Illumination, Japan’s Fuji TV link up

TV network plans 'Despicable Me 2' tie-in

TOKYO — Hollywood toon house Illumination Entertainment and Fuji TV, one of Japan’s major networks, have announced a strategic partnership.

Fuji will blend Minion characters from Illumination’s hit toon “Despicable Me” with its logo in the opening credits of the fourth and last entry in its smash “Bayside Shakedown” cop thriller franchise, which bows in Japan on Sept. 7. The character will also appear on the logo in other Fuji pics.

The two companies are contemplating other collaborations, though Fuji production chief Chihiro Kameyama said they had no immediate co-production plans. “This is the first step to explore how we can develop a strong partnership,” he added.

Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri said, “When Kameyama-san and I began talking about a possible alliance, he was interested in how we can collaborate creatively and steadily build a partnership to our mutual benefit.”

Discussions have reportedly ranged from features based on Fuji toons and dramas, to personnel exchanges, character goods and worldwide sales of content.

Fuji is the leading maker of hit live-action pics among Japanese TV networks, with the “Bayside Shakedown” and “Umizaru” Coast Guard diver action-drama franchises regularly topping the domestic B.O.

But compared with rival Nippon Television Network, which produces Studio Ghibli’s megahit toons, including anime maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s output, Fuji lags behind in the feature toon category. The Illumination partnership may give it a much-needed boost.

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