Branson sees Asian animation as the future of film

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The Independent Culture

The multimillionaire's books division is teaming up with the Gotham Entertainment Group, the leading comic publisher in south Asia, to produce new magazines with spin-offs in movies, animations, toys and video games.

Shekhar Kapur, who directed the film Elizabeth, and Deepak Chopra, the author of best-selling books on alternative medicine are contracted to produce up to 100 storylines, mostly in English, designed for the Asian audience.

The project is founded on the belief that in the next decade Asia will become one of the largest producers and consumers of entertainment products. The first film from Virgin is already scheduled for this summer under the director John Woo, whose work includes Face/Off.

The new business will be divided into Virgin Comics, with offices in New York, and Virgin Animation, with a staff of up to 150 people, mainly artists, working in Bangalore within 18 months. The concept is the brainchild of Sharad Devarajan, who heads Gotham Entertainment, and Gotham Chopra, Deepak's son. Mr Devarajan said they hoped to reach a global audience with their new comics and films but also start a "creative renaissance" in India.

In the US, sales of graphic novels have grown by 44.7 per cent in the past year and the market has doubled in the UK since 2003. Kapur said: "The art of the two-hour captive, non-interactive product called the 'movie' is history. Comic book characters are the new cult, the new religion."