Bunbury set to be home to state's biggest film company

BUNBURY is set to be home to WA’s biggest film company on the back of China’s insatiable appetite for animation films.

Touted as a game-changer for the South West, local production studio Vue Group will expand to be “bigger than the Margaret River wine industry” and worth $100 million within three years, according to managing director Alan Lindsay. 

Mr Lindsay says the deal with Chinese animation giant Shanghai Hippo would produce up to four films a year and would employ up to 200 people locally for their biggest projects.

Company founder Kerr Xu came to Bunbury this week to meet with state government ministers and the City of Bunbury to progress the plan. 

Mr Xu said the exciting predictions were modest. 

“It is going to be as big as Fox Studios’ Animal Logic, right here in WA,” he said.

Shanghai Hippo founder Kerr Xu and Vue Group managing director Alan Lindsay.

Shanghai Hippo founder Kerr Xu and Vue Group managing director Alan Lindsay.

Mr Lindsay told the Bunbury Mail the studio would be comparable with the UK, France, Spain and Germany’s biggest animation companies. 

He said Vue Group and Shanghai Hippo will sign off on their new joint venture in 2015 when he expects the company’s exports to be worth $60-$70 million.

Mr Lindsay and Mr Xu joined City representatives in a tour of potential sites in the Bunbury CBD on Tuesday.

Dubbed the “Chinese Walt Disney”, Mr Xu first teamed with Vue Group in December to capitalise on the huge Chinese animation market.

“We have enough projects right now to carry on for the next 10 years,” Mr Xu said.

“We’re not making films that span three years of production – we are making four films every year.”

City acting chief executive officer Stephanie Addison-Brown said the venture would be a “significant step forward in helping Bunbury to become the creative and cultural hub of the South West.”

Mr Lindsay said the partnership would encourage new businesses to cluster in Bunbury to support Vue while creating new employment opportunities.

“We need to look at it from Bunbury’s point of view as something that brings a lot of young people and a creative energy into town,” Mr Lindsay said.

“If they’re prepared to take on the training then they could end up in the credits of movies that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was starting out.”

Bunbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ray Philp said the new agreement would support feeder companies that provide supplies and support, and would be a boost for small business.

Mr Xu said he was in the process of developing a new Chinese animation festival which he hoped to team in a sister relationship with CinefestOZ.

“We’re not just building the relationship between Vue and Hippo – we’re trying to build a relationship between two countries,” Mr Xu said.

The companies have five more animation and live action films in the pipeline – two of which will be Shanghai Hippo’s most expensive productions ever created.

The first films from the partnership, Perfect Friends and Kung Fu Style, will be released in Australia early next year and Mr Lindsay said he was working to hold a Bunbury premiere for each. 

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