Studio and theme park plans unveiled

US animation company DreamWorks Animation SKG and its Chinese partners will set up a 20 billion yuan (HK$25.5 billion) theme park in Shanghai and produce Kung Fu Panda 3 in the city by 2016.

With initial investment of US$330 million, Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture between DreamWorks and three Shanghai government-backed investors - China Media Capital (CMC), Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment - aims to become a world-class animation studio. The US company will hold a 45 per cent share.

At a signing ceremony yesterday, the partners also announced plans to build a mega entertainment park on the riverfront area in the city's downtown Xuhui District, which is on the west bank of the Huangpu River. The total investment could top 20 billion yuan, making it one of the largest projects in China's cultural sector.

'We want to produce excellent original Chinese animation films,' said Li Ruigang,' chairman of CMC, who will also be the chief executive of Oriental DreamWorks. ' With the goal of improving 'soft power,' we want to produce top-class animation movies.'

Kung Fu Panda 3 will be the studio's first major film. The plan is to produce one to three movies each year from 2018.

DreamWorks' Shanghai project follows the success of its Kung Fu Panda franchise in China. Those two films commanded takings of 744 million yuan on the mainland.

The theme park, which is to be named Dream Centre, will become Shanghai's second gargantuan entertainment complex after Walt Disney's joint-venture amusement park in Pudong, on the east bank of the Huangpu River.

It will encompass the studio, a 'Kung Fu Panda pavilion', a central theatre area, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks, said the signing yesterday marked a historic milestone that presented tremendous and ever-growing opportunities for the company.

He denied that the Dream Centre would become a direct rival to Disney's theme park, which cost about 29 billion yuan.

It will be 'very different,' Katzenberg said, adding that the project would be a 'unique cultural entertainment media centre'.

The rising affluence of mainlanders has resulted in increasing demand for high-quality cultural products such as animated films.

According to Ent Group, an entertainment research service provider, the mainland's animation market was valued at 20.8 billion yuan in 2010 and the market would grow by 54 per cent from 2010 to 32 billion yuan this year.

Li said details of the Dream Centre, such as its ownership structure and financing were still in the works.

DreamWorks will help design the project and own a minority stake.

The partners envision building the park into a 'Chinese Broadway' as Shanghai's global profile grows.

A framework agreement for Oriental DreamWorks was signed in February when Vice-President Xi Jinping visited the US.

The US animation giant, also the creator of Shrek, said the venture would 'engage in the development and production of high-quality original Chinese animated and live action content'.

Asked when the joint venture would start making a profit, Katzenberg replied: 'Very soon.'

With the goal of improving 'soft power,' we want to produce top-class animation movies Li Ruigang, chairman of CMC

744m yuan

The amount taken on the mainland by DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda franchise