Puppet shop eyes animation studio project

BEIJING — The Jim Henson Co. is investigating the idea of setting up an animation studio in the emerging media hub of Tianjin, China.

The puppet shop signed a memo of understanding on the joint venture with Nine Eyes Stone Animation Prods. during the first Intl. Comic and Animation Convention (ICAC) in Beijing, which wrapped on Sunday. Other partners on the project include Tianjin Dream Land Animation Creative and Tianjin Hi-Tech Investment Guarantee.

Henson also signed a memo of understanding with Beijing’s Time Horizon Intl. Culture Co. to develop and produce a film and TV series based on the Chinese fable of Snow Mountain.

“It is a story that they are looking to The Jim Henson Co. to help them bring to the rest of the world,” a Henson spokesperson said. “Definitive terms of the agreement are being negotiated.”

Henson was at ICAC to promote its animated “Sid the Science Kid” movie, its collaboration with Nine Eyes Stone and Shanghai Animation Film Studios.

“They organizers did a good job at putting the convention up and running at short notice,” said CEO Lisa Henson. “It was a fun challenge for us to participate on 60 days notice. We’re small, we’re nimble, it’s easier for us to move. China is a big growth area for us and this is a really exciting time for us. There are animation companies and studios springing up,” she told Variety.

With so much focus on boosting the domestic toon biz to stave off stiff competish from overseas fare, it was only a matter of time before China weighed in with its own animation confab.

Local animation is becoming more popular. While the state-sponsored sector has tended to lead, commercial toon shingles are starting to make an impression following a major infusion of government coin.

ICAC hosted more than 30 comic publishers and about 150 toon houses from the U.S., Japan, France and South Korea, introducing over 20 animated movies, 50 video works and more than 3,000 comic-related products during its 10-day run.

Event was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and other authorities.

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