Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's going on at Imagi?

It's unfortunate, but it's my duty to post the facts as I come to know them, and so I must acknowledge the turmoil happening at Imagi, the animation studio responsible for the Astro Boy movie.

Previously I reported on the closure of Imagi's US office based in Los Angeles, but the cuts don't stop there. Last week, over 300 employees from their Hong Kong base of operations were laid off. There wasn't much information out there at the time, so I held off on reporting it until I could find out more. From what I have gathered, the lay offs were intended to be temporary while the company sought new investments, but the company faced a critical decision at that time whether to keep operations going or to liquidate.

Now it is confirmed that liquidation is exactly what will be going on. Imagi's in-house animation production (known as Imagi Production Limited) is shutting down and their equipment will be sold off.

To clarify, a lot of headlines reporting this news are saying that Imagi is shutting down, but this is not entirely the case. It's is Imagi's animation production that is shutting down, not the entire company. Imagi is still in business and their current plan is to outsource their film production to other animation houses in China.

I will be trying to make sense out of all of this, and what it means to the fans, in a future post here on ABW. In the meantime, a much more detailed official announcement can be found here (.pdf file), and I recommend that everyone read that if you want to know what is really going on. You can also read coverage from Anime News Network, as well as the story from The Associated Press, an archived copy of which I have saved for posterity and can be accessed by clicking the link below.

HK studio behind 'TMNT,' 'Astro Boy' shuts down


HONG KONG — The Hong Kong studio behind "TMNT" and "Astro Boy" has shut down as its parent company tries to recover from losses.

Imagi International Holdings Ltd. said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that it stopped funding its computer animation studio on Feb. 5 "to further preserve its limited liquidity and shareholder value." The studio will ask a Hong Kong court to name liquidators, the statement issued Monday said.

But Imagi said it will continue to develop movie ideas and outsource the actual animation work to mainland China and other countries, where costs are lower.

Starting out as a Christmas tree manufacturer, the Hong Kong company went into computer animation in 2000 and was touted as a successful transition to a high-tech economy. In 2007, Imagi released its first feature movie, "TMNT." The English-language production based on the characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon series in the 1980s earned a solid $95.6 million worldwide, according to the box office tracking Web site Box Office Mojo.

But Imagi's second release, "Astro Boy," fared poorly last year. Despite hiring an all-star cast including Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson to voice the characters from the Japanese comic book series by the same name, the film only made $23 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

In its latest financial results, Imagi said it recorded a net loss of 726 million Hong Kong dollars ($93.4 million) for the six months that ended on Sept. 30, 2009 — just before "Astro Boy" was released in October.

Imagi also owes some HK$36 million ($4.6 million) in back pay to the 350 employees it laid off, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing labor organizers working with the former employees.

A woman handling press calls for Imagi said the company had no comment pending a further statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. She declined to give her name.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Here's the part that interests me:
"The objective of the above actions is to reduce the Group’s fixed cost base of the Company.
The Company’s business model will evolve and following the cessation of the in-house digital
animated film production activities of IPL, the Group will focus on various higher valueadded
business activities, include:
– creation of IPs and creation of characters, and development of the storyline and creation
of movie storyboards,
– the continued marketing and commercial exploitation of completed film projects
including completed film projects such as the Astro Boy feature film"

It sounds to me like the company is standing behind the Astro Boy movie, which is good news. Hopefully it realizes what a great little movie it is, and is taking the advertising and promotion aspects of it upon itself, since Summit did such a crappy job. If so, go Imagi! Astro Boy deserves all the support it can get.

Ninjatron said...

Yes, there is still money left to be made with Astro, so they are definatley not abandoning the film. I am sure that in time it will turn a profit for them.


felix ip said...

Hi Ninjatron, thank you very much for your fully support of imagi and Astroboy, we are always encouraged by you...
Physically, seems imagi still survives. Technically yes. They just shut down the Imagi Production Ltd. and the mother company Imagi International Holding Ltd. is still there like what they said in press release. However, there are only very few people left in imagi, and they are all finance, and account people. All the core creative and production people gone. (I said all the real imagian are gone). The management left was new, and they didn't involve any previous project like TMNT, actually they know nothing about animation and they don't like animation, they are just business man without passion. So I don't think they will produce a movie like TMNT or AstroBoy again in the future. I left imagi because I can't take how they ruin the Gatchaman project...

Anonymous said...

Felix, I really enjoyed Astro Boy. I'm an animation enthusisast, and my fave movies are usually by Pixar. But your Astro Boy is by far my favorite animated movie this year, and is on my list of favorite animated movies ever. You and your crew did a splendid job; I don't see how anyone else could have done better. I wish the movie had gotten the attention and box office it deserved. I lurk at Twitter and other social internet sites and whenever the movie comes up, nearly everyone mentions how much they loved it and how surprised they are at how good it is. I consider Astro Boy to be an underrated gem like Iron Giant. Thanks for the laughter, the tears and the place in my heart that Astro Boy will hold forever.

Manetoys said...

Aww, this sucks. I wonder what this means for their Gatchaman movie

Francesco said...

I ignore all the details, but for what I heard and saw, this company never had the passion to comply a good job in making an animated movie.
In my opinion they failed to deliver the real spirit of Tetsuwan Atom.
And this bad news about shutting down the studio, that left lots of people suddenly unemployed, sounds just like a confirmation to what I always thought about them. I am very disappointed...