Continuing a 50 year-old Hollywood Animation tradition, Los Angeles, New York and London-based Unbound has moved its Unbound Animation Studio into the buildings occupied by Playhouse Pictures since 1952. Playhouse, which is relocating to larger facilities in West Los Angeles, is recognized by the City Council of Los Angeles as the oldest continuously operating animation studio in Hollywood, and second oldest (after Disney) in the world.
Cinar, which is beginning to rebound from its troubled past, has announced it will team with France's Alphanim to co-produce two new 26-episode animated series, CREEP SCHOOL and POTATOES & DRAGONS. CREEP SCHOOL is a spooky comedy that takes place at an isolated boarding school. The series concept was created by Torbjorn Janson and Sweden's Happy Life, and will be co-produced by CINAR, Alphanim & Happy Life. The series is set to broadcast on TeleTOON (Canada), France 3 and ZDF in Germany.
Perky Pickle Studios, a new full-service animation studio has launched in Burbank, California. Helmed by award-winning animation filmmaker Jordan Reichek, Perky Pickle will offer a variety of animation techniques including 2D traditional, 3D and Flash. Said Reichek, "Top talent with strong leadership and financial responsibility are the cornerstones of the Perky Pickle Studio mantra. With this idea, we hope to provide a creative haven for our clients and employees." The studio has already partnered with artist Robt. Williams to develop his bizarre artwork into animated properties.
In an ongoing effort to reduce costs, Jim Morris, President of Lucas Digital Ltd., has announced a restructuring of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Key changes have been made to the leadership team in a move to streamline management. To this end, Chrissie England, a twenty-four year veteran of ILM, has been named senior vice president of production. England was most recently vice president of feature production, a post she held for the last two years. Reporting directly to Morris, England will oversee all aspects of ILM's feature effects work.
UK-based entertainment and sports marketing company CSS Stellar has acquired a majority shareholding in Target Distribution from founder shareholder Tiger Aspect Productions (MR. BEAN). In June 2002, Target had agreed to a merger with the Just Group, with Just Group proposing a 54% stake in the company to be purchased with funds raised by shareholders. This deal fell through in late summer, although Target continued to pursue a financial and strategic partner.
Intertainer, an online broadband entertainment-on-demand site has filed an anti-trust suit against three major entertainment companies, AOL Time Warner, Vivendi Universal and Sony. Intertainer has accused the companies of conspiracy to fix prices in the digital distribution of entertainment. Intertainer's suit alleges that the three defendants have attempted to control the marketplace for entertainment content on demand, thereby hindering and delaying the emergence of the broadband content industry and Intertainer's video on demand services.
Capitalizing on the name-recognition of the Sony brand, the company announced that it will be renaming its domestic and international television divisions. Columbia TriStar Domestic Television (CTDT) and Columbia TriStar International Television (CTIT) will now operate under the names Sony Pictures Television (SPT) and Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI), respectively.
Elephant Productions, the UK-based media company behind such series as GRIZZLY TALES FOR GRUESOME KIDS and JOHNNY CASANOVA THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE, is to join forces with animation company Fictitious Egg to launch a new studio, Elephant Egg. The studio plans to offer a full range of animation services including traditional 2D, Flash, CGI and Celaction, as well as development and co-production services. Sarah Muller, managing director of Elephant Productions, will head up Elephant Egg, with Andy Wyatt, managing director of Fictitious Egg, as head of animation.
Animation and family entertainment reps The Gotham Group have reemerged from the break up of Artists Management Group, where they functioned as AMG's animation agency, and have forged a strategic relationship with The William Morris Agency (WMA). The announcement was made jointly by Jim Wiatt, president and co-CEO of the William Morris Agency and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, CEO/founder of The Gotham Group. WMA will also represent Goldsmith-Vein and Gotham in their role as producers and expect to announce a first look deal at a major studio shortly. Gotham also plans to branch out to live-action.
Production agency CeMEDIA (Central European Media Workshop) has added Hungary's FirkaFilm to its production network and named it "First Base Studio" for the CeMEDIA production pipeline. Firka will control the overall production process and subcontract to other CeMEDIA member studios. Under contract with Varga Studios, Firka has provided animation services for an ANGELINA BALLERINA special and most recently completed the animation for 5 episodes of the series MR. BEAN. CeMedia will be at MIPCOM to distribute nearly 50 hours of animation provided by their European member studios.
Barrie Usher, president and CEO of Canadian children's entertainment company Cinar, has submitted his resignation effective September 15, 2002. George Rossi, senior vice president and CFO, will replace him in the interim until a new president and CEO is appointed. Cinar is emerging from a series of financial scandals that began in 1999, stemming from illegally obtained Canadian tax credits, non-approved investments in offshore accounts and the misappropriation of funds by senior executives.
Executive producer Steve Schofield, along with creative directors Chris Jones and Loni Peristere, all formerly of Radium, have formed visual effects company Zoic Studios. The new company, based in Los Angeles, California, will provide visual effects and CG animation for commercials, music videos, feature film and episodic television. The team is currently providing effects for the new Fox show FIREFLY, as well as the popular series BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL.
