Friday found me at the Imagi Studio (the U.S. version), located in the middle of the San Ferando Valley where Ventura and San Diego freeways converge.
The Mother Ship of Imagi, if you don't know, is a Hong Kong cgi animation studio that is moving briskly into animated features. Its first feature creation was TMNT (just out on DVD), which got them noticed.
Now they're working on Gatchaman and Astro Boy, with international releases in both of their futures. To that end, Imagi has hired crack story development crews -- artists from DreamWorks, Disney and other points on the creative compass -- so the studio is serious about going toe to toe with other feature animation producers. As one storyboarder said:
"Astro Boy and Gotchaman were originally Japanese anime, but Imagi wants to broaden out from the original Japanese product, which I think is smart. They stay in the Japanese anime realm, they're not going to be as salable in the rest of the world..."
The artists I chatted with are happy to be working for Imagi. Most had job offers elsewhere, but they wanted to work for a new player and work on something with a different flavor to it.
They think Imagi does that for them.