Monday, June 1, 2009
Sir Elton to Develop $23m Starz Animation Studio
Sir Elton John was waxing so eloquently on Ontario's burgeoning film animation industry today that Premier Dalton McGuinty jokingly offered him a cabinet post.
The pop star and the politician were at Starz Animation, which is producing a new animated movie called Gnomeo and Juliet for John's film company, Rocket Pictures.
McGuinty said the Ontario government is giving a $23 million grant to Starz to create new jobs.
John said he picked Starz from a long list of similar companies in the industry and was "overwhelmingly blown away...Ontario is a hotbed of talent."
Noting that many Ontarians have left their country to seek opportunities in show business elsewhere, John predicted "you'll find people will be coming back to Canada."
That was all McGuinty needed to hear after last week's surprise resignation of Michael Bryant from cabinet to head the city agency Invest Toronto.
"I have a new opening in my cabinet for a minister of economic development," the premier quipped to John, who appears in concert with Billy Joel at the Air Canada Centre tonight and Saturday.
"Are you available, Sir Elton?"
McGuinty suggested a cabinet shuffle to fill the vacancy is not on his rush list and will come "not in the too-near future" as the Legislature begins its summer break after next week.
John and his famous song-writing partner Bernie Taupin have written four songs for Gnomeo and Juliet, a spoof of the Shakespeare drama due to appear through Disney and Miramax films in 2011.
Aside from that, Starz is also putting the finishing touches on a new animated film called 9 by director Tim Burton.
The money from Ontario's $1 billion next generation jobs fund will help the company, which opened in 2007, create and preserve about 250 jobs – including 40 more animators slated to be hired by year's end.
The fact that Starz has won business from luminaries like Burton and John is proof the company is worthy of taxpayer support, McGuinty said.
He noted his history with John goes back a long way to his high school in Ottawa, where Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was playing when he one day approached a pretty girl he'd had his eye on in the student lounge.
They began dating and he bought her a copy of the famous double album.
"Eight track, was it?" John joked back at the premier, who explained that high school girl is Terri McGuinty, his wife and mother of their four grown children.
John invited the McGuintys to visit him backstage at tonight's concert.
Reportedly actors James McAvoy from Atonement and Emily Blunt from The Devil Wears Prada will voice the title characters of Gnomeo and Juliet.
John has sold more than 200 million records during his four-decade career.
He is one of the most successful pop artists of all time with more than 50 Top-40 hits, five Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Tony Award.
He has also been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s, establishing the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 in the U.S. and in 1993 in the United Kingdom.
In 1998 John received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his music and charitable efforts.
In the 1990s he worked with Tim Rice on music for Disney's The Lion King.