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New Cartoon Series Staring Olympic Mascot Starts Up

Shangai's only authorized cartoon series using the mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will start airing in Oct. 2007, CHINA DAILY reports.

The 3D cartoon series is believed to be the first of its kind in the history of the Olympic Games. It narrates a story of how the FIVE FRIENDLIES help the two leading characters back to the real world after traveling through 100 years of Olympic Games.

The four producers, Phoenix Star Film Disseminate Co, the publicity department of Shenzhen municipal government, Shenzhen Media Group and Shandong TV Station, signed an agreement May 16, to officially launch the production, which has an estimated budget of 50 million Yuan (US$6.2 million).

"We will choose the director and the production houses for the cartoon through public bidding soon," Zhao Xiande, gm of Shenzhen-based Phoenix Star. Four Hong Kong-funded animation companies have shown interest in the project he said.

Xiande first thought of making a China-made cartoon in early 2003 to mark the country's success in the bid to host the games, and submitted a draft idea to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) later that year.

The committee signed a framework agreement with the company to produce the cartoon series in April 2004, and authorized it to use the mascots in the storyline shortly after the FIVE FRIENDLIES were unveiled last November.

"After more than two years of preparation and writing, the cartoon series... will finish production in January 2008. But in the second half of next year, we will arrange the debut of the first part in the domestic market," he said.

Phoenix Star, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-listed Phoenix Satellite TV, is the major investor, he added.

"We have organized a top writing team, which includes the country's most famous children's novelists, the chief character designer for Time Warner and experienced animation practitioners," said Xiande. "Now we will choose the best production house and director to make the cartoon series a great masterpiece branded in China," Xiande said.

Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG's evp, said, "People have great enthusiasm for the Olympic Games, and this promotes the spirits of the games in an easy way, especially among children."