Warner Forms Animation Unit With Plan for One Film a Year

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio created an animation venture with a goal of releasing one feature film a year, as it competes with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and Pixar owner Walt Disney Co.

Filmmakers will work together and individually on projects including the venture’s first picture, the 3-D “The LEGO Movie,” scheduled for release next year, the Burbank, California-based studio said today in a statement.

The new unit will make animation a regular part of the annual production slate at the studio, which produced “Happy Feet” films about a colony of penguins. Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures added an animation unit in 2011, for more product in a marketplace once dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.

Five of the top 15 movies in the U.S. and Canada last year were animated features, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” which collected $875 million in worldwide sales for News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, was the top grossing animation movie globally.

At Warner, animated features development will be overseen by Courtenay Valenti, Chris deFaria and Greg Silverman, the studio said. The studio also will look to partner with established animation studios for production of the films.

Time Warner fell 0.5 percent to $49.12 at the close in New York. The shares gained 32 percent last year.

“The LEGO Movie,” directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller from their own screenplay, is scheduled to open Feb. 7, 2014, according to the studio.

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