In another sign of Hollywood’s slow recognition of animation as a money-making powerhouse: Paramount Pictures announced today the formation of a new in-house animation studio to create animated features, mainly (but not entirely) in conjunction with its Nickelodeon Movies unit. Their goal is one feature per year.

Paramount has been releasing Dreamworks Animation films for the last several years, but that arrangement is said to be ending. Warner Bros. is a potential distributor for Dreamworks post-2012. Disney, which is distributing Dreamworks live action movies, will never touch the Dreamworks Animation films.

Paramount has been releasing Nickelodeon Movies animated features – as well as films spawned by other Viacom Networks, MTV (Beavis and Butt-head) and Comedy Central (South Park) – for years now. The success of ILM/Nick’s Rango this past spring, and the potential of the forthcoming Spielberg/ Jackson Tintin movie has spurred this new division.

Longtime readers of this site know that Paramount has long ties with animation, going back to 1917 1916. It’s relationship with Max Fleischer was its most significant commitment to the form (yielding Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman and Gulliver’s Travels), and its in-house Famous Studios created Casper the Friendly Ghost in the 1940s. Paramount released several Hanna Barbera and Peanuts features in the 1970s and 80s, and had a long series of Nick spin-offs (Rugrats, Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, etc.) since.

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