Hong Kong comic book publisher Jade Dynasty Publications isjoining forces with Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to co-produce an animatedfeature, Monkey King, based on one of its best-selling comics.

The $2.4m (RMB20m) film will be produced by teams of animatorsin Hong Kong and China with completion scheduled for early 2006. SMG, one ofChina's most entrepreneurial film conglomerates, is putting up 70% of thebudget with Jade contributing the remaining 30%.

Designedby leading comic creator Tony Wong, Monkey King is based on the classicChinese novel Journey To The West.

Announcing the deal, Jade Dynasty founder Wong Yuk-long andSMG vice president Yang Xing Nong observed there is growing demand forChinese-language animated features.

"As we can see, Master Q and My Life As McDullboth had great success in the Chinese market," Wong said. "With the advancementof technology, the cost of producing animation decreases. Hong Kong's animationindustry has great potential.

Jade Dynasty has a leading share of the Hong Kong comic bookmarket with eight local comics and around 30 Japanese titles. Another of itsHong Kong comics, Tony Wong's Magic Weapons, is being developed into ananimated feature and live-action film, The Sword Searchers, by MandarinFilms.

Animated feature My Life As McDull, produced by HongKong's Bliss Concepts, was a hit in its home market and sold to severaloverseas territories. The sequel, McDull Prince De La Bun, is receivingits world premiere at Filmart on Friday evening.