MGA Ent., which owns those hugely successful Bratz fashion doll line, is more aggressively translating its intellectual properties into entertainment with the launch of its new production unit, MGA Ent. Films. MGA has recruited animation vets Jay Fukuto as vp of the entertainment division and Ellen Levy-Sarnoff as senior director of creative for Bratz Ent.
Comcast Corp. announced April 28, 2004 that it has withdrawn its proposal to merge with The Walt Disney Co., right after the Disney board of directors concluded its annual retreat where it reiterated its confidence in ceo Michael Eisner, which, in turn, angered Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold, who have been trying to oust the chief executive.
Brian L. Roberts, president/ceo of Comcast said, "It has become clear that there is no interest on the part of Disney's management and board in putting Comcast and Disney together. As a result, we have withdrawn our offer."
Klasky Csupo Animation Studio has launched a mature entertainment arm, Global Tantrum (www.globaltantrum.com). Klasky Csupo ceo Terry Thoren will oversee all business operations. Global Tantrum will target the 18-35 age group and produces TV series, feature films and content for the Internet.
Klasky Csupo principal Gabor Csupo said, "It is refreshing to have a vehicle that expresses such a different creative vision. We hope viewers are entertained by the material, whether in film, television or internet form as we move forward with the Global Tantrum brand."
Tokyo-based Kadokawa Holdings will invest $100 million in DreamWorks, reports VARIETY. This deal will make the Japanese media corporation 2.83% shareholder in the privately held studio, which was created by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994. As part of the investment, Kadokawa will have exclusive distribution rights to DreamWorks films, videos, DVDs and other products in Japan. The deal is similar to ones DreamWorks has with Universal and Korean distribution company Cheil.
Calabasas, California-based THQ Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire leading PC development studio, Relic Entertainment. THQ expects the acquisition to be completed by May 1, 2004. Other terms of the all-cash transaction were not disclosed.
Previously, THQ had partnered with Vancouver-based Relic Ent. through a two-property, multi-year publishing agreement including the upcoming realtime strategy (RTS) title, WARHAMMER 40,000: DAWN OF WAR, scheduled to release in fall 2004.
Board members of the Walt Disney Co. assembled at Disneyland on Monday for an informal two-day retreat to discuss, among other things, whether to renew ceo Michael Eisners contract, which expires in 2006, the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported. CalPERS and other pension funds recently demanded a meeting with the board, which is scheduled for May 21, 2004.
The restructuring of EM.TV Merchandising AG is complete into EM.TV Vermögensverwaltungs AG, with the resulting company to be known henceforth as EM.TV AG, headquartered near Munich, Germany.
Word has leaked out that Sony Corp. is in talks to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. for a cash deal valued at approximately $5 billion, according to AP and other news organizations. Sony and two private firms, Providence Equity Partners and Texas Pacific Group, have been examining MGM's books in anticipation of an offer that might take place in several weeks.
A deal would likely fold MGM into Sony Pictures Ent. and expand Sony's film library with an additional 4,200-plus titles, including lucrative United Artists franchises such as James Bond and the Pink Panther.
The ongoing war between The Walt Disney Co. and ex-Disney board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold has flared up again with the two sides debating the actual percentage of No Confidence votes received by Disney ceo and former chairman Michael Eisner and board member and newly elected chairman George Mitchell.
SPIN takes its vision to Vancouver, creating a new studio, SPIN West VFX. The new studio (SPIN is headquartered in Toronto with another shop in Atlanta) has hit the ground running, landing vfx work on the much-anticipated television miniseries STEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL. Close behind the Stephen King production is work for STARGATE SG1 (Sci Fi Channel) and SPYMATES (Keystone Pictures).
Dean Valentine, former UPN president/ceo and president of Walt Disney Television, has partnered with prominent entertainment execs Richard Cohen and Nicolas Van Dyk to form First Family Entertainment in Los Angeles. The new company will develop and produce niche-oriented, direct-to-DVD/video programming for family audiences. The new venture already has inked a home video distribution deal with MGM.