New York-based 3D design and animation company Phactory Productions, Inc., has merged with broadcast design studio Ultraviolet to create UV Phactory. The newly formed creative solutions studio offers 2D and 3D design and animation, live-action production and strategic design solutions for advertising agencies and the broadcast and cable communities. The company has already begun work on a host of jobs including projects for Miramax, HBO, TBS and The Sci-Fi Channel. UV Phactory will operate under the management team of Scott Sindorf, Damijan Saccio and Jeff Linnell.
Interactive entertainment producer NewKidCo International Inc., which develops games based on popular licensed characters such as WINNIE THE POOH and THE MUPPETS, announced its 2nd quarter 2002 results. The company had a net loss of $1.8 million for the quarter versus a net loss of $8.5 million for the same period last year. Income for the six months was a loss of $3.6 million versus a loss of $8.2 million last year, with revenue for the three and six months at $1.2 million and $3.1 million respectively versus $1.7 million and $5.3 million for the same period one year ago.
C21 Media reports that HIT Entertainment has finalized its acquisition of Gullane, in a deal worth approximately US$215.2 million. Gullane had consistently rebuffed HIT's acquisition proposals until July 2002, when Gullane's directors agreed to a takeover by HIT following support from major shareholders Britt Allcroft and Angus Wright. Adam Mills, chairman of Gullane said: "After careful consideration and a comprehensive review of alternatives, the Board has concluded that an acquisition of Gullane by HIT is in the best interests of shareholders.
Korean animation studio Sunwoo Entertainment has announced the establishment of Sunwoo USA, headquartered in Burbank, California. The U.S. headquarters will be the new business development, talent recruiting and international content development arm of Sunwoo Entertainment, which has produced hundreds of episodes of television series including RUGRATS for Nickelodeon, PEPPER ANN and RECESS for Disney and THE FAMILY GUY for Fox. Jae Moh, the executive vice president of Sunwoo Entertainment, will become the CEO and president of Sunwoo USA.
Brooklyn, New York is the home of a newly formed animation studio called Dancing Diablo. The studio set up shop in January 2002, and has already taken on some high profile projects, including work on Fox Kids' upcoming series TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Founded by director / illustrator / motion designer Beatriz Helena Ramos, who at age 22 founded Caracas Comics Studio in her native Venezuela and has worked on such projects as MTV DOWNTOWN and John R.
According to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, DreamWorks is in the process of enhancing its animation production capabilities and hopes these enhancements will cut the production time for CG animated features in half. This would allow DreamWorks to release two to three animated features per year. DreamWorks just closed two major financing transactions totaling $1.5 billion. The new financing consists of a $1 billion film securitization, which DreamWorks is labeling the first of its kind in the film industry, as well as a $500 million revolving credit facility.
Independent animation company Film Roman has reported that revenue increased by 18% or $1.7 million, to $11.1 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2002 compared to $9.4 million for the quarter ended June 30, 2001. The revenue increase is attributed to the delivery of more fee-for-services television episodes. Net loss attributable to common stock for the second quarter of 2002 was ($169,756) or ($0.02) per share compared to a net loss attributable to common stock of ($1,293,641) or ($0.15) per share for the second quarter of 2001.
Egmont Imagination, the international animation arm of Danish production and distribution company Egmont Entertainment, will be closed, according to a report in VARIETY. The announcement comes on the heels of Egmont joining forces with Danish film and television producer Nordisk Film in mid-August 2002. The new company will now be known as Nordisk Film.
The law firm of Weiss & Yourman has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of securities of the Walt Disney Company between August 15, 1997 and May 15, 2002. The complaint alleges that Disney and some of its officers and directors violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by failing to disclose to the investing public the existence, details and potential effects of a pending lawsuit over merchandising rights concerning WINNIE THE POOH.
UK-based distributor HIT Entertainment has announced the opening of HIT Entertainment Canada, Inc. Officially launched on August 1, 2002, the Toronto-based office will function under the leadership of vice president Pam Westman, and is comprised of an entirely Canadian staff who are responsible for video, DVD and audio sales and distribution, as well as marketing, consumer products, licensing and broadcast sales for HIT's brands in Canada. "HIT recognizes the importance of having a corporate office in Canada," said Rob Lawes, CEO, HIT Entertainment.
The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE (formerly Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists) has signed a contract with Spaff Animation for work on Disney's upcoming theatrical release JUNGLE BOOK 2, as well as the direct-to-video release LION KING 1 1/2. Long-time animation vet Dave Spafford, who was a lead animator on WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, THE SECRET OF NIMH, OLIVER AND COMPANY, THE FOX AND THE HOUND and many others, runs Spaff Animation, which has provided animation for a wide variety of projects for the past 15 years.
Vancouver-based independent producer Samantha Daley has launched Nudge Productions to provide strategic production consulting, product marketing strategy, production management and sales and marketing. Her current clients include Atomic Cartoons, Pork and Beans Productions Inc. and MX Solutions. "Current market trends show production work moving from large conglomerate studios to smaller boutique studios.
It probably comes as no surprise that the incredible success of Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios feature film release SPIDER-MAN ($800 million worldwide) has led the company into strong second quarter revenues. Revenue in this quarter rose to $71 million from $45.9 million a year ago. For its quarter ended June 30, Marvel reported a net profit of $4.2 million after provisions for preferred dividends, or 10 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $11.4 million, or 33 cents a share, a year before.