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Laika expands in Northwest

Studio will add to Portland office before heading to the 'burbs

Portland has won Laika Inc.'s expansion consolation prize - at least for the next few years.

Phil Knight's animation company announced today that it is expanding into 60,000 square feet of a Northwest Portland office building, only a couple of blocks from Laika's current headquarters at Northwest 22nd Avenue and Pettygrove Street.

Laika will use the new space, at 1621 N.W. 21st Ave., to house the artists and animators who will produce Laika Entertainment's second animated feature film, due out in 2009.

Laika's announcement comes after its much larger announcement last week - that the company that was once Portland's Will Vinton Studios before Nike Inc. chairman Knight acquired it in 2003 plans to build a 30-acre campus in Tualatin to house all of Laika's operations.

Eventually, that campus will house the company's stop-motion and computer-generated animation studios, as well as administrative offices, a fitness center, cafeteria and theater. The first phase of that campus is expected to open in 2008.

But in the meantime, Laika needed space for the artists who will produce 'Jack and Ben's Animated Adventure.' The computer-generated animation film is set to be released in 2009, a year after the expected release of Laika's first animated film, 'Coraline.'

Laika staff will take up most of the first floor and the third floor of the building on Northwest 21st Avenue between Raleigh and Savier streets, Laika President and Chief Executive Officer Dale Wahl said this week. Laika has a three-year lease for that space, Wahl said.

Wahl said company officials are excited about finding space so near the company's current headquarters. Company officials knew that 'the closer we could keep everything together, the better off we would be,' he said.

But Wahl said the company expects to soon make another announcement about more leased space: A larger warehouse-type space in the Portland area that the company will lease and use for the actual production of 'Coraline.'

'Coraline' will be a stop-motion animation film, which generally does not use computer imagery; instead, the film uses claylike figures that artists manipulate to make each frame of a movie. Laika's predecessor company, Will Vinton Studios, was a leader in stop-motion animation and produced, for example, the California Raisins commercials of two decades ago.

With two feature-length movies already in the works and with continued work on commercials and other features, Wahl said Laika plans for a major work force expansion. He said he expects Laika's current work force of 200 will expand by 400 workers during the next two and a half to three years.

Wahl said that in searching for sites for Laika's long-term campus, company officials considered staying in Portland but could not find enough vacant land for the what they wanted to build.