13 member-companies of TV France International will be presenting programs at the Second Regional Showcase in Beirut at the Sofitel Gabriel, April 20 21, 2004. To date, 44 executives, representing Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, and Tunisia, have confirmed their presence. The Film and Television sections of the French embassies in Amman and Beirut are supporting the event, which is aimed at promoting the French productions in the Near and Middle East.
Visual effects vet and former Secret Lab head Hoyt Yeatman has formed Whamaphram Prods. to produce CG animated features, reported VARIETY. Burbank-based toon house will specialize in completely animated and hybrid live-action/animated films.
The new studio is pitching its first project G-FORCE to several studios. The live-action family adventure would chronicle the NSA's top secret unit of highly intelligent, talking animals. Yeatman plans to direct the film.
Roy Disney sued the Walt Disney Co. on April 8 to release information on how many employees participated in last month's protest vote against the reelection of chief exec Michael Eisner, the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported.
In the suit filed in Delaware Chancery Court, Disney asked the court to make the company show documents, records, proxies and ballots from the annual meeting in Philadelphia.
The voice cast of THE SIMPSONS has stopped working to force Twentieth Century Fox TV to finalize their new contracts, reported VARIETY. The cast's previous three-year contracts expired several months back. Apparently, the cast has not showed up for two script readings over the past few weeks. Actors participating in the stoppage include Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu, Comic Book Guy), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns and others), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart).
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy dismissed the 13-year-old lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. brought by Stephen Slesinger Inc., the owners of the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights, after concluding that they "tampered with the administration of justice" by hiring a private investigator to take documents from Disney's trash bins. Mondays ruling spares Disney from having to pay royalties and damages that might have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Disney.
With the acquisition of the company by former Nelvana execs Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor complete, Cinar's name has been officially changed to Cookie Jar Ent. The once publicly traded company will now be a private entity. The principals include Hirsh and Taylor along with Steve and Patty Carson, TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS). The overall Cookie Jar Group also includes leading education companies Carson-Dellosa and HighReach Learning.
Comcast Corp. announced that it has signed an agreement with Vulcan Programming Inc. to acquire TechTV Inc. Comcast plans to merge TechTV with G4, the Comcast-owned television network devoted to videogames and the gamer lifestyle. The deal increases Comcasts content portfolio and expands G4s distribution. The combined channel will be available to 44 million cable and satellite customers nationwide.
Announced at MIP-TV, independent animation studio Mike Young Prods (MYP) announced the formation of Taffy Ent., the new business unit dedicated to the rights management and worldwide distribution of family and childrens entertainment. Mike and Liz Young and Bill Schultz created Taffy to own and represent its library as well as to actively seek to acquire rights to other animation properties.
Entertainment Rights has announced that it has purchased the complete rights to the Filmation library from Hallmark Entertainment in a $20 million deal. The library includes more than 1,700 hours of programming, featuring HE-MAN AND MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, SHE-RA, GHOSTBUSTERS, MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN, THE LONE RANGER, THE ARCHIES, FAT ALBERT, SABRINA and BRAVESTAR.
Focus Features has opened a new action, thriller and urban dedicated label called Rogue Pictures, reported VARIETY. Supervision of the new unit will be headed by Focus' management team. Focus president of distribution Jack Foley will be the go-to man on Rogue releases. The first film to be released by the new arm with the forthcoming CHILD'S PLAY sequel, THE SEED OF CHUCKY, directed and written by series creator Don Mancini.
THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE director Sylvain Chomet has opened an animation company called Studio Django in Edinburgh, Scotland. The new firm has already signed on for two productions. Chomet's wife Sally will serve as a producer for the company.
Square Enix Co. Ltd. has acquired UIEvolution, Inc., a leading wireless software company, through its subsidiary, Square Enix U.S.A. Inc. This move is in hopes to capitalize on the growing mobile market in the U.S. Square Enix invested approximately $4 million in UIEvolution in December 2003. UIEvolution will function as the research and development center for core technologies that will help Square Enix produce a new type of network-based entertainment.
With the epic undertaking of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy behind them, Weta Digital is considering renting out several racks of IBM blade servers in partnership with Telecom, reports www.stuff.co.nz. Telecom Advanced Solutions started hosting the hardware last winter after Weta ran out of room in the Miramar facility. The new servers were linked to Weta's main site using a 10 gigabit fibre-optic connection.