GDH to launch content fund

Japanese animation house GDH plans to launch a $43 million content fund with the Japan office of Goldman Sachs.

GDH will issue share warrants to Jupiter Investment, a local Goldman Sachs affiliate. Goldman Sachs will in turn consider investing in a content fund to be launched by GDH Capital, a GDH group company, and GDH.

The fund will supply production financing for animation content in a wide range of media, from TV series and direct-to-video films to features and online games, targeted at international audiences.

Unlike other Japanese animation majors that rely on production committees to finance feature films, GDH is using U.S.-style investment structures, including special purpose corporations and completion bonds.

Formerly Gonzo Digimation Holding, GDH was formed in 2002 as a holding company from the merger of the Gonzo and Digimation animation houses. One of the company’s largest local partners is Fuji TV, which acquired a 7.61% stake for $3 million in May 2004.

GDH’s biggest recent project with Fuji is 3-D toon “Brave Story,” based on the bestselling fantasy novel by Miyuki Miyabe. It’s set for a July domestic release by Warner Bros. Japan.

GDH has announced plans to produce its first live-action feature, “Long Armed Monkeys.” The buddy movie will be directed by Taikan Suga and star Shun Shioya (“Pacchigi!”). GDH’s live-action division Gonzo Revolution will produce, with release slated for 2007. Production partners include Hakuhodo DY Media Partners and Media Factory.

The company also is producing an animated version of “Witchblade,” a popular U.S. action-adventure comic about a magical weapon that chooses certain warrior women to wield it. GDH will switch the setting to Tokyo in the near future and make the heroine Japanese. The series starts airing April 6 on Japanese TV.

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