Lego toys first in line for Tinseltown Toons

Larry Kasanoff is getting into the direct-to-DVD animation biz, partnering with private equity group Qualia Capital to launch Tinseltown Toons, whose first releases will revolve around the Lego toy brand.

Kasanoff’s Threshold Animation Studios will handle production duties on the pics that Universal Studios Home Entertainment will distribute.

Deal with Lego gives Tinseltown the rights to produce pics based on the toymaker’s characters and settings from various products that include its City, Mars Mission, Castle and Creator playsets.

It also includes the popular Bionicle franchise, which already has been given the feature treatment via animated pics that were distribbed by Miramax Films.

Lego’s been increasingly moving to turn its toys into other forms of family-friendly entertainment, developing licensed properties like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Indiana Jones into Lego-branded vidgames, for example.

Jill Wilfert, Lego VP of global partnership and alliance management, said Kasanoff’s company is an innovator “within the field of computer-generated animation.”

Meanwhile, Universal’s homevid group is eyeing Lego as another way to beef up its family fare. Division pumped out “The Land Before Time” toon franchise and, more recently, live-action pics like “Bring It On: All or Nothing,” a DVD sequel to the cheerleading pic “Bring It On.”

Tinseltown gives Qualia a way to break into the “robust” family-targeted CG movie biz, according to Qualia Capital’s managing director Patrick Gunn, who is overseeing Tinseltown’s daily operations. Threshold Animation prexy Joshua Wexler and Kristy Scanlan oversee the creative end.

Tinseltown plans to produce two to three pics per year. In addition to Lego, company is looking to license other children’s and family properties.

Qualia Capital, run by former Artisan CEO Amir Malin and prexy-chief operating officer Ken Schapiro, owns a majority stake in Tinseltown and is funding the shop through its affiliated fund Qualia Canyon Capital Partners, a joint venture of Qualia and Canyon Capital Advisors. Other investors include D.B. Zwirn & Co. and Quadrant Management.

Threshold is currently working on “Foodfight!,” a $50 million, CG-animated pic that Lionsgate will distribute sometime next year.

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