US entertainment giant Walt Disney signed a deal in India's financial and entertainment hub Mumbai with Yash Raj Films to make animated movies using the voices of Bollywood stars.
The first movie to be made as part of the venture is titled Roadside Romeo a full-animation Hindi-language movie sprinkled with song, dance and action sequences due for release in 2008, the two firms said in a statement.
Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor will do the voice-overs for the movie, the statement said. "This will help us strengthen local understanding of culture, art and music in India. We, on our own, cannot make a good Indian film," Mark Zoradi, marketing president for Walt Disney Studios, told reporters in Mumbai.
The tie-up "marks the first time for both companies to enter in a co-production to produce films in India," a statement issued by Disney on Monday said.
Yash Raj is known in India for traditional Bollywood song-and-dance love stories, but this year experimented with animation in Hum Tum and Ta Ra Rum Pum.
"My son (Aditya) has always said that animation is the future in movies," Yash Chopra, the Yash Raj Films chief told reporters.
Disney is well-known to India's burgeoning middle class through cable television shows such as the Disney Channel and Toon Disney since 2004. Last year, the company bought Hungama, a popular children's channel in India.
Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said on Monday in Los Angeles the partnership would "create exceptional animated films in the Indian language that are culturally relevant for the avid movie-going audiences in India and around the world."
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Disney has struggled to make money in India, which has a vast domestic film market, but believes an animated story featuring well-known Indian stars could be a commercial hit.