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CG Astro Boy's Imagi Studio Lays Off 300+ Employees (Updated)

posted on by Egan Loo
Company operates on minimal staff as talks continue on new investments

The Oriental Daily News paper reports that the parent company of Hong Kong animation studio IMAGI laid off over 300 employees on Friday, a week before Chinese New Year's Day. IMAGI, the studio behind the computer-animated film adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy (Mighty Atom) manga, had already laid off about 100 employees out of more than 400 employee on December 11.

According to the Ming Pao Daily News paper, the layoffs are short-term and that the company is still operating on minimal staff as it continues to seek new investments. However, the newspaper also reports that company faces a critical decision next week on whether to be liquidated, depending on the outcome of investment talks. The studio underwent a round of layoffs before the Chinese New Year's holidays last year, only to rehire its animators after obtaining new financing to complete Astro Boy.

Both Ming Pao Daily News and Oriental Daily News posted photographs of the employees at the doors of IMAGI with their boxes of personal belongings. Felix Ip, the former creative director at IMAGI, reports on the layoffs in his blog. Ip had already left the company last month.

The Sing Tao Daily and Oriental Daily News reported that IMAGI invested almost HK$500 million (about US$60 million) into its Astro Boy film. According to Box Office Mojo website, the film earned about HK$3 million (about US$400,000) in Hong Kong theaters, an estimated US$19.551 million in the United States, and varying box office totals in other countries for a estimated US$23 million worldwide.

Besides Astro Boy, IMAGI had produced the 2007 computer-animated film adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book franchise. Before the recent rounds of layoffs, IMAGI had announced that it was working on a planned film adaptation of Tatsunoko Production's Gatchaman anime series.

Update: IMAGI has officially confirmed the liquidation of its animation company on Tuesday, and the Associated Press revealed that the company owes around HK$36 million (US$4.6 million) in back pay to the employees it laid off. IMAGI also said it will still continue to develop movies, but will outsource the animation work to other companies in China.

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