Charlie Chaplin to be animated star

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The Independent Online

Charlie Chaplin is to be brought to life as a cartoon character via an Indian-French collaboration that will see the legendary British comedian featured in an animated television series.

DQ Entertainment, an animation and special effects firm based in the southern city of Hyderabad, says it is to reproduce the entertainer's slapstick in 3D and computer-generated images for television.

The eight-million-euro (11.5-million-dollar) project is a joint venture with French media groups Method Animation and MK2, according to the companies.

Further details were set to be announced by DQ Entertainment at a press conference in Mumbai on Friday.

DQ and Method Animation will make a total of 104 six-minute episodes in India and France, Method's chairman Aton Soumache told AFP in Paris last November.

The animated shorts - aimed at children aged six and above - will not have any dialogue and are set to hit screens from early next year.

"We've been working for more than a year on the graphics concept to find an original way of adapting Chaplin's world," said Soumache.

"It won't be a realistic portrayal but more like a puppet in an offbeat universe. We'll put him in modern situations but at the same keeping his poetic, child-like view of the world with a retro feel."

The episodes have been inspired by sketches and gags culled from some 70 short films made by Chaplin involving his trademark bowler-hatted vagabond character sporting a toothbrush moustache, ill-fitting suit and twirling cane.

But there will also be original content, Soumache added.

London-born Chaplin, who died in 1977, is recognised as one of the most influential and recognisable comic actors and directors of the silent film period.

His most famous works include "The Kid" (1921), "The Gold Rush" (1925), "City Lights" (1931), "Modern Times" (1936) and "The Great Dictator" (1940).

Discussions are ongoing to show the series in France from 2011 as well as in Britain and Germany, Soumache said.

DQ Entertainment has worked with a number of high-profile studios and production houses, including Nickelodeon, The Disney Group, Cartoon Network and a host of international broadcasters.

The Indian firm has a 20 percent stake in Method and has previously worked with them on computer-animated adaptations of French children's classics "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince) and "Le Petit Nicolas" (Little Nicolas).

MK2 is one of France's biggest independent film companies and owns the international rights to the Chaplin films, which it has restored and reissued on DVD and in cinemas.

The Chaplin estate gave its permission for the project, which MK2 hopes will allow new generations to discover the comic genius.

India's Business Standard newspaper said Thursday that funds for the projects will be raised by a share offering from DQ Entertainment.

The financial daily said DQ hoped to raise 1.5 billion rupees (32 million dollars) by divesting nearly 25 percent of the company's equity in an initial public offering.

An additional 620 million rupees would be raised from internal sources and bank loans, it added.

Animation and special effects have become a growth market in India, as the domestic film industry, including Bollywood, turns to more modern production methods.

The trend has led to the creation of a number of specialist companies, who are being increasingly used by Hollywood and other foreign studios because of their lower costs.

Home-grown computer-generated television series based on Hindu epics like "Ramayana" and "The Mahabharat" have proved popular.

Disney worked with India's Yash Raj Films last year on a full-length animation feature, "Roadside Romeo", although the movie flopped at the box office.

India's animation and special effects industry is expected to be worth 23.3 billion rupees this year and is expected to grow to 39.4 billion rupees by 2013, consultants KPMG said last year.

The animation sector is projected to grow by 21.9 percent in the five years to 2013, it added in a report on the media and entertainment industry for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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