WRITETHRU, NEW INFO: What happened is that Imagi Animation Studios lost some investor funding in September, got it back in late fall, expected new money sometime in January or February, and then needed a bridge loan to keep up and running, which they claim to have secured but has been late in coming. So the financially squeezed Hong Kong-based studio responsible for TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) realized Friday night that it couldn’t make its Los Angeles payroll, called everyone on Saturday and laid off almost 80 union animators out of the 120 staff in the LA office, and halted production on the upcoming CGI-animated feature film Astro Boy for Summit Entertainment. Behind the scenes, the company is privately assuring Summit that this won’t affect the pic’s release this year. Imagi is expecting the bridge loan to come through on February 3rd. An insider just told me, “Our No. 1 concern is to finish Astro Boy with this incredible team.” I’m hearing that the fiscal crisis could also affect 2010’s Gatchaman. Just to add more insight, Imagi not only is having financial problems with its production, but it does not have money to release the film. The deal with Summit is a “service deal” meaning that Summit is simply releasing the film and Imagi has to put up all the P&A. Imagi, with the help of WMA, has been going around town trying to raise $30 million of P&A. It’s really an unfortunate mess.