South Korea to Boost Funding for Animation Projects

Homegrown animated release "The Nut Job," featuring the voices of Liam Neeson and Katherine Heigle, will open on 3,000 screens in North America in January and also got government support.

SEOUL – The South Korean culture ministry has promised to increase its budget next year for the animation and character licensing industry, in particular international endeavors. The news comes in time for locally funded 3D animation The Nut Job's U.S. release in January.

In 2013, the Korean government allocated $16.35 million (17.2 billion won) for funding animations/character licensing businesses, and it will boost the amount to $21.3 million (22.4 billion won) in 2014.

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"The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will strengthen support for animations and provide multilateral funding channels to help develop it into one of Korea's representative industries,” said a statement released by the ministry. The ministry said it will particularly focus on funding family animations in order to reach out to a wider demographic range, as the local industry is currently dominated by animations for toddlers. It also plans to actively support projects targeting new international markets, such as The Nut Job.

The Nut Job, a co-production between Korea's Red Rover and Canada's ToonBox Entertainment, is set to be released Jan. 17 across some 3,000 North American theaters via Open Road. It will be the largest distribution to date for a Korean movie. Warner Brothers will distribute the film in the U.K., while Weinstein will handle other territories.

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The $45 million project was financed by a Korean government investment fund ($8.5 million), the state-backed organization Korea Creative Content Agency ($600,000), and in a rare instance for an audiovisual franchise here, by local banks -- about $7 million from Korea Exim Bank and $1 from Industrial Bank of Korea. Much anticipated for featuring hungry squirrels doing Psy's "Gangnam Style" horse dance, The Nut Job is slated to open in Korea on Jan. 29.

Korean President Park Geun-hye has shown enthusiastic support for the local film industry. She made appearances at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and the Korean film festival in London, and also met with Jeffrey Katzenberg to discuss possible collaborations between Korea and DreamWorks.