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
By MIN LEE (AP)
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.