Canadian funds to expand animation studio

TORONTO — Starz Media’s Starz Animation Toronto, one of Canada’s largest toon studios, has received a C$23 million ($20.6 million) boost from the provincial government’s Next Generation of Jobs Fund, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Tuesday.

Elton John and his Toronto-born partner David Furnish were on hand to tubthump the studio, which is creating characters for CG musical “Gnomeo and Juliet,” produced by their Rocket Pictures and Miramax.

James McAvoy and Emily Blunt voice the star-crossed garden gnomes, with Kelly Asbury helming and John and his regular lyricist Bernie Taupin penning the tunes.

The government bucks are earmarked to create jobs and expand the studio, which is also working on Tim Burton-produced “9,” set for release Sept. 9 from Universal and Focus Features. Starz now employs 220 people.

Starz Animation Toronto is best known for the bestselling “VeggieTales” DVD releases.

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