Microsoft Corp. announced it acquired Chicago-based Bungie Software Products Corp., a leading developer of action oriented computer and video games. As a result, Microsoft gains exclusive publishing and distribution rights to select Bungie-developed titles, including the highly anticipated HALO. Bungie's development staff will become an independent studio within the Microsoft Game Division. Microsoft expects the Bungie team to play a key role in the development of content for Microsofts X-Box console.
SteeleVFX, Inc. has relocated its visual effects studio to Santa Monica. The new facility includes: a Java-enabled Henry Infinity suite (with Masher and Chaser planned); a Mac Graphics Suite featuring After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightwave 3D; a Sony 2000 D1; a Sony A-500 DBC; Beta SP; 60 Sec. DDR; dubbing facilities; a Tascam DAT; and D2, PAL DBC and FTP file transfer services. SteeleVFX was founded in 1996 by Jo Steele and visual effects artist Jerry Steele and specializes in non-linear on-line editing and visual effects compositing.
On Wednesday, June 21, 2000, Italian animation studio Mondo TV, owner of the country's largest library of domestic and imported TV cartoons, will go public on the Milan stock exchange. Currently, the Rome-based company is owned by Orlando and Matteo Corradi. For the first-quarter, the TV toon maker saw revenue of 6.5 billion Italian lira (US$3.25 million) and net earnings of 1.3 billion ($650,000).
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) announced it has acquired the on-line game company Verant Interactive, Inc. and named digital gaming executive Kelly Flock as president and CEO of Sony On-line Entertainment (SOE). Verant will be blended into SOE, which will base its operations in San Diego, California. The new arm of Sony has been responsible for operating the popular on-line games EVERQUEST, TANARUS and SOVEREIGN. Verant President John Smedley will become SOEs executive vice president and chief operating officer.
George Lucas' special effects powerhouse Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has announced plans to expand into the animation game, creating 3D computer-generated films and television shows. These new projects will be co-productions with various major studios. Three years ago, ILM had planned to make the CGI animated FRANKENSTEIN with Universal but that project fell through due to creative differences. Patty Blau has been named senior VP of production for the animation division. Previously, Blau served as president of feature production. "Now we're really putting our weight behind it.
Nintendo of America Inc. has filed an infringement complaint against SongBoy.Com, a minority-owned company that has developed a digital multimedia player plug-in module that transforms the Nintendo Gameboy player into a CD-like music player. SongBoy.Com offered Nintendo a deal to become a licensee but was denied. SongBoy.Com claims that Nintendo's lawsuit is not valid and is a harassment measure. "Our legal team has taken great measures to ensure that we have in no way violated the Nintendo patent and trademark.
Spain's Terra Networks have announced that their shareholders have approved the company's US$12.5 billion purchase of U.S. Internet portal Lycos. The shareholders also okayed $17.7 billion in capital increases to pump up liquidity in the new arm. "The acquisition of Lycos is the big leap that will allow us to position ourselves as a truly global company," Terra president Juan Villalonga said at the company's shareholders meeting. The Spanish-language Internet server and provider announced last month its intention to purchase Lycos as an inroad to the U.S. market.
Cinar's insurance company, Liberty Mutual, has hired private investigators to look into the allegations of fraud against the children's television producer. Liberty may have to pay out millions if the board of Cinar is found liable. The insurance company's law firm Gasco Lelarge hired two former Montreal police detectives, Alain Pirrol and Andre Boudreau, to head up the investigation. Pirrol and Boudreau run the Montreal-based investigation agency Quali-T Investigation.
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Speaking at an investors conference in London, Viacom president and COO, Mel Karmazin, emphasized to attendees that if UPN doesnt begin to make a profit it would either be shut down or sold off. Karmazin said Viacom expects UPN to meet the performance criteria set for all its operating divisions. The total losses for the five-year old network have risen to nearly $800 million. "UPN will become profitable, or it wont exist," Karmazin said.
Thirteen of the largest computer and video game producers have filed suit against six game pirates who have been selling bootleg titles over the Net. The suit claims that James Cabot of Brook Park, Ohio; C. Graves of Raleigh, North Carolina; Tim Knoblich of Daytona Beach, Florida; Travis Lallman of Burley, Idaho; Derek Rufo of Vancouver, British Columbia; and Carol Scott of Columbia, South Carolina allegedly copied games, advertised them on six separate Web sites and sold them via mail.
Pulse Entertainment has received US$35 million in private equity funding led by Softbank Venture Capital, and others like Time Warners Web destination Entertaindom and Autodesk Inc. As part of the deal, exclusive content will be provided by Pulse for Entertaindom. "We cant release the names yet, but we have at least two shows in production," said Pulse CEO Fred Angelopoulos. However, the shows will come from Entertaindoms access to the Warner Bros. portfolio of characters. Currently, Pulse produces a 3D Webtoon based on the Looney Toons character Marvin the Martian.
