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LONDON — U.K. f/x house Framestore has launched a film production arm in partnership with former DreamWorks exec David Lipman.

Framestore Feature Animation has already started work on its first big-budget project, Sylvain Chomet’s “The Tale of Despereaux” for Universal.

The pic is adapted from the children’s book by American author Kate DiCamillo. Producers are Allison Thomas and Gary Ross, whose shared credits include “Seabiscuit” and “Pleasantville.”

Lipman, who joins as managing partner of Framestore’s feature division, served eight years at DreamWorks Animation, first as co-head of production then as co-exec producer on “Shrek” and producer of “Shrek 2.”

He will divide his time between Los Angeles and Framestore’s London HQ.

“The creation of a new film studio in London’s Soho is a real cause for celebration in the U.K.’s film and cultural community,” said William Sargent, co-CEO of Framestore. “We have long wanted and planned to take this next step in our creative ambitions.”

Sargent said FFA aimed to produce movies for Hollywood studios, rather than making indie pics for lower budgets. It will partner on existing studio projects, such as “Tale of Despereaux,” and develop its own scripts.

The venture was welcomed by British Film Commissioner Steve Norris. Framestore, which employs around 500 people, will hire 200 more staffers as “Tale of Despereaux” gears up through 2007.

The company, which is owned by its management and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has recently done extensive special effects and computer animation work on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Nanny McPhee,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Constant Gardener.”

On the TV side, it worked on the BBC’s blockbuster doc “Walking With Dinosaurs.”