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New Cartoon Celebrates Olympics
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The nation's only authorized cartoon series using the mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will go on air from the second half of 2007, said the producers yesterday.


The three-dimensional (3D) cartoon series, in 52 episodes, is believed to be the first of its kind in the history of the Olympic Games. It narrates a story of how the "Five Friendlies" help the two leading characters back to the real world after traveling through 100 years of Olympic Games.


It is expected to cost a total of 50 million yuan (US$6.2 million).


The four producers, Phoenix Star Film Disseminate Co, the Publicity Department of Shenzhen municipal government, Shenzhen Media Group and Shandong TV Station, signed an agreement yesterday to officially launch the production.


"We will choose the director and the production houses for the cartoon through public bidding soon," Zhao Xiande, general manager of Shenzhen-based Phoenix Star, told a press briefing yesterday. Currently, four Hong Kong-funded animation companies have shown their interest in the project, he said.


Zhao first invented the idea of making a China-made cartoon in early 2003 to mark the country's success in bidding to host the Games, and handed in a draft idea to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) later that year.


The committee signed a framework agreement with the company to produce the cartoon series in April 2004, and granted authorization to use the mascots in the storyline shortly after the "Five Friendlies" were unveiled last November.


"After more than two years of preparation and writing, the cartoon series, provisionally titled 'Five Friendlies,' will finish production in January 2008. But in the second half of next year, we will arrange the debut of the first part in the domestic market," Zhao said.


The total investment of the cartoon is a medium-level cost for a 52-part series, 3D cartoon, he added. Phoenix Star, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-listed Phoenix Satellite TV, is the major investor.


"We have organized a top writing team, which includes the country's most famous children's novelists, the chief character designer for Time Warner and experienced animation practitioners. Now we will choose the best production house and director to make the cartoon series a great masterpiece branded in China," Zhao said.


Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG's executive vice-president, said: "People have great enthusiasm for the Olympic Games, and this promotes the spirits of the Games in an easy way, especially among children."


(China Daily March 17, 2006)


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