Animal Logic chases down rebate

Nalbandian producing 'Ga'Hoole' in Sydney

SYDNEY — Animal Logic topper Zareh Nalbandian has done what George Miller couldn’t do — developed a U.S. property into a movie that is sufficiently Australian to make it eligible for the new federal 40% production offset.

Nalbandian is producing “The Guardians of Ga’Hoole” in Sydney for WB and Village Roadshow Pictures.

It will be the second studio-backed pic, after Baz Luhrmann’s Fox-funded “Australia,” to tap the Oz government’s generous 40% rebate announced last May.

“Ga’Hoole” is Nalbandian’s first producer credit. He was an EP of “Happy Feet,” which was made by Miller at Nalbandian’s effects facility Animal Logic.

The animated feature has been in production since January, with Zack Snyder at the helm, but was only confirmed this week following a decision by Oz funding agency the Film Finance Corp. to issue it a provisional certificate.

Certificates are issued to projects that meet criteria devised by the FFC and the Oz government, confirming a projects’ eligibility for the 40% rebate so long as producers live up to their part of the bargain.

A key to getting a provisional certificate is to meet a Significant Australian Content test.

The test covers a film’s subject matter, where it was made, the nationalities and places of residence of the producer, director and other key creative personnel, details of production expenditure and where it was developed.

Miller has so far failed to re-invent the DC Comics’ property “Justice League Mortal” as an Aussie pic, but the reasons for the FFC refusing it certification will be confidential unless Miller chooses to release them.

The veteran director has lashed out at the decision, declaring it narrowminded and nationalistic and saying it prevents Oz from being a genuine creative force internationally.

“Ga’Hoole,” on the other hand, has managed to badge itself as Aussie, despite being developed by WB since 2005 and helmed by Snyder.

Pic is based on the American series of children’s books by Kathryn Lasky and set in the make-believe “Forest of Tyto,” but will look like Tasmania and feature “unique Australian characters.”

“It’s going to be an eclectic mix of accents, Australian and international, and we expect the majority of the cast to be Australian voice actors,” Nalbandian says.

The pic is the first tangible outcome of Animal Logic’s development deal with Warner Bros., announced a year ago.

Nalbandian, majority owner of the privately held company he founded in 1991, has made no secret of his ambition to grow Animal Logic into an animation powerhouse in the image of studios like Pixar and DreamWorks.

The facility is renowned for creating digital effects for “Moulin Rouge” and “The Matrix” series, but “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” is the first film developed inhouse.

“The rebate made it possible to fast-track it, make it a bigger enterprise and make sure we can get a film out there to reach global audiences. And potentially it’s the first of several,” Nalbandian says.

Oz bizzers are keen to see the rebate used effectively but wary of it being abused by foreign filmmakers lest it become too popular and attract the ire of the coin-conscious new Oz government.

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