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Headline News Tokyo Banks Help Animation Biz

Banks in Japan are underwriting a new scheme for animation content development, backed by the Tokyo city government, reports VARIETY. Development Bank of Japan will kick in $460,000 and New Bank Tokyo is giving $640,000 for the initiative.

Last year, the Tokyo city government announced an official policy of supporting the local animation industry through financial and other measures.

Headline News MGM Reorganizes Distribution for DVD and TV

After reinventing itself and launching a New Media division, MGM will now reestablish its worldwide TV distribution in-house and consolidate its DVD business with Twentieth Century Fox rather than splitting home entertainment releases between Sony Pictures Ent. and Fox. It should be noted that both Sony and Fox are aligned with the Blu-ray format for high-def DVD. Additionally, MGM and Fox will continue their successful international theatrical distribution relationship.

Headline News Lightborne Launches New CG Division

Motion design and production company Lightborne has expanded its offerings with a new CG division, headed by digital effects supervisor David Lombardi. Lombardi, who has worked extensively in commercials, videogames, feature films, episodics and music videos, will be responsible for new business development, maintaining client relations, overseeing all visual effects work and building the CG department. He is currently working on a CG-driven spot for Hasbro Tooth Tunes via ad agency Wonder Group.

Headline News The Weinstein Co. Builds a Dragon Dynasty

Bob and Harvey Weinstein have announced the unveiling of Dragon Dynasty, the new label under which all The Weinstein Co.'s Asian titles will be released, including ONG BAK 2, THE PROTECTOR (aka TOM YUM GOONG), BORN TO FIGHT, SPL, SEVEN SWORDS and DRAGON SQUAD, as well as a package of high profile titles, which was licensed from Fortune Star Ent. the distribution division of News Corp.'s STAR Group which owns the world's largest contemporary Chinese language feature film library.

Headline News MK2, Onyx Films Join Forces on New Game Firm

French independent film group MK2 has joined forces with animation studio Onyx Films to form a videogame publishing joint venture, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The 50-50 venture, MKO Games, will develop and publish high-end, cross-platform games for PC, consoles and mobile devices.

"The idea is to bring together the movie industry and the game industry in France, which have until now just been eyeing each other up," said Nathanael Karmitz, who recently took over MK2 from his father and company founder Marin Karmitz.

Headline News THQ Acquires Vigil Games

Interactive entertainment software publisher/developer THQ Inc. has acquired Austin, Texas-based, game developer Vigil Games. The Virgil team will be led by David Adams, previously creator/director of several projects for NCSoft and famed comic artist Joe Madureira, best known for his work on Marvel Comic's Uncanny X-Men and his creator-owned comic series, BATTLE CHASERS. Vigil is currently working on new content for next-gen scheduled for release in 2008.

Headline News DECODE and Halifax Film Go Public as DHX Media

Leading kids and family entertainment specialist DECODE Ent. and Canadian independent The Halifax Film Co. have joined forces to create DHX Media.

The new entertainment ventures shares launched on both the AIM in London and the Toronto stock exchange, the TSX, with trading starting on May 19. 2006.

Headline News Rainmaker Announces New Animation and VFX Facility in London

Rainmaker has established a new facility in the Soho district of London: Rainmaker Animation and Visual Effects UK Ltd. In fact, all the visual effects in the St. Sulpice sequence of THE DA VINCI CODE were completed there. Led by Rainmaker visual effects supervisor Mark Breakspear and visual effects producer Nick Drew, the crew produced the longest visual effects sequence in the film.

Headline News Aardman Launches International TV Distribution Division

Aardman Animations, the Academy Award-winning stop-motion animation studio, is making its foray into distribution, launching its own dedicated sales arm, Aardman International, to exploit its growing catalogue of properties.

Miles Bullough, Aardmans head of broadcast and development, will oversee the new division.

Headline News Dygra Grows Int'l Sales Arm

Animation studio Dygra Films has opened an in-house international sales arm, headed by Tania Pinto Da Cunha, VARIETY reports.

The new arm will focus on Dygra productions, starting with its CG toon, THE SPIRIT OF THE FOREST, set to delivery in early 2007. Next up will be the family comedy, HOLLY NIGHT!, due for Christmas 2007.

Dygra's A MIDSUMMER'S DREAM, which opened last summer, will continue to be handled by Lumina Films.

Headline News Digital Domain Acquired By Investment Group Led by Michael Bay

Digital Domain, the Oscar-winning vfx studio and production company based in Venice, California, has been acquired for a reported $35 million by South Florida-based Wyndcrest Holdings Llc., a group led by director Michael Bay, former NFL quarterback Dan Marino and investor John Textor.

Headline News Liberty Media Buying IDT Ent. to Propel Starz Ent. Group Programming

Liberty Media Corp. is buying IDT Ent. from parent company IDT Corp. it was announced today, May 16, 2006. Liberty will give up its holdings in IDT Corp. to add this diversified production/distribution group of companies to its holdings, which includes Starz Ent. Group that will have the capability to create a wide array of CG-animated and live-action programming for domestic and international distribution in all major channels, including broadcast syndication, premium television, theatrical and home video/DVD.