Former Disney chairman Joe Roths Revolution Studios, a film and television production company, has released the details regarding the roles that its investors will serve. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Starz! Encore Group and Fox Entertainment Groups were among the investors that have sunk US$3 billion into the five-month old production house. Additionally, Revolution has gained a controlling stake in the on-line entertainment channel MediaTrip.com.
BKN International, a childrens animated series production, distribution and marketing company, announced their acquisition of France-based Arles Animation. Arles has worked on series such as WACKY WORLD OF TEX AVERY, SABRINA and SONIC UNDERGROUND. Arles credits itself as being the only studio in France with experience in managing and executing a two-episode per week schedule. The French firm has created work for DIC, TF1, Canal +, RTL and La Cinquieme.
The newest lawsuit hitting the embattled Cinar Corp. comes from a former exec, over his inability to exercise his stock options. At Cinar, Louis Fournier served as the companys vice president of distribution and left the company to serve as president of youth and animation programming at Montreal-based TVA International. Fournier is suing his former employer for reimbursement over stock options not paid to him when he exited the company in February 2000.
On Wednesday, June 7, 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered that the worlds largest software company, Microsoft, be split into two separate companies. The ruling came as no surprise as the current conclusion to this phase of the antitrust case brought against the mega-firm. Quickly after the decision was handed down Microsoft pledged it would appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.
The FCC and Department of Justice have given the go ahead for AT&T to merge with MediaOne making the combined company the largest cable firm in the nation. One stipulation on the US$58 billion deals approval is that the company seal off its holdings in Road Runner, a high-speed Internet access service. The FCC also said that either AT&T has to sell its stake in Time Warner Entertainment, divest programming assets like Liberty Media or unload various cable systems within the next year. AT&T has six months to decided which of the three courses of action it will take.
Amidst the resignation of their three-month term CFO, Cinar Corp. announced it would regain CA$10 million more of the $122 million that was invested without the company boards approval. Cinar expects to receive the $10 million from Nassau, Bahamas-based Globe-X Management Ltd. after the investment matured May 31, 2000. Cinar said Globe-X required five business days from May 31 to "process transactions for administrative purposes" and that Cinar expected to receive the $10 million within that time.
New York City-based visual effects house, Black Logic, had launched a new broadband division. "We routinely take advantage of the Internet to show our advertising and broadcast clients their work-in-progress, as well as finished spots," said Alfie Schloss, Black Logic's VP of marketing.
Vancouver-based EnterCor Entertainment Corp. has signed a deal with Johannesburg-based TV and film conglomerate, Sasani Limited. As part of the deal, EnterCor will represent Sasani in North America. EnterCor COO Ed Richardson said, "I think North Americans will be astounded to see the level of sophistication of the Sasani Group and the extent of their world-class facilities.
Wild Brain Inc., a San Francisco-based animation producer, has landed US$20 million in its second round of financing, led by first round backers Interfase Capital Partners, LP. The new round of investment dwarfs the original round by $14 million. The funds will be used to continue wildbrain.coms Webisodes; produce POOCHINI, a TV series co-production with German EM.TV; and growing their CGI division with the completion of HUBERTS BRAIN.
Millimages, a France-based animation production house, has opened a new Internet production division. The Flash produced products will be targeting a teen and adult audience. The company will create a minimum of fifty 20 second to 2 minute episodes per season. The animation firm with locations in London and Paris hopes to create content that converges television and the Web. Millimages is currently working on the development of 12 original Net series, some of which are co-productions with companies such as Magma Films (Ireland) and Happylife (Sweden).
India-based UTV Toons, a division of UTV Group a media and entertainment company, has signed a US$65 million deal with Ottawa-based Funbag Animation to produce nine animated series. Funbag will produce 26-episodes of each program over the next 3 years. Both companies will own all global merchandising rights. "This deal clearly puts India on the global map for animation," said UTV Group chairman Ronnie Screwvala. Recently, UTV produced JASON AND THE HEROES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS for Fox/Saban, co-produced KONG with BKN and co-produced FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE with Funbag.
On Monday, May 22, 2000, The Walt Disney Co. announced that its majority-owned Toysmart.com has gone off-line. Disney purchased 60% of the e-commerce site for educational toys in August for an estimated US$50 million. Disney execs, which made up 3/5s of the board, decided to shut down operations after a new round of financing was denied. One hundred-ten of the remaining employees were laid off. In April, 205,000 Web surfers visited the site compared to 1.3 million for Toysrus.com and 1 million for EToys said Media Metrix.
Phillip Bowman and Malcolm McGookin have formed a new animation house in Brisbane, Australia called ASTERISK* Animation. Bowman will serve as executive producer and McGookin as producer and director. Bowman has vast experience in both live-action production and animated television series. His credits include ABC network's LIZZIE'S LIBRARY and KITU AND WOOF. McGookin first started his animation career on the Cosgrove Hall shows COUNT DUCKULA and DANGERMOUSE. Afterwards, McGookin moved on to writing and directing AVENGER PENGUINS and TABALUGA in the U.K and Australia.