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Friday, 8 January 2010

Charlie Chaplin to be animated star

Charlie Chaplin is to be brought to life as a cartoon character via an Indian-French collaboration that will see the legendary British comedian featured in an animated television series.

DQ Entertainment, an animation and special effects firm based in the southern city of Hyderabad, is to reproduce the entertainer`s slapstick in 3D and computer-generated images for television.

The eight-million-euro (11.5-million-dollar) project is a joint venture with French media groups Method Animation and MK2, the companies said at a news conference in Mumbai Friday.

A total of 104 six-minute episodes without dialogue will be made, inspired by sketches and gags culled from 70 short films made by Chaplin involving his iconic bowler-hatted vagabond character with a toothbrush moustache and cane.

But there will also be original content, Method president Aton Soumache told reporters.

DQ chairman and chief executive Tapaas Chakravarti said the project, for which the firms have been given approval from the Chaplin estate, would be "better than Mr Bean" -- British comic Rowan Atkinson`s accident-prone buffoon.

"(Mr Bean) has delighted everyone for a number of years... It`s very, very clear that to tickle people`s funny bones you don`t really have to talk all the time and silent movies can work. Chaplin did it for so many years," he added.

"We are absolutely sure that we have to get Chaplin back for 21st century kids and parents."

The animated shorts -- aimed at children aged six and above -- are set to hit screens from early next year, Chakravarti said.

Soumache said pre-sale interest from international broadcasters had been high and that funding was "almost done".

Interested parties include companies in France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Scandinavia, India and Australia, he said, without revealing names.

"We`re raising from Europe almost 60 to 70 percent of the budget. We`re raising the rest on video and a few other international deals," he added.

Revenue from the first cycle is expected to be in the region of 45 million dollars, he said.

London-born Chaplin, who died in 1977, is recognised as one of the most influential and recognisable comic actors and directors of the silent film period.

His most famous works include "The Kid" (1921), "The Gold Rush" (1925), "City Lights" (1931), "Modern Times" (1936) and "The Great Dictator" (1940).

Soumache said last November that their baggy-trousered Chaplin character "won`t be a realistic portrayal but more like a puppet in an offbeat universe".

"We`ll put him in modern situations but at the same keeping his poetic, child-like view of the world with a retro feel," he added.

DQ Entertainment has worked with a number of high-profile studios and production houses, including Nickelodeon, The Disney Group, Cartoon Network and a host of international broadcasters.

The Indian firm has a 20 percent stake in Method and has previously worked with them on computer-animated adaptations of French children`s classics "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince) and "Le Petit Nicolas" (Little Nicolas).

MK2 is one of France`s biggest independent film companies and owns the international rights to the Chaplin films, which it has restored and reissued on DVD and in cinemas.

Animation and special effects have become a growth market in India, as the domestic film industry, including Bollywood, turns to more modern production methods.

The trend has led to the creation of a number of specialist companies, who are being increasingly used by Hollywood and other foreign studios because of their lower costs.

India`s animation and special effects industry is expected to be worth 23.3 billion rupees this year and is expected to grow to 39.4 billion rupees by 2013, consultants KPMG said last year.

The animation sector is projected to grow by 21.9 percent in the five years to 2013, it added in a report on the media and entertainment industry for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry

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