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Huhu Studios goes Veggie in multimillion dollar deal

NZ animation company Huhu Studios has signed a multimillion dollar production deal with the US maker of VeggieTales.

A New Zealand animation company has signed a multimillion dollar production deal with a leading American studio in what its founder describes as "a dream come true".

Auckland-based Huhu Studios has been working with Big Idea Entertainment in the US, which produces children’s and family programming (most notably children's animated series VeggieTales) for the past three years.

VeggieTales is the top home video animated series in the US and has sold more than 54 million videos, 13 million books and 7 million CDs since 1993.

Over the next two years, Huhu will produce six new direct-to-video VeggieTales features, driving pre-production, animation and post-production from New Zealand.

“This deal represents a step up in the amount of work we will be doing for Big Idea and cements a good relationship developed in the past," says founder and chief executive Trevor Yaxley.

“It would be an understatement to say our talented team of artists here at Huhu are excited about this opportunity; to work alongside Big Idea is a dream come true."

Founded in 1996 by Trevor and Jan Yaxley, Huhu Studios has created more than 300 animated shows, 20+ direct to DVD releases and one theatrical movie. While quality children's entertainment is its mainstay, the studio also takes on commercial work.

Big Idea's general manager Leslie Ferrell says the company is confident the new productions will continue to please fans with "timeless and delightful" stories.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key says the signing of a co-production agreement with India will boost the film industry both there and in New Zealand.

The deal was inked in New Delhi today, as he tours India on a state visit.

Film co-production agreements allow approved film and television projects to gain the status of “official co-productions”, giving them access to the benefits accorded to national films in each of the co-producers’ countries. These may include funding and other incentives, as well as facilitating temporary immigration and importing of equipment within existing regulations.

A number of Bollywood blockbusters, such as I Hate Luv Stories and The Players, have been filmed partly in New Zealand and Key is set to go on the set of The Players when he visits Film City in Mumbai tomorrow.

“The influence of these films, with an audience of millions, has been instrumental in stimulating Indian interest in New Zealand as a tourism destination," he says.

"This agreement will also offer greater certainty to investors looking to fund New Zealand-India film co-productions.”

New Zealand currently has 11 bilateral film co-production arrangements in force.

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