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Imagine, Disney Form TV Production Alliance

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imagine Entertainment and Walt Disney Television have forged an exclusive deal to produce TV projects, putting Disney in business with a marquee company long associated with Universal Pictures.

The multiyear agreement--which industry sources estimated as approaching $20 million--grew out of Imagine’s association with Disney on the recent film “Ransom,” starring Mel Gibson. Imagine has several years remaining on a first-look movie deal at Universal.

Sources say the deal is attractive to Disney because it establishes ongoing ties with Imagine. The company has produced a string of box-office hits grossing more than $2.5 billion, including the Universal releases “Apollo 13,” “Backdraft” and “Kindergarten Cop.”

In addition, Disney needs to secure such talent to generate programs for the ABC television network, which the studio owns, as well as for other outlets.

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“I’ve known them for an awfully long time on the movie side, and they’ve always been tied up” under a deal, said Disney Studios Chairman Joe Roth. “After working with them on ‘Ransom,’ I’m more convinced than ever that they can recognize hit material, whatever the medium.”

Imagine is already developing two series through Disney: a family comedy at ABC and a project for Fox featuring animatronic characters. The latter is being produced with Eddie Murphy, who starred in Imagine’s “The Nutty Professor.”

Roth and Imagine principals Brian Grazer and Ron Howard downplayed any broader implications to the deal, pointing out Imagine’s long-standing connection to Universal. “We’re looking at it as its own separate thing,” Grazer said.


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