High Demand From U.S. Boosts Oz Animation Biz

While Yoram Gross is unassailably Australia’s leading producer of animated films, he has plenty of company in the thriving animation industry. Thanks to high demand from major U.S. producers, business Down Under is booming.

Walt Disney TV Animation, a full-blown studio operation, opened in Sydney last year. Hanna-Barbera, whose long-running Oz operation was bought by Disney some years ago, contracts work from Mr. Big Cartoons, set up by a former H-B staffer.

Keeping up with the Asians

Cost effectiveness has always been a factor. But these days, when Asian operations are more competitive, it’s the quality control of Aussie material and being able to work in the same language that have seen the country maintain its lucrative foothold in the Yank majors’ production process.

Meanwhile, the Sydney-headquartered Southern Star Group owns a Los Angeles subsid that directly supplies the U.S. tv webs.

The indie sector, however, remains stunted by lack of domestic exposure. Oz nets usually don’t buy local animation, particularly in the current uncertain climate. The one exception is YGFS, which has gained additional interest via theatrical and video exposure, in addition to ongoing foreign sales.

Nevertheless, there are two major made-for-tv animated projects in the works, in addition to YGFS’ plans for a “Blinky Bill” spinoff. One project is a 26-parter, “Dinky-Dis,” from Queensland-based Motion Picture Management, which financed the series last year via 10BA tax writeoffs and a presale from Belgian group Media Development.

The other is another 26-parter, “Lift Off,” from the Australian Children’s TV Foundation, which the Australian Film Finance Corp. has agreed to invest in. The ACTF, a government authority, remains the largest commissioner of local animation.

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