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Tokyo Banks Help Animation Biz

Banks in Japan are underwriting a new scheme for animation content development, backed by the Tokyo city government, reports VARIETY. Development Bank of Japan will kick in $460,000 and New Bank Tokyo is giving $640,000 for the initiative.

Last year, the Tokyo city government announced an official policy of supporting the local animation industry through financial and other measures.

Nearly 80% of all Japanese animation companies, including majors Toei Animation and Studio Ghibli, are headquartered in Tokyo. The animation biz has become an important revenue generator for the city.

The government joined with Tokyo-based production house, Think, to launch Anime Innovation Tokyo (AIT). The government invested $920,000 in startup funds. Total capital has since increased to $2.7 million.

AIT is raising investment funds from corporations and financial institutions with an interest in animation content. It is soliciting proposals for original animated projects from both young animators and small to medium-sized production houses.

After selecting the most promising of the projects, AIT will launch limited partnerships to make 30-minute pilots, using its own funds, together with contributions from the projects' creators.

AIT is accepting project proposals until June 30, 2006. It will produce 15-20 pilots over the next four years for presentation to potential backers. Production budgets will average $156,000. The limited partnerships will distribute revenues from sales of rights and DVDs to their backers.

"We will work closely with the creators on each project we're very hands-on," Think ceo Yuji Mori said at a symposium sponsored by the Tokyo Intl. Anime Fair. They hope the pilots will then lead to a TV series or feature film.