The stars of the digitally animated movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within" are being laid to rest.
The Honolulubased studio that created the groundbreaking but critically panned movie announced Wednesday that it planned to close up shop, largely because the film failed to cover its $145 million cost.
Aki Ross, the movie's heroine, had begun to be accepted as a real star. Last year, she posed in a bikini alongside real models in the men's magazine Maxim.
Square USA, a subsidiary of Japan's Square Co., said it will shut down its powerful computers – along with Ross and other actors they generated – on March 31. But the company is still seeking an investor to keep the studio open.
Efforts to form a partnership with a major US studio have failed, studio president Jun Aida said in an interview Wednesday. Aida lamented the operation's likely demise.
"We could have used the same characters in different roles," he said.
Governor Ben Cayetano had lauded the operation, which he hoped would form the heart of a new high–tech industry base for the islands.
"I'm sorry to see Square USA leaving Hawaii," Cayetano said, "but the 'Final Fantasy,' the movie that they made, was a financial disaster for them and they expressed to me that they have to consolidate and so Hawaii was one of the casualties," Cayetano said.
Although panned for a weak story line, "Final Fantasy" is widely regarded as the most realistic animated film ever made. In the movie, actress MingNa provides the voice for Aki Ross, a beautiful scientist who is gradually succumbing to a phantom that has infected her body.
The movie was the fourthhighestearning film when it was released in theaters, but it slid after that, taking in $32 million in the United States and $72 million abroad.
A DVD of the movie, in which sequences can be viewed from several angles and some scenes can be rearranged by the viewer, was released in October and was the topselling DVD in the United States for a time.
Aida said sales remain strong, but not enough to save the studio.
Before closing, he said, his studio will complete a 10minute feature tied into the sequel to the highly popular film "The Matrix." Also, "Final Fantasy" may be in competition for the firstever Academy Award for a featurelength animated film, to be presented in March. Nominees are to be announced on 12 February.
Square USA built the hightech studio five years ago, choosing Hawaii because of its proximity to both Hollywood and Japan, Aida said. The studio, whose parent company produces the popular "Final Fantasy" computer games, has employed up to 220 people in Honolulu during peak production.
Aida said it is unlikely that many employees of the operation will be able to stay in the same business in Hawaii.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," Aida said. "But as far as what we were able to achieve in the last five years, I'm very proud that we met the challenge and were able to finish what people in the industry consider a very groundbreaking project."
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