Starz Animation Toronto Sold to Canadian Investor Group

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A Canadian investor group has purchased a majority interest in Starz Animation Toronto, which most recently produced the animation for Gnomeo & Juliet.

The group is lead by media and marketing executive J. Thomas Murray and executive producer Steven B. Hecht. The group plans to support all of the current productions and business development at the studio and will go continue to leverage the studio’s expertise in CG animation for features, television, and high-end visual effects.

“Canadian control provides Starz Animation with two significant benefits,” said Hecht. “First, on the service side, it will be more cost competitive by taking full advantage of the significant grants, labor tax credits and subsidy opportunities available in Canada. Second, it will allow the studio to expand into development and production, on an ownership basis, of intellectual property, independently and / or together with international co-production partners.”

Starz will retain an equity stake in the company and will continue to support it. Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said it agreed to the deal because Starz’s current strategy is to produce live-action television content.

“We are very proud of the work that the Starz Animation Toronto team has created over the last few years, work that stands up to anything coming from the major studios,” Albrecht said. ”As a minority partner, we remain committed to the growth of the company. Starz is turning its primary focus more toward globally appealing live action TV programming and we are confident that the best way for the animation studio to continue its growth is to go forward under Canadian majority ownership.”

Starz Animation Toronto’s credits include visual effects for the Starz series Camelot, animation for Focus Features’ 9, the upcoming Hoodwinked Too!: Hood Vs. Evil for Kanbar Entertainment and the Weinstein Co., and the TV holiday special, Yes, Virginia, for Macy’s, the Ebeling Group and JWT.

In production projects include animation and VFX work on Robosapien: Rebooted, a live-action family feature from Avi Arad Productions, and Dolphin Tale, a fall 2011 release from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers, starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.