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From Snells Beach to Hollywood

From Snells Beach to Hollywood

26 October 2005 -- The staff at computer animation studio Huhu have had little time to enjoy their Snells Beach location in Auckland right now as they have begun production on one of their biggest animation projects yet - The Ten Commandments, based on the 1950's epic, by Charlton Heston.

The contract, worth over NZ$5.6m was signed after seven months of negotiations with Hollywood producer Promenade Pictures, is significant because it includes another five pictures to follow over the next three to four years, two of which are already underway.

Company director Trevor Yaxley says he's delighted with the deal and that this is a time of rich opportunity for Huhu and other animation studios. "We are very competitive worldwide in terms of cost and we are also small enough to move and respond quickly.

Generally, Huhu can get a project off the ground six months after negotiating a contract, while the norm for off-shore companies is closer to 12 months." Huhu's partner studio in Singapore, (and Huhu's other software and animation partner company, also in Singapore) will be working on The Ten Commandments for its DVD release in October next year.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) provided business mentoring, research and funding for Huhu some of which enabled specialist training for its team of animators. Mr Yaxley says the partnership with NZTE was invaluable proving that a little time, money and man-power can make a very big difference. "With NZTE help, the value of contracts we've secured is worth around NZ$9 million. We simply did not have the time to do the things they did for us. Most recently they facilitated a business trip to Taiwan which has borne fruit already - their advice and support has been invaluable."

Mr Yaxley says that it is extremely important for studios to get ongoing financing arranged and a world class distributor as over half of animation world DVD sales are done in the States. "We've developed a pipeline which brings together key collaborators who are providing finance, production, distribution and merchandising. We aim to strengthen this business model as a way into opening up further opportunities."

Mr Yaxley says there is huge worldwide demand for the type of family values content that Huhu's projects specialise in. He says that Huhu's credibility was built on the back of their children's 3D cartoon animation series, 'Buzz and Poppy', which now broadcasts to 100 million children each week in 50 countries.

Huhu was established in 2000 and while there are several other projects currently in varying stages of production, he says the last few months have been particularly busy with a number of key contracts coming together. "It's gone from being very traumatic some months ago to very exciting."

Mr Yaxley says people think the animation industry is very large but it is actually very small, with only 20 or 30 distributors controlling the world market.

"Word spreads very quickly in this industry, so much so that often your reputation can be much bigger than actual size of the company. One of the most important things for a company like ours is just having the confidence.

Not just in the animation industry, but I think generally New Zealanders don't feel they are good enough. If you stand up and be proud of your product or service, present yourself in an honest and true way - your credibility and forthrightness draws people in naturally."


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