Saturday, October 6, 2001

Isle film production firm
gets reprieve, other work

By Tim Ryan

Hawaii-based Square USA -- which produced the box office disappointment, all-computer-animated $137 million movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" -- will remain here at least through March 2002 when it finishes a secret film project for another studio.

That's good news for Square's 125 Hawaii-based employees working at the Hawaii Film Studio and the production company's downtown offices, which it has leased for more than four years. At the height of the "Final Fantasy" production, the company had about 220 employees here.

A spokesman for the Japanese gamemaker Square Co., said in Tokyo this week that the company will quit film production to concentrate on its core business, video games. But parent company Square Co. has "no plans to sell the Hawaii facility or shut us down," said "Final Fantasy" producer Jun Aida.

Future Square USA projects in Hawaii will be in collaboration with major Hollywood studios who will also finance the ventures, he said.

That includes the film project Square USA started working on in March 2000 to be completed by next summer's film season 2002.

Square USA's long-term future in Hawaii is stable as long as it's self-sufficient in financing, and "we're not asking for money," Aida said.

"Our primary interest is to produce all-digital-animated feature films," he said. "We're not interested in becoming just a special effects house ... or doing commercials."

Square USA continues to develop new technologies here, including software Aida called "real time rendering."

The software allows the artist to see his finished computer animation in minutes rather than the previous five to eight hours, allowing quick changes saving time and money, Aida said. It's taken Square USA more than two years to develop the technology.

Square USA's other Hawaii projects include a possible deal with Columbia Pictures to produce a straight-to-DVD prequel of "Final Fantasy." (The release date of the "Final Fantasy" DVD is Oct. 23.)

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