Disney, Yash Raj in 50:50 venture for animated films; ‘Roadside Romeo’ first project

MUMBAI: Walt Disney Studios has entered into an exclusive deal with Yash Raj Films to co-produce a series of animated feature films in India. The alliance is set to kick off with its first production, a computer-animated movie titled Roadside Romeo, slated for release in the summer of 2008.

Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney will contribute equally to the funding of the movies. “This is the first time that we are partnering for animated feature films outside the US. We see India as a key strategic market for us. We decided to go with Yash Raj because they are the leading film production house and have a local understanding of the culture, music and story,” said Walt Disney Motion Pictures president Mark Zoradi while addressing the press in Mumbai.

With this agreement, India’s top Bollywood production house Yash Raj Films (YRF) will foray into animation. “When YRF decided to venture into the animation space, we felt that an alliance with Disney Studios, the leader in animation, represented the coming together of not just two organizations, but the teaming up of like-minded individuals committed to creating excellent product,” said YRF founder-promoter Yash Chopra.

The partnership kicks off with animated content but Zoradi stated that it could extend to other alliances. He, however, clarified that the current agreement was restricted to animation. “We are presently looking at releasing one animated movie per year,” he added, while refusing to divulge the financial details of the venture.

Roadside Romeo, the journey of a “rich cool spoilt brat of a dog” stranded in the city of Mumbai, is written and directed by Jugal Hansraj and Bollywood stars including Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Javed Jaffery will lend their voices to the main characters of the film.

The animation work in the film will be executed by Tata Elxsi. “The film will have the typical characteristics of a Yash Raj Film with songs, dance, drama, comedy and romance,” says Chopra.

Roadside Romeo will be dubbed in local Indian languages. The weight and resources of the two companies will be pooled into the creative, technical and financial aspects of the film as well as the marketing and distribution in India and abroad.

“Animation is a new and rapidly expanding area in India, and the collaboration between Disney and YRF Studios will bring the very best in story-telling and cutting edge technology together as we make wonderful films that appeal to the entire family,” said The Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, making his first visit to India.

Each film under this alliance will be creatively overseen by Aditya Chopra. “We produce six live action movies a year. We are now foraying into animation as we see the market growing from $40 million to three times its size by 2011,” said Yash Raj Films chief executive Sanjeev Kohli.

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