After a last-ditch effort to stop the picture being produced in another country, Paramount’s live action children’s film “Dora The Explorer” is to be filmed in Queensland, Australia. The move highlights the intense competition for so-called runaway productions, and the efforts being made to further increase Australia’s financial incentives for film production.
The decision was announced on Sunday by the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk. “Yes, we did it. ‘Dora’ comes to Queensland,” Palaszczuk said. That is a reference to how each episode of the Nickelodeon animated series ends with the song “we Did It.” The new film sees Dora as a teenager navigating the world with her cousin Diego.
“Dora” will be filmed on the Gold Coast’s Sound Stage 9 at Village Roadshow Studios. It is to be produced through the Paramount Players division of Paramount Pictures and will be directed by James Bobin (“The Muppets,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass”).
But it was nearly another story. On Friday, Australia’s federal government refused to give the film an additional tax break, beyond the country’s 16.5% production offset scheme. That appeared to mean that the film would not be shot in Australia. Palaszczuk accused federal treasurer Scott Morrison of bias towards other states and of costing jobs in her state.
Instead, after asking Paramount for a further 48 hours to negotiate, Queensland agreed to increase the incentive it will pay to the production. Palaszczuk declined to detail the amount, though local media sources have put the figure at over $6.17 million (A$8 million).
Australia has several features that attract footloose or runaway productions, including well-developed infrastructure, English-language crews and varied locations. But, even after the weakening of the Australian dollar at the end of the commodities boom, it also has high costs.
In recent weeks there have been cries of alarm that the flow of incoming movie shoots had all but dried up. And both Screen Queensland and Ausfilm have lobbied government to raise the incentive for all major films from 16.5% to 30%.
So far, the federal funding has been on a case-by-case basis. Recent Hollywood films that have been granted additional, discretionary funding from the federal government, and which then shot in Australia, include “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Aquaman.”
“The decision to provide competitive incentives to lure the production came down to a single criteria: creating jobs,” said Palaszczuk. “Over the past three years my government has committed $23.1 million (A$30 million) attracting movie makers to Queensland through our Production Attraction Fund, gaining more than $270 million (A$350 million) of direct expenditure in our state.”