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Headline News 350 Out of Play at VU Games

In its turnaround plan to improve operating effectiveness, Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games) eliminated 350 staff positions in its North American based operations. The company's Blizzard Entertainment studio was not part of the reduction.

"Restructuring the organization and reducing our cost base are necessary to improve our operating effectiveness and profitability," said VU Games ceo Bruce Hack. "This constitutes another important step in our turnaround plan aimed to better position the company for growth."

Headline News IDT Pumps Up Sales/Distribution Arm

A few months ago Rick Mischel, ceo of Mainframe Ent., alluded to AWN that a sales/distribution entity would be in place soon for IDT Ent. and now that has become a reality. IDT Ent. has formed IDT Ent. Sales (IDTeS) a new company responsible for the worldwide distribution of content from its companies, as well as third-party producers. IDT Ent. companies include Anchor Bay Ent., Manga Ent., DPS, DPS/Film Roman, Mainframe Ent. and DKP Effects.

Headline News Alias Acquisition Completed

Accel-KKR, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Alias management announced the completion of the acquisition of Alias from SGI for $57.5 million. Accel-KKR is a technology-focused private equity firm and Teachers' is one of Canada's largest pension plans with net assets of more than $75 billion CDN.

Headline News Universal Studios Forms Universal Studios Partnerships

Universal Studios announced the creation of Universal Studios Partnerships (USP), an agency-inspired entity designed to oversee multi-divisional corporate alliances as well as theatrical and home entertainment promotions. USP expands upon and renames Universal Partnership Development, a group currently overseeing long-term corporate alliances. Stephanie Sperber, svp, Universal Partnership Development, has been promoted to evp, USP, reporting to Universal Pictures vice chairman Marc Shmuger.

Headline News Hanna-Barbera Buildings Saved!

The L.A. birthplace of the FLINTSTONES has been saved, reports THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. The City Council approved a plan that will preserve all three of the historic Hanna-Barbera animation studio buildings.

"This was really the birthplace of TV animation," said Ken Bernstein, the Los Angeles Conservancy's director of preservation issues. He hailed the City Council's May 25, 2004 approval of a plan that saves the buildings, which were denied historic landmark status in 1997.

Headline News Marvel & Sony Make-Up

The litigation that disrupted the relationship between Marvel Enterprises and Sony Pictures is now over. Both companies announced they have "amicably resolved their pending court disputes." In 2003, Marvel sued SPIDER-MAN partner for $50 million, claiming the film studio was trying to label SPIDER-MAN a Sony property and leaving Marvel alienated from merchandising its own character. As part of the agreement, details were not released.

Headline News U.K. Producers Group Fears UK Toon Collapse

U.K. producers group Pact fears the U.K. animation industry teeters on the edge of collapse unless the government invests £50 million ($90 million) over eight years into a rights fund. An initial $10 million is needed to set up the fund, which would eventually sustain itself.

Headline News NBC Universal Restructures Organization

NBC Universal, recently formed through the combination of NBC and Vivendi Universal Ent. puts Bob Wright at the top of the organizational structure as chairman/ceo, while retaining his position of vice chairman/exec officer of General Electric, NBC Universal's parent company.

Headline News Arturion Completes Reorg & Acquisition of POW!

Arturion Ent. Inc. has announced that it has completed the reorganization with POW! announced in the fourth quarter of 2003. With the close of this transaction the new directors nominated by POW! will become all of the directors of Arturion, and the officers of POW! will become the officers of Arturion, responsible for day-to-day operations.

Headline News New Canadian Subsidy Directory Revised

The newly revised Canadian Subsidy Directory 2004 edition is now available, containing information to more than 2,000 direct and indirect subsidies, grants, and loans offered by various levels of government; foundation; association and other similar organizations in Canada.

Could prove good reading for companies interested in partnering with Canadian animation and vfx houses to help fund projects by taking advantage of the financial boost the entertainment and other industries get in Canada.

Headline News DreamWorks Animation IPO Gaining Momentum

According to BUSINESS WEEK, DreamWorks has retained investment bankers Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to access the timing and procedure of a potential IPO for its animation unit to help pay off its enormous debt. With SHREK 2 coming out May 19, SHARK TALE slated for Oct. 1, 2004, and the FATHER OF THE PRIDE series debuting this fall, the timing of the IPO couldn't be better.

