$86 million agreement with Chinese animation firm to make five movies.

New Zealand's Huhu Studios has signed an $86 million deal with a Chinese "powerhouse in the animation industry" to co-finance and co-produce five movies.

The deal between the Snells Beach digital media studio and Qingdao's DeZerlin Media should create 72 jobs in New Zealand, says Huhu's co-founder and chief executive Trevor Yaxley.

The agreement, signed in China yesterday during Prime Minister John Key's visit, will see Huhu and DeZerlin make the five animated movies over the next three to four years, with one aimed to enter production every nine months.

Yaxley said the contract was worth around US$60 million and about two thirds of the work from the deal should come to New Zealand.


The pictures will be created in English but also dubbed in Chinese for that market.

The first of the quintet to be produced is a movie called Watch the Skies - an action film about an alien boy stranded on Earth.

"We have been pleased to work with DeZerlin on international television projects in the past, and this movie slate is a natural extension of our successful collaborations," Yaxley said.

"DeZerlin is one of the most exciting creative forces in China today, and we expect this partnership to last far beyond these first five movies."

Yaxley said that New Zealand had a lot to offer China.

"Although we're ... a tiny nation we've got a phenomenal creative bent, we've got technology and that's the sort of thing that we can help our partners with," he said.

"In turn China has got an awful lot of money and they can help us with that, so it's a good partnership,"

A number of other deals were also in the pipeline and should be signed in the next four to six weeks, Yaxley said.


Huhu, started in the 1990s, employs around 80 staff but would be hiring another 100 people over the next three months.

DeZerlin chief executive Zhang Lin said: "Partnering with Huhu Studios on these five movies is a fantastic opportunity for us to march into the international film market with such a powerful company."