Blue Zoo Animation Studio, the London-based cg animation company founded by Adam Shaw, Tom Box, and Oli Hyatt in 2000, announced today that it will receive around US$38 million (£30 million) in funding from China UK Animation Company (CU Animation), a subsidiary of China’s state-owned Zhong Ze Culture Investment Group. The deal, which includes additional guarantees of money beyond the initial investment, is one of the most significant deals for an independent tv animation studio in recent memory.

The multi-BAFTA-winning Blue Zoo, with a staff of over 130 employees, has primarily produced children’s series to date, among them Nick Jr.’s Digby Dragon, CBeebies’ Tree Fu Tom, and Dutch broadcaster KRO’s Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small. We featured the company’s Christmas-themed short on Cartoon Brew last winter.

The two companies will launch a new joint venture called Lanzu, which will initially provide non-exclusive funding for the development and production of at least six new projects over the next five years, including an animated feature film. Zhong Ze has guaranteed a total of $91 million (£72 million) for these co-owned projects, the first of which is scheduled to go into production later this year.

Lanzu will also help speed up the delivery of Blue Zoo’s current and future productions and co-productions. The two companies say that the investment will not only accelerate the speed at which Blue Zoo projects go into production after being greenlit, but will give the studio greater access to the international market, and more specifically, the Chinese market.

“Our partnership with CU Animation Investment Holdings Ltd. comes at a time of incredibly exciting growth for Blue Zoo,” said studio co-founder Oli Hyatt in a statement. “Lanzu will enable us to jointly hold and develop our IP whilst generating growth in the Eastern and global markets. In partnering with Blue Zoo, CU Animation has invested in the talented staff we nurture, our growing business, and our dreams for the future.”

It should be noted that Hyatt also founded Animation UK, a group that lobbies the British government on behalf of animation and vfx studios, pushing for tax credits and incentives that support the animation industry.

“This is great news for the UK animation industry,” said Mark Garnier, international trade minister, UK’s Department for International Trade. “This new deal further reinforces our position as a global leader in animation production. The Department for International Trade will continue to provide support and advice to businesses like Blue Zoo. We want to attract inward investment to help them and others to achieve their growth ambitions and reach new markets.”

And Gina Fegan, director of culture for CU Animation and Zhong Ze Culture Investment Holdings: “Blue Zoo stands out in terms of creativity, company ethos, and commercial acumen. We are delighted to partner with them to enable and accelerate IP development and content production, supporting both Lanzu and Blue Zoo’s international growth.”