Further signaling India's growing presence in Hollywood, the visual effects and engineering division of Indian conglomerate Tata is buying a majority share in a Los Angeles-based kids' animation firm.
Tata Elxsi, which a year ago opened a visual effects studio in Santa Monica, has reached an agreement to acquire a 51% stake in A Squared Entertainment, producer of the animated TV and Web series "Secret Millionaire's Club" with billionaire Warren Buffett and "Martha & Friends," the upcoming Web series on AOL and Hallmark Channel specials featuring a 10-year-old Martha Stewart.
The two companies agreed to form a joint venture to produce and distribute children's series for television, the Web, mobile devices and video games. Under the deal, Tata has agreed to finance the productions and supply the animation workforce from its studio in Bangalore, India, while A Squared Entertainment will provide the creative direction for the projects, using its contacts in Hollywood. Financial terms were not disclosed.
"We're really trying to create an animation studio of the 21st Century,''' said children's entertainment veteran Andy Heyward, co-president of A Squared Entertainment. "The advantage for us is to have the very best of the Hollywood entertainment community and be able to produce the animation in a very low-cost, skilled environment with a partner who has the wherewithal to do that."
Heyward founded A Squared Entertainment with his wife, Amy Moynihan Heyward, in 2009. For more than 25 years Andy Heyward ran the Burbank-based DIC Entertainment Corp., a onetime unit of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., before he repurchased the company and sold it in 2008 to Canadian-based Cookie Jar Group.
Tata is just the latest Indian company to expand into Hollywood. In November 2007, Mubai-based Prime Focus acquired Post Logic Studios, a post-production services company based in New York and Los Angeles, and Canadian visual effects house Frantic Films VFX, which also had an office in Los Angeles.
Reliance, the Mumbai-based conglomerate controlled by Indian billionaire Anil Ambanim, is also bankrolling Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio and owns the Burbank post-production house Lowry Digital as well as a chain of U.S. theaters catering to the Indian community.
-- Richard Verrier