Inside Move: Fathom drawing its own course

Studio dives into toon biz as an indie

Pixar, PDI and Blue Sky all have studio deals as financial safe harbors while they craft pricey CG-animated films.

But Atlanta-based Fathom Studios is swimming against the tide as it mounts its “Delgo,” its first CG-based feature toon, independent of the big studios.

Pic is about a princess of one race and a youth of another in an impressively detailed fantasy world. Voice cast names include Val Kilmer, Louis Gossett Jr., Michael Clarke Duncan and Eric Idle.

For “Delgo’s” investor backing, CEO Mark Adler tapped business relationships he developed pioneering in interactive advertising.

He’s cagey about pic’s budget, saying it is “tens of millions of dollars, but not north of $80 million.”

“It’s not anything of the magnitude of the big studios, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap,” Adler says. “Independent does not mean inexpensive.”

Work began in 2000, and should wrap in fall 2004. By then, Fathom hopes to have a distributor.

In the meantime, to get the word out, the company uses exec road shows and a Web site.

The company also has been shopping merchandise rights, showing a collection of character models and other possible products.

But Adler acknowledges making an independent animated film isn’t the easiest project he’s ever taken on.

“There’s a reason we did things this way: We didn’t have a choice,” Adler says matter-of-factly.

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