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Two of Hollywood's hottest animation executives have been recruited by a leading venture capital firm to head Israel's first animation studio launched in Jerusalem this week.
"There is an abundance of creative talent in Jerusalem that has yet to be explored," said Elie Wurtman, CEO of Jerusalem Venture Partners Studio (JVP). "By focusing on methods used in Israeli software development and applying it to the world of animation, we can rapidly produce quality products at a fraction of the cost [of other producers]."
JVP said it has invested "millions of dollars" to establish the 'Animation Lab' as part of its 'digital media initiative,' and the venture capital firm is looking to employ up to 175 people when the center is in full operation within 15 months.
Heading the project will be Max Howard and Douglas Wood, who between them have a number of animated classics under their belts. Howard's career includes involvement in Disney hits The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas, while Wood served as director of animation and story editor on projects including Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs during his tenure at Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.
Over the next four months, Howard said they would be looking for stories that the studio can develop into its first production, which would be a "short" that can be submitted at festivals as a greeting card for the studio.
While Israel has never produced a full length animated feature film, the new venture is hoping to create opportunities to boost local involvement in the field.
Yossi Abolafia, a lecturer in animation at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, said opportunities in the commercial market are limited for graduates who often need practical exposure before entering the work place.
JVP's Wurtman added that the Animation Lab was working closely with Bezalel to set up a training program to give a practical introduction to students starting out in animation.
He also indicated opportunities for animators outside of the movie industry.
JVP's 'Funtactix' is looking to apply the studio's animation development to the online gaming market and Wurtman said the company expects to bring its first game to market in 10 months.
The studio's most immediate launch, however, was expected to be in June when its cellular content company Gamearray releases its first commercial pilot with cellular network Orange, applying animation to cellular content.
JVP expects to complete the first stage of planning for a new complex to house its different media initiatives by the end of the year. Projects it adopts before the building is completed would be carried out at JVP headquarters in Malha.