Animation unit to produce elephant film

Imagi Intl., the Hong Kong- and Los Angeles-based animation group behind last year’s “TMNT,” is reviving DreamWorks’ India-set elephant tale “Tusker.”

“Tusker” will be produced by Brooke Breton (“Avatar,”) from a screenplay by Ted Tally (“Silence of the Lambs”). Pic is tentatively set for delivery in the first half of 2011.

But the company also disclosed Friday that it had hit a bump in its plans to raise new coin for production. Imagi has extended by a month the deadline for completion of a $40 million first tranche subscription by Singapore-based private equity group Oxley Spring Media. In a statement Imagi said the extension was “to allow more time to arrange for funding by the subscriber.”

Original deal terms, which gave former banker Mark Pawley and Oxley 18% of Imagi shares, foresaw completion by end of July (Daily Variety, July 6). Now Imagi is giving them until end of August to deliver coin, though the agreement also allows Oxley further extensions to the end of October.

Although Oxley described the reason for its investment as “the expansion of capital for new projects,” Imagi CEO Doug Glen said the financing delay had “no impact” on the greenlighting of movies.

“Tusker” was brought to Imagi by Cecil Kramer former co-head of production at DreamWorks Animation, whom Imagi hired last year and who Glen said had “mothered the project for six years.”

Pic was originally announced in 2000 and was to have been the third DreamWorks Animation pic, skedded for December 2002. In August 2001 it was postponed to make way for “Shrek 2″ and “Madagascar,” and officially canceled in 2005.

Imagi describes “Tusker” as “the saga of a young elephant’s journey of discovery, heroism and redemption, which intersects with and renews the life of a reclusive old elephant who has always been an outsider.” Company says that it will announce a helmer and other talent roles in the coming weeks.

Company also said it is in advanced development of “Cat Tale,” a tale about a cat raised as a dog. Galen Walker is producing from a script by Aaron Mendelsohn.

Imagi has built a full-scale animation production pipeline in Hong Kong capable of delivering a theatrical-quality CGI movie every eight months. Having delivered “TMNT” in March 2007, so far it has greenlit only two other movies; the David Bowers-helmed “Astro Boy,” set for delivery in the second half of 2009, and “Gatchaman,” skedded for the second half of 2010.

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