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The Walt Disney Studios and 'Shrek' producer John Williams partner for new CG animated film output

Burbank, California - The Walt Disney Studios and John Williams' Vanguard Films have teamed up in a strategic partnership to produce a slate of computer animated feature films, it was announced by Dick Cook, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios and John Williams, CEO of Vanguard Films.

The first film to go into production will be "Valiant," followed by an anticipated slate of three more CG-animated films. Additionally, "Valiant" will mark the launch of a new venture, Vanguard Animation, which will expand Vanguard from an independent production company into a fully financed digital animation studio with the capability to internally develop and finance its own projects. John Williams will act as CEO of the new company and new Vanguard addition, Neil Braun, will act as President.

Commenting upon the announcement, Cook said, "We are thrilled to join forces with John, Neil and their incredible team of top animators in this extraordinary production partnership. 'Valiant' is a terrific story that will live up to the highest standards of animation, and Vanguard's exciting development slate promises great entertainment that will certainly appeal to all audiences."

Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, added, "John, Neil and the team at Vanguard have certainly shown that they possess a fine sense of story and are capable of the highest-quality animation, certainly worthy of the Disney name. We're excited to be making this partnership."

"We have set-up a unique approach to funding and making these movies," explains Williams. "Our production approach is best summarised by the fact that we will make these films for under $40 million each, and they will be delivered within two years of their start date. We will deliver 'Toy Story'- to-'Dinosaur'-to-'Shrek'-level animation. We came to Disney with confirmed financing, completed scripts, completed budgets, multiple CG tests for each film, and advanced character designs, and production design concepts."

"Valiant" is a ne'er-do-well wood pigeon who aspires to the prestigious position of a messenger homing bird for the Royal Air Force during WWII. Vastly unqualified for the job, Valiant serendipitously squeaks his way through training and is abruptly sent on a mission into occupied France. Finding himself in the line of fire, the prankster recedes and a hero emerges.

"Valiant" will start pre-production this month in Los Angeles then move to Ealing Studios in London for production. The picture will be released in fall 2004. The film will be co-produced with Barnaby Thompson who is a producer/partner of Fragile Films and Ealing Studios. Eric M. Bennett, president of production for Vanguard Animation, will co-produce the picture.

"Our objective with all of these films is to make animated films that are great comedies, great adventures, and great entertainment and which are suitable for a broad family audience, and that can also attract anyone who likes a big comedy entertainment," says Williams.

As the newly formed alliances move forward, John Williams will continue in the top post as Chairman and CEO of Vanguard Animation, directly overseeing all aspects of the company. John was the originating producer of the critically acclaimed box office success "Shrek." His other credits include next month's live-action action-adventure "The Tuxedo," starring Jackie Chan, and "Seven Years in Tibet."

Neil Braun, who recently joined the company as President, has pursued a very aggressive and successful round of financing for Vanguard Animation as the company looks to scale up operations. In the past, Neil has held numerous senior positions within the media and entertainment industry, including President of the NBC Television Network, Chairman and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, President of Imagine Entertainment, and Senior Vice President of HBO.

The buildout of Vanguard's physical animation studio will be directly overseen by Curtis Augspurger and Buckley Collum of Menace FX. Menace has joined forces with Vanguard Animation in a joint venture to oversee the establishment of the vast CG operation. Curtis and Buckley, who have worked extensively on digital production with companies including Warner Bros., Disney, and Electronic Arts, will also co-produce "Valiant."

Roy Furman and Tom Lewyn are directors of Vanguard Animation and were instrumental in pulling together the company.

SOURCE The Walt Disney Studios

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