open a new animation studio in Vancouver in the fall with the help of generous tax credits and other financial inducements from the British Columbia provincial government.