Headline News Activision to Open Facility on DreamWorks Animation Campus

Activision will be opening a dedicated studio facility on the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale, California, following on the heels of their strategic alliance. The move, which establishes an unprecedented level of collaboration between a Hollywood studio and a videogame company, will facilitate simultaneous co-development between DreamWorks' 3D-animated features and Activision games based on those films.

Headline News Silicon Graphics Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

Silicon Graphics Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 on May 8, 2006, after a round of restructuring measures failed, and signed an agreement with its lenders to reduce the companys debt by about $250 million, according to SGI officials.

In court papers, SGI said it had been challenged by delays in introducing new technology, a focus on more specialized markets and more intense competition from larger rivals.

Headline News Disney Completes Pixar Acquisition

Disney has completed its acquisition of Pixar animation Studios as Pixar shareholders approved the takeover of the company today (May 5, 2006) in an all-stock deal valued at more than $7.4 billion as 2.3 Disney shares will be issued for each Pixar share. The vote was taken at a special meeting of shareholders in San Francisco presided over by Pixar cfo Simon Bax.

Headline News Feds Drop Shrek 2 Probe

The Securities and Exchange Commission's L.A. office recommended on May 4, 2006, that a probe into DreamWorks Animation cease with no enforcement action, according to various business reports.

With the recommendation, the SEC will most likely rule not to sanction DWA for failing to warn investors, before first-quarter earnings were announced last year, that returns on the SHREK 2 DVD were running much higher than anticipated, causing the company to miss guidance.

However, there are still several shareholder lawsuits still pending over the matter.

Headline News Madagascar DVD Drives DreamWorks Animation 1st Quarter

For the first quarter of 2006, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. reported total revenue of $60.1 million and net income of approximately $12.3 million, or $0.12 per share on a fully diluted basis, driven primarily by the home entertainment sales of MADAGASCAR. However, this compares to revenue of $167 million and net income of $45.7 million, or $0.44 per share on a fully diluted basis for the same period in 2005. The company ended the period with $505.5 million of cash and cash equivalents.

Headline News Vivendi Universal Games Becomes Vivendi Games

Vivendi Universal Games announced on May 1, 2006, its new name, Vivendi Games "VG). The name change follows the parent company's announcement on April 20 that Vivendi Universal has become Vivendi. Under its new name, Vivendi Games will compete in all areas of the videogames industry, developing and publishing the highest quality franchises for all gamers.

Headline News PA Supreme Court Allows Use Of Computer Animation

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors may use computer animation to illustrate their murder case, but the animation has to be relevant and must authentically depict the crime scene, reports THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

On April 25, 2006, the court said that the animation was handled properly in the case of Michael Serge, 60, a retired Scranton police detective who shot and killed his estranged wife. Serge claimed that she had attacked him with a knife and was too intoxicated to have intended to kill her. He is now serving a life sentence.

Headline News Microsoft Reportedly Buying Massive Inc.

Various news reports say that Microsoft Corp. plans to pay $200-400 million for Massive Inc., a privately held company that places ads in videogames.

The deal to buy the two-year-old startup demonstrates the increasing importance of advertising in nontraditional media, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Microsoft and Massive spokeswomen have declined comment.

Headline News DAZ Prods. Acquires Carrara Maker Eovia

DAZ Productions Inc., a leading developer of professional quality 3D models and software, today (April 25, 2006) announced it has acquired Eovia Corp., a based in Mountain View, California-based developer and publisher of leading 3D animation, modeling and rendering solutions. DAZ Productions has taken over Eovia's entire development, marketing and sales divisions and all the technology rights to Carrara, Eovias 3D modeling, animation and rendering software. DAZ Prods. has also acquired all technology rights to Hexagon, Eovias 3D modeling software, from Eovia Europe S.A.

Headline News James Cameron Stresses VFX Impact on Digital 3-D at NAB

Director James Cameron, who has sworn allegiance to digital 3-D in all future production plans, including his upcoming back-to-back features, AVATAR and BATTLE ANGEL, offered an optimistic roadmap during his keynote at Sunday's (April 23, 2006) NAB Digital Cinema Summit in Las Vegas. He noted the success of both POLAR

EXPRESS in IMAX 3-D and CHICKEN LITTLE in digital 3-D as proof that there is an audience willing to pay a premium for a more immersive theatrical experience, but cautioned that "content will drive this [revolution]."

Headline News Lightstorm Evaluating Performance Capture Vendors

Lightstorm producer Jon Landau told VFXWORLD at Sunday's (April 23, 2006) NAB Digital Cinema Summit in Las Vegas that director James Cameron will emphasize performance capture technology as part of his upcoming digital 3-D feature production plans.

Headline News SAG OKs Cable Toon Deal

SAG's national board has unanimously ratified its new contract for basic cable animation, reports the trades. The contract, which went into effect with Friday's approval, is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2006, and will run through June 30, 2008.

The new deal nets a 20% increase in residuals after 16 years under an original pact with such companies as Walt Disney Pictures & Television, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios.

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