Start-up Hong Kong animationstudio Innotion is launching what it describes as the world's first CG bearmovie, Tonki Bear, at upcomingmarkets including MIPCOM and the AFM.

The English-language film,which is scheduled for release in spring 2007, is aimed squarely atinternational markets and has no recognisable Asian elements.

With a budget of $12m, thecreators say they're aiming for Hollywood standardsat Hong Kong prices. A team of around 100 animators is working onthe film at Innotion's two studios, at Hong Kong's Cyberport and Causeway Baydistrict, using state-of-the-art software from Maya and Softimage.

The film is directed byformer Imagi International Holdings CG director Tony Tang, who establishedInnotion last year with partner Calvin Siu. Former Sony Asia productionexecutive Peggy Lee, who recently worked on Corey Yuen's DOA: Dead Or Alive, has come on board as producer.

Tang says the film, whichfollows a young bear and his pet miniature whale as they try out different careers,including basketball and Formula One motor racing, is aimed at the wholefamily.

"We thought the character ofa bear is something that can be easily accepted by international audiences," saysTang. "Also the concept of having the opportunity to try out all your differentdreams should keep a young audience interested."

Tang is planning a sequel,TV series and line of merchandising and is also in talks with online gamedevelopers.

Innotion is one of a numberof new Asian animation studios hoping to grab a slice of the lucrative CG animationmarket dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks. Backed by government support, Singapore is currently the regional leader in digitalanimation with 10 original features and TV series in the works.

Hong Kong's first CG animated movie, kung-fu fantasy DragonBlade, sold to South-East Asia and picked up awards but flopped at the local boxoffice. Thailand has had more success with its first 3D animatedfeature Khan Kluay which was releasedin May and is the top local film so far this year.

Japan has Asia's most successful animation industry by far, butlocal audiences prefer 2D over 3D, and were unimpressed even by worldwide CGhits such as Shrek.