Now rumors AWN reported on two weeks ago about POWER RANGERS-powered billionaire Haim Saban making another run to buy ProSiebenSat.1 Media have been confirmed. A group of investors led by Saban have submitted a revived bid to buy a majority stake in the broadcaster from insolvent German media group KirchMedia. Saban has made a better offer to acquire 72% of ProSiebens vote-wielding ordinary shares at an estimated cost of$575 million plus an additional $225 million for a 16.5% stake held by KirchMedia and German publisher Axel Springer.
Corsham Entertainment, a new TV and film production company in the U.K., has been formed by Oscar-winning Gary Kurtz (producer of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and DARK CRYSTAL), Richard Bazley (a lead animator on Disneys HERCULES and POCAHONTAS plus Warner Bros.' OSMOSIS JONES and THE IRON GIANT), and writer Alastair Swinnerton (co-creator of THE BASKERVILLES and LEGOs BIONICLE).
Paradise Financial Group has launched a new animated production firm called Paradise Family Pictures LLC. The El Segundo, California-based company will produce animated 3D TV and feature film projects for the worldwide market. The new company will have three divisions: development, production and marketing. An international sales division will launch in May 2004. The toon house is in production on two 22-minute shows, COOL CAT ROCKY and IT'S A VERY MERRY JOLLY CHRISTMAS. Both projects will be completed early 2004.
IBM and Threshold Digital Research Labs have signed a four-year, multi-million dollar deal to increase Thresholds production output. The pact puts in place an IT commitment to help Threshold produce computer-animated movies, location-based entertainment, primetime TV animation and visual effects for feature films.
Ellipse Animation, the animation branch of television production and distribution company Studio Expand, has been sold to French comic strip and comic book publisher Dargaud, reported THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Studio Expand is owned by Vivendi Universal's French pay TV arm Canal Plus. No monetary terms were announced. This move is part of Vivendi Universal's initiative to cut its debt by selling off some of its assets. The remaining divisions of Studio Expand will be sold separately.
Digital Productions Solutions (DPS), the animation unit of IDT Media, has entered into a joint venture with Vanguard Animation to co-produce and co-own all Vanguard properties, as well as buy a minority stake of Vanguard in the eight-figure range. The announcement follows on the heels of DPS's acquisition of a majority stake in Film Roman Inc.
It looks like media mogul Haim Saban has some money left over from his recent $100 million contribution to charities in the U.S. and Israel to make a second attempt to buy ProSiebenSat.1. Saban pulled out of the deal to buy Kirch Media in June 2003. Now rumors are circulating that the POWER RANGERS-powered billionaire is making another run at buying only the broadcaster asset from Kirch's creditors.
Northern California-based VFX house ESC Entertainment was originally