On Feb. 17, 2004, Walt Disney was in French courts defending itself against charges by author Franck Le Calvez that FINDING NEMO is an infringement on his creation PIERROT THE CLOWN FISH reported REUTERS. Le Calvez seeks to bar the release on any books and merchandising featuring the image of Nemo, which resembles Pierrot. Disney's lawyers claimed that Nemo's likeness cannot be considered a brand in and of itself. Judge Louis-Marie Raingeard de la Bletiere said he would rule on the case's merits on March 12, 2004.
Peak Entertainment Holdings Inc. in the U.K. has finalized consulting agreement with POW! Entertainment, Llc., a company incorporated in the U.S. to capitalize on the highly acclaimed action hero creations from Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
Lee will offer his extensive live-action experience to the traditionally animated company and Peak will offer Stan Lee a platform via its flexible vertical properties for any future creation and development.
MGM vice chairman/coo Chris McGurk admitted on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004 that he has discussed a distribution partnership with Pixar Animation Studios during a conference call with financial reporters to discuss MGM's record net income of $60.3 million for the fourth quarter- spurred by DVD and video sales of LEGALLY BLONDE 2 and JEEPERS CREEPERS II.
After Walt Disney Co. directors rejected Comcast's unsolicited $54 billion bid as too low and rallied behind beleaguered chairman Michael Eisner, Comcast defended its merger proposal on Tuesday, leaving doubt about its willingness to sweeten the offer. On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co. lost 9 cents to $26.83. But the board said it would "consider any legitimate proposal" that would create shareholder value. Comcast was up 87 cents at $30.77 after several sessions of declines.
CINAR shareholders voted at a special meeting in Montreal on Feb. 17, 2004 to accept the acquisition offer from the investor group comprised of former Nelvana execs Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor, and TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners.
Kermit and his Muppets pals have decided to move into the uproarious mouse house, having been acquired by The Walt Disney Co. in a deal announced Feb. 17, 2004, on the heels of Disney rejecting Comcasts hostile bid to buy the entertainment conglomerate. Disney has been trying for some time to acquire from Jim Henson Co.
Techimage, provider of high-end software solutions for both 2D and 3D artists in the U.K. and northern Europe, has appointed Peter Griffiths as business manager and has relocated to new and larger offices in Burford, Oxfordshire.
Seamus Morley, director of Techimage, commented: "The addition of Peter with his knowledge and understanding of the CG market, plus the move to larger offices will enable us to better serve our customers and the growing market for high end CG."
Alias has announced it is involved in exclusive discussions with a leading private equity investment firm for the acquisition of Alias from SGI. The company reassures customers that no changes to the management team, organization, services, support or product availability will occur as a result of the negotiations or the sale of the business.
DreamWorks' entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham is working with investment banks J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs to initiate an IPO proposal of the entertainment company's animation division, reported VARIETY. The trade publication quotes a source as saying "the likelihood of an IPO at about 60%. But studio execs are 100% committed to trying to make the plan work." It's estimated that the offering would be timed around the premiere of DreamWorks' next animated feature SHARK TALE, which bows in theaters Oct. 1, 2004. Details of whether it would proceed or follow the release are not known.
With cable TV giant Comcast Corp. stunning the entertainment world with its proposed offer on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004, to buy the Walt Disney Co. for an estimated stock value of $66 billion, the industry was abuzz with speculation that Disney chairman/ceo Michael Eisner's days are now numbered. Especially in light of the fact that Institutional Shareholder Services, a leading provider of proxy voting and corporate governance services, also recommended on Wednesday that Disney shareholders withhold their vote for Eisner's reelection to the board of directors.
The Walt Disney Co. and Microsoft Corp. have signed a multiyear agreement to cooperate on several long-term digital media initiatives to improve the quality, security and reach of digital content within the home and on Microsoft Windows XP-based PCs, as well as on a growing number of home and portable entertainment devices. As part of the agreement, Disney will license Microsoft Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Disney and Microsoft have identified three areas of joint focus that utilize effective rights management:
Everything was back to normal Friday on Wall Street after Pixar stock dipped slightly on Thursday following ceo Steve Jobs' mid-week assault on Disney during a conference call with analysts to rejoice Pixar's fourth quarter earnings. On Friday, shares of Pixar Animation Studios stock rose 1.1% to finish at $63.27 after slipping 1.5% on Thursday to finish at $62.58. On Wednesday, Pixar reported net income of $83.9M, or $1.44 a share, for the period-ended Dec. 31, thanks to the record-breaking FINDING NEMO, compared to $17M, or 31 cents a share for the comparable period in 2002.
