Singapore is boasting a first in digitalanimation with the release of Zodiac, The Race Begins, the city-state's first 3D animation feature.

The $2m animation which is about themythical race of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, is the debut film project ofCubix International, initially a branding consultancy firm in Singapore beforebranching out into digital content.

Shaw has picked up the Singapore rights tothe film, which will open on January 26 to capitalise on the Chinese New Year holidayseason.

Without the help of sales agents, Cubix hassold the animation to 22 territories, including Taiwan (which will release thefilm three weeks after the Singapore premiere), China (for a March release),Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, France and Eastern Europe.

Cubix executive director Benjamin Toh feelshighly encouraged by the successful international sales of Zodiac and is committed to further developing the local animation industry,especially with Asian myths as content.

"Animation is a growing industry with greatpotential," he says.

Meanwhile, Cubix has today at the Asia FilmMarket signed a $30m MOU with Singapore's Media Development Authority toco-produce five animated feature films over the next five years.

The first off the block is Legend of the Sea about the tale of the mythical Chinese easterndragon. The animation is already four months into production and is scheduledfor release in early 2007.

Singapore's animation sector has recentlyreceived a major boost with the official opening of Lucasfilm AnimationSingapore, the first Lucasfilm animation studio outside the US.

At least two more made-in-Singapore animationfeatures are in the works, MDA and MediaCorp Raintree's Sing to the Dawn and Egg Story's Kungfu Gecko. Bothare in pre-production and target for release in 2007 and 2008 respectively.