Ellipse Animation, the animation branch of television production and distribution company Studio Expand, has been sold to French comic strip and comic book publisher Dargaud, reported THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Studio Expand is owned by Vivendi Universal's French pay TV arm Canal Plus. No monetary terms were announced. This move is part of Vivendi Universal's initiative to cut its debt by selling off some of its assets. The remaining divisions of Studio Expand will be sold separately. Media conglom Lagardere and indie TV firm Tele Images are rumored as the top suitors for the remaining divisions, including game-show producer Starling, documentary-maker Point du Jour and fiction producer Le Sabre.
With the addition of Ellipse Animation, Dargauds subsidiary Dargaud-Marina, which produces and distributes cartoon series, will become one of the largest animation houses in France. Founded in 1987, Ellipse properties include THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, CORTO MALTESE, THE MYSTERIOUS ADVENTURES OF FANTOMETTE, BABAR, PIRATE FAMILY, XCALIBUR and INSEKTORS.