A mouse displaced out of the Disney house is roaring. Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold have been busy in the past week stirring up supporters and media attention in their efforts to oust Michael Eisner, chairman of The Walt Disney Co.
There's a report in Tuesday's NEW YORK POST that DreamWorks is "ramping up efforts to spin off its animation unit" as part of a potential sale to Hollywood studios. DreamWorks is reportedly in considerable debt (last year its ranking with rival studios dropped) and loans are coming up payable in a little more than a year. According to analysts, an animation spin-off would allow it to raise the necessary cash to float the losses, "while maintaining an lucrative production agreement," since animation is the only profitable center.
After many years of Cuppa Coffee Studio's series division doing largely work for hire, the Toronto-based studio is diversifying by creating and selling its own shows under its own distribution arm, Decaf Distribution.
It's official: Pixar has concluded discussions to extend its long-term partnership with The Walt Disney Co., and will go its own way as a potential indie powerhouse with its own strong brand identity. The Emeryville, California-based CG animation studio still has two features to deliver to Disney: THE INCREDIBLES in 2004 and CARS in 2005, but is now free to continue negotiations for a distribution deal with another studio. Last August, Pixar chairman and ceo Steve Jobs initiated talks with Fox and Warner Bros.
First Alias furthered its continuing strategic partnership with Weta Digital, now the 3D graphics technology powerhouse has formed a stronger alliance with Los Angeles-based motion capture production company House of Moves. Alias will develop and integrate House of Moves' Diva software into future versions of Maya.
IDT Entertainment is fast approaching buying up all the ingredients it needs to be a completely diversified, worldwide entertainment conglomerate with its latest acquisition of a 5% equity interest in Archie Comics Entertainment, LLC. This agreement gives IDT the rights to co-develop and co-produce select animated properties based upon Archie Comics Ent. characters.
Avid Technology has acquired Munich-based NXN Software, the leading provider of asset and production management systems specifically targeted for the entertainment and computer graphics industries, in a cash transaction valued at approximately EUR35 million.
New animation studio Ooga Booga Studio Inc. has opened in Vancouver to focus on the production of high quality 2D and 3D animation for commercials, promos and television specials. Founder is Colleen Pollock, formerly senior producer at another Canadian house, Natterjack Animation Co.
A state appeals court in California reinstated WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? novelist Gary K. Wolf's lawsuit against Walt Disney Co., claiming that Disney owes Wolf millions of dollars in merchandising royalties, reported the ASSOCIATED PRESS. This lawsuit is very similar to the one brought against Disney by the Slesinger family, owners of the WINNIE THE POOH copyright.
Using 165 seats of primarily Maya Unlimited, Maya proved invaluable as the core 3D animation software utilized in the production of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has denied an appeal by Clare Milne and Disney to recapture the rights under copyright to Winnie the Pooh from the Slesinger family, originally granted in an agreement with author A. A. Milne in the '30s.
In November of 2002, Disney said Clare Milne had initiated complex copyright-law maneuvers in an effort to reclaim the rights to Pooh. In May, a Federal District court ruled in favor of the Slesingers, leading to Milne's appeal, which Disney joined.
Raven Moon Entertainment Inc. has formed a new animation company called Raven Animation Inc., with plans to target former Disney/MGM animators that recently lost their jobs on Jan. 12 because of the closing of Disney's animation operations at Disney/MGM studios in Orlando, Florida.
Stargate Digital, the visual effects studio based in Pasadena, Californa, has opened a new facility, Stargate Digital UK, at London's historic Pinewood Studios.
The new high-speed, deep storage digital facility is modeled after Stargate's growing and groundbreaking Los Angeles and Vancouver studios. All three studios will be linked via a state-of-the art high-speed, high-resolution digital network and will be able to quickly and efficiently work on projects and pool talent.