China and the U.K. are coming together to create Lanzu, a new animation company that will unlock £72 million ($92 million) of production. London-based Blue Zoo, which makes Nickelodeon series “Digby Dragon,” will join forces with China U.K. Animation Company (C.U. Animation) to create the new entity.
C.U. Animation is a subsidiary of Zhong Ze Culture Investment Group, which backs the China U.K. Film Fund. Lanzu will receive an initial investment of £30 million and make an animated feature and at least five other projects over the next five years. There will be additional money for co-production and an estimated £72 million of production in all as a result of the agreement.
The as-yet-unspecified first project is to go into production this year. Projects will be co-owned by C.U. Animation and Blue Zoo. Lanzu will in turn become a minority owner in Blue Zoo, which was founded by Oli Hyatt, who as the then head of lobby group Animation U.K. was instrumental in winning the U.K. tax break for animation.
“Lanzu will enable us to jointly hold and develop our IP whilst generating growth in the Eastern and global markets,” Hyatt said. “In partnering with Blue Zoo, C.U. Animation has invested in the talented staff we nurture, our growing business and our dreams for the future.”
Zhong Ze Culture Investment was set up in 2014 as part of an outreach initiative by the Chinese authorities. Gina Fegan, director of culture for C.U. Animation and Zhong Ze Culture Investment, said: “Blue Zoo stands out in terms of creativity, company ethos and commercial acumen. We are delighted to partner with them to enable and accelerate IP development and content production, supporting both Lanzu and Blue Zoo’s international growth.”
“This is great news for the U.K. animation industry,” added Mark Garnier, a trade minister in the British government. “The Department for International Trade will continue to provide support and advice to businesses like Blue Zoo. We want to attract inward investment to help them and others to achieve their growth ambitions and reach new markets.”