It was just last week that The Weinstein Co. announced a partnership to finance and distribute Hong Kong action movies. The Brothers W have now decided to produce and distribute animated feature films. According to their latest press release, they will be doing so in partnership with The Gotham Group, a management firm specializing in the animation industry, and local government officials in South Korea.

At first glance, this seems like a very odd venture for the Weinsteins. Looking over their film catalog before the formation of The Weinstein Co. (starting here), I couldn't find a single animated film. * Their recent North American distribution of Arthur and the Invisibles, a mixture of animation and live-action, resulted in very limited returns and raised the ire of director Luc Besson, who decried the changes they made to "pretend the film was American" (not a new charge against them). Harvey Weinstein responded by calling Besson a "has-been."

With already-established big studio players dominating animation, what can the Weinsteins bring to the table? All the projects are to be based on work by The Gotham Group's animation clients. The management firm/production company already has several live-action feature projects set up at a variety of studios (The Spiderwick Chronicles,Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper,The Devil You Know), as well as a three-year deal to make a total of 19 direct-to-DVD animated movies for Lionsgate and IDT Entertainment. What's left to produce? The company boasts of 250 creative clients, plus relationships with publishing houses and comics producers. We'll have to see what exactly they can offer.

The animation will be produced principally in the Chungcheongnam-do Province of South Korea, with the local government "providing support in certain Asian markets." Who's going to run things? We don't know yet. Maybe Harvey Weinstein himself will display a new-found interest in animation. Time will tell if the Weinsteins can make their own mark in a very crowded field.

* Thanks to commenter Philpott for pointing out that Princess Mononoke was released by Miramax. Further research also reveals that The Weinstein Co. has released the animated features Hoodwinked and Doogal.--PM
categories Movies, Cinematical