Headline News Disney Earnings Up

Thanks to a rise in income from the theme parks, ESPN and such DVDs as FINDING NEMO and BROTHER BEAR, The Walt Disney Co. reported a 73% operating income growth for the second fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2004. Every division saw growth, except the film studio, thanks to disappointing box office returns from HIDALGO and other releases.

Headline News IDT Acquiring Anime Giant Manga Ent.

IDT Ent. is going Japanaese, signing an agreement to acquire Manga Entertainment, a film company specializing in the production, distribution and worldwide marketing of anime for home video releases, theatrical and television broadcast. IDT Ent. is a subsidiary of IDT Corp. (www.idt.net) a multinational carrier, telephone and technology company based in Newark, New Jersey which has been on an amazing buying spree of animation companies and establishing creative asset partnerships.

Headline News Asterisk Graphic Boutique Opens In New York City

Asterisk has opened shop in New York City. The boutique, headed by producing/directing team Richard O'Connor and Brian O'Connell will focus on graphic driven character animation across media for commercial, series and feature films.

"Each project is different," said O'Connor, "the issues are unique, so the solutions are unique. We might use photo collage for one thing, rotoscope for another, or a NEW YORKER illustrator for a third."

Headline News Discreet Acquires Unreal Pictures

Discreet has purchased Unreal Pictures, developers of the advanced, award-winning character animation tool, character studio. This transaction brings in patents and core character studio technology allowing Discreet to further advance the state-of-the-art in intuitive character animation.

Headline News Radium Spins Off New Design Division

Leading digital effects studio Radium has launched a new design division. In addition to offering full CGI, editorial and visual effects services, Radium now has a complete design division with eight designers. The talent includes Tuesday McGowan, Sebastian Harms, Christopher Wargin, Melinda Tidwell, Lisa Overton, Lisa Berghout, Stacy Nimmo and Christopher Kirk. All of these artists are well versed in a variety of mediums such as broadcast, film, television and print design.

Headline News IDT Ent. Gets A Little Stan Lee Power

Spreading its areas of interest and wealth around, IDT Entertainment announced May 6, 2004 it has acquired a minority equity interest in POW! Entertainment LLC, headed by comic book legend Stan Lee. In addition, IDT Ent. has acquired exclusive distribution rights for all POW Ent. animated DVD properties plus the companies will co-produce and co-develop a minimum of six animation projects for direct-to-DVD distribution and broadcast.

Headline News More Post Houses Doing 3D Work

According to TRENDWATCH, 22% of all U.S. studios/facilities do 3D modeling/animation/rendering (including character set-up, enveloping/skinning, lighting, etc.).

Significantly, this number jumps up to 68% for vfx/animation studios/facilities specializing in 3D work. Also, 35% of post-production studios/facilities do this type of 3D work as well. This number is up from 31% of post houses doing this work in TRENDWATCH's summer 2003 survey.

Excerpted from the TRENDWATCH VISUAL EFFECTS/DYNAMIC MEDIA REPORT Issue #4, Winter 2003-2004.

Headline News Al Gore & Co. Purchase Cable Network

INdTV Holdings, LLC a newly formed media company led by former U.S. vp Al Gore and successful entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, acquired Newsworld International (NWI) from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition was announced during the annual NCTA convention in New Orleans. NWI will be developed by its new owners into an independent network offering innovative alternative programming created by and for a target audience of 18-34 year-olds.

Headline News Betty Boop Owners Sue Counterfeiters

Hearst Corp., King Features Syndicate and Fleischer Studios have filed a federal suit against 43 defendants for copyright infringement on the BETTY BOOP AND HER GANG characters. Hollywood attorney Gary Hecker, who specializes in copyright protection, is heading the case for Betty's owners. The defendants in the case include makers of electronics, underwear, t-shirts, jeans, baby clothes, jewelry and more.

Headline News Bratz Doll Maven Fashions Up New Film Division

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.

Headline News Comcast Withdraws Bid as Disney Board Discourse Remains Status Quo

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."

Headline News Klasky Csupo Matures with Global Tantrum Arm

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."

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