IDT animated over 20th

Studio pacts with telco subsid to release CGI toons

IDT Entertainment is looking to play Pixar to Fox’s Disney.

Subsid of British telco IDT has signed a deal to distribute its CGI animated pics through Fox via a two-year pact. IDT brass say they hope to release four films, budgeted at $30 million-$40 million, over the course of the deal.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but it’s expected that IDT will fully fund the CG productions. Then, as with some similar deals (such as DreamWorks Animation’s distrib pact with DreamWorks Pictures), Fox will earn back its distribution and marketing costs and take a flat percentage of theatrical and homevid revenue.

Such pacts usually include a distribution fee between 8% and 15%.

Fox will handle theatrical and homevid distrib domestically, with the option to pick up some foreign markets.

First pic under the deal, targeted for release next year, is “Yankee Irving,” which Christopher Reeve was directing before he passed away. Pic is in production in Toronto, where IDT bought f/x company DKP Effects last year and turned it into a CG animation studio.

IDT is also developing a second pic that it hopes to produce via subsid Mainframe Entertainment in Vancouver.

Other films under the deal could be produced by IDT, partner companies or animation studios in which it has an equity stake, such as John Williams’ Vanguard label, which is releasing CG pic “Valiant” through Disney this August.

“The major reason to partner with a studio is for their distribution system, but even more importantly, we hope to take advantage of Fox’s expertise on issues like release dates and marketing,” explained IDT Entertainment topper Morris Berger.

Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos said he was “impressed with IDT’s commitment to building a strong production team” and noted that “Fox Home Entertainment had already established a relationship with IDT’s Anchor Bay Entertainment, and we are pleased to build on that.”

Toons are being made under the supervision of recently tapped IDT animation prexy Janet Healey, a DreamWorks and Disney vet.

Company’s sub-$50 million budgets and goal of making pics in under two years are both substantially below the norm of most CGI pics. Toons from Pixar and Fox’s own Blue Sky typically take three years or more to make and cost more than $100 million.

Deal gives Fox, which has been looking to up its output, an easy way to add several films to its slate in the next few years with guaranteed income and minimal effort. It also allows the studio to release more CGI toons, which have been reliably profitable, without putting more pressure on its Blue Sky subsid, which is producing a new pic every 18 months, including next year’s “Ice Age 2.”

Berger is hoping to extend the deal if companies have a positive experience on their first four pics. IDT talked only to Fox due to the studio’s connection to its Anchor Bay homevid division, as well as a relationship between IDT chairman Howard Jonas and News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch.

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