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Animation Nation? Israel!
April 16, 2011 by Howard Blas

Checking out great new digital talent in Jerusalem

The new animated film Rango stars the voice of Johnny Depp and follows the life, adventures and struggles of an aspiring hero in the form of a pet chameleon (Rango) as he becomes local sheriff in the Old West town of Dirt. When the movie is over, viewers can go home and continue to enjoy the great chase scenes, think about the chameleon in a Hawaiian shirt and have an Israel experience. In which case, you might now be wondering what Israel possibly has to do with a film about an animated chameleon?
Well, thanks to Israeli company, Funtactix, fans of Rango can go home and play Rango: The World, an online game based on the movie. Funtactix, the browser-based game developer, is releasing a game where players can meet characters from Rango, create an avatar, explore film environments and take on quests - all with their online friends. Imagine entering the world of your favorite film!

Funtactix (www.funtactix.com) is one of several hot, innovative Israeli companies making a difference in animation, gaming, social networking and more! Working out of the recently renovated national Mint of the British Empire and the Ottoman warehouses next door to the area surrounding Jerusalem’s old train station, over 300 artists, animators, programmers, engineers, storytellers and others huddle together in the Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) Media Quarter in Jerusalem, where they work enthusiastically on animated films, websites and video games. All of this exciting, high quality innovation is taking place a short fifteen minute walk from the Western Wall, the City of David and archaeological excavations which are over 3,000 years old. Welcome to Jerusalem Venture Partners’ (JVP) Media Quarter-home to Funtactix, Animation Lab, AnyClips, Qlipso, and more!

The JVP Media Quarter, started in 2002, is the brainchild of Erel Margalit, the founder and managing partner of JVP, a leading Israeli venture capital firm with over $820 million under management. The JVP Media Labs house a dozen companies, as well as a performing arts incubator and theater, “The Lab” (Hama’abada), and a social profit organization “JVP Community” (Bakehila).

Margalit playfully noted that, “Unlike most labs, our focus is not on molecules and atoms, but rather, colorful, exciting stories and characters. Our employees are hard at work creating games, movies, virtual environments, web applications and mobile/iPod content for both children and adults. The Animation Lab team is currently hard at work on its animated feature film about a group of wild flowers that must contend with an evil gang of genetically-engineered plants. It follows a teenaged daisy (named Daisy) who was raised in the Sacred Meadow.” According to the Animation Lab website, Daisy “now has to brave the great, dangerous world outside the Meadow’s walls and team up with a secret society of plant spies who have worked covertly to protect the planet from human activity since the beginning of time. Daisy discovers that she alone can save her Meadow, and the world at large, against an attack by an army of genetically modified corn stalks.”

The film is currently in production in the Jerusalem animation studio. It was originally called The Wild Bunch when the filming first began, but the title is sure to change before its release in late 2011 or early 2012. It combines action, comedy, adventure and romance and features the voices of famous actors including Abigail Breslin, Willem Dafoe, Chris Klein, and Elizabeth Hurley.
Ayelet Weinerman, CEO of Animation Lab proudly said that, “Most of the work will be done in the studio in Israel.” Some of the animators will come from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, as part of the planned future cooperation between the design academy and Animation Lab.

Weinterman added, “We plan to compete with the world’s big studios.” The films are being designed for international distribution, at movie theaters worldwide. The budget for the film is about $20 million.

On a recent visit to the Media Lab, I began to get curious when I saw the phrase ”I’ll have what she’s having“ stickered on every light switch. I smiled, remembering that is a line from the movie When Harry Met Sally. Little did I know, this was also PR for a new company! Thanks to AnyClip (www.anyclip.com), another Israeli company housed in the Media Lab, finding any clip is easy. Anyclip.com is basically a search engine to find “any moment from any film ever made.”

Did you ever love a movie scene so much that you wished you could just watch it over and over again? Is there line from a movie or funny scene that pops into your head and you suddenly wish you could share it with a friend? Your dream just came true! AnyClip maps, indexes, and “tags” entire films for you!

Another cool project of the media center is Qlipso. (www.qlipso. com.) When we find a funny video on YouTube or someplace else, we often send the link to a friend or tell them on Facebook. Now, with Qlipso, there is a way to view or listen to content online with our friends. Qlipso calls itself a “multi- user content-sharing platform.”

With Qlipso’s Multiuser Content- Sharing Platform, we can now bridge those experiences we share in real-life with our online social network. They let us share the things we love with our social networks. In March 2010, Qlipso purchased www.Veoh.com. Veoh has a library of more than one million videos, TV shows, online games and other interactive content. Qlipso allows you and your friends to interact with this amazing content—photos, music, video and games!

These are only a few of the many amazing innovations coming out of a small old warehouse in Jerusalem. Next time you watch an impressive animated movie, or connect with a friend online, think of Israel - the technology may easily have been developed in the land of milk, honey and computers!
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