Digital Production Studios(DPS), the New Jersey-based 3D animation subsidiary of IDT Media, has teamed upwith John Williams' UK-based Vanguard Animation in a major co-productionpartnership.

The move paves the way foran animation giant following an eight-figure capital injection into Vanguardfrom the deep pockets of IDT Media's parent company IDT Corp, themultinational carrier, technology and telephone company.

DPS has acquired a minoritystake in Vanguard Animation and will co-produce and co-own all Vanguardproperties including films, straight-to-DVD and broadcast.

In a conference call withreporters yesterday (Tuesday), top brass at DPS, Vanguard and IDT Corp declinedto give details of slate, costs or timetable.

Vanguard is currently inproduction in London on the $40m picture Valiant, the story of a World War II homing pigeon, whichDisney boarded in return for North American rights. Odyssey Entertainment isselling it in international territories.

DPS currently has more than$100m of projects in production, including two 3D animation full-lengthfeatures - the sci-fi Gene Roddenberry's Starpoint Academy and an undisclosed project that it will announce inAugust.

However it remains unclearwhether Vanguard will collaborate on either of these at a later date.

DPS has also got severalstraight-to-DVD titles in the works, including Monster Monster Trucks and a Cabbage Patch Kids project.

Further projects will beannounced with DPS' other new subsidiary Film Roman, the animation housebehind The Simpsons and KingOf The Hill.

Vanguard Animation, whichwas formed in 2002 by chief executive officer John Williams, the originatingproducer on Shrek, recentlycompleted a four-film deal with Disney led by Valiant.

It also has upcomingproductions of Toad Trip withDreamWorks, Roald Dahl's The Twitsfor Disney, and three films with Nickelodeon/Paramount, called Alien Pet,Ted and Gateway To The Gods.

Vanguard Films, the parentcompany of Vanguard Animation, was set up in 1985 and has had a first-look dealwith DreamWorks for the past eight years.

General operational detailsabout the joint venture were also thin on the ground. On the subject ofdistribution, Vanguard president Neil Braun, who along with Williams willliaise with DPS, said channels would open up once projects neared completion.

In the meantime Braun saidthey would use existing distributors known to Vanguard, DPS and Film Roman.

The deal offers DPSpartnership with a proven player in the animation world and provides anopportunity to extend its film and DVD library, complementing its televisioncatalogue acquired through Film Roman.

For Vanguard the chiefattractions are DPS' strong financial backing and its technological andanimation expertise.

Of particular interest toVanguard is DPS' Global Animation Studio, an evolving "virtualstudio" network of around 2,000 approved international affiliates -individuals and studios - who contribute to projects.

Work is carried out in"real time" on DPS' proprietary software via high-speedlinks, which in theory could radically reduce the time it takes to produce ahigh-end piece of animation.

Williams said he hoped themove would create a new animation paradigm that halved a filmisproduction from four years to two. ìWeire hoping to create aPixar of the future,î he said.

ìWeire excitedto be working with Vanguard, a company headed up by management associated withso many important and groundbreaking films," Morris Berger, DPS president,said.

"Vanguard and DPScomplement each other. Vanguard is an entertainment industry powerhouse and DPSis continuing to build its intellectual property using innovative technology.Together, we intend to pursue animation projects with broad entertainmentappeal."