When StarCars completes its scheduled race to the box office in summer 2001, it will introduce a new genre of film and a brand-new co-production partnership between the U.S. and Korea.
StarCars, an apocalyptic tale about a deadly race set in the distant future, is a US$10-million to US$12-million project blending Asian anime with American sci-fi CGI to create a film genre dubbed ‘American anime.’ It’s an original story developed internally by Hyper Image, a 1994 Glendale, California-based animation studio start-up best known for its work on Columbia Tri-Star Television’s Roughnecks: Starship Troopers. ‘Our idea was to do a movie based on the cinematic cut scenes from video games, which are the introductions that people really respond to,’ says Hyper Image president Rob Smiley. ‘We’re going after the gamer market-15 through 25, maybe younger.’
In order to produce the film cost-effectively over a 14-month span, Hyper Image partnered up with prodco Ameko, which was spun off a South Korean trading company in 1997, and initially focused on merchandising and distribution before expanding into production.
‘We’re trying to create a CGI relationship with Korea, and although we’re doing all of the development, we’re sharing the animation workload with Ameko,’ says Hyper Image VP of production Andy Boron. ‘We’re simply helping them to build a studio and creating a pipeline.’
StarCars began production on March 20, 2000, directed by Hyper Image’s Smiley, who is co-producing the film with Robby Scharf. Co-executive producers are Stephen Waterman (executive producer of Stuart Little) and Dong Chung, COO of Ameko. Part of the financing for StarCars will be provided by Ameko and part by the distributors, which are yet to be signed. The film is slated for an initial release in the U.S., Asia and Europe.
Eventually, both companies would like to see the creation of a virtual studio. ‘Because everything is computer-generated, we’ll be using the Internet to establish information, transport and share it at the touch of a button,’ Boron explains.
Most of Ameko’s other projects are also co-productions with North American partners. Canada’s Pan Pacific Productions is Ameko’s partner for the 26-part 3-D series Micronauts, and Ameko is partnering with DIC Entertainment for Super Duper Sumos, created by L.A. producer Kevin O’Donnel. Sumos (40 x 30 minutes) is expected to begin airing on South Korean TV at the end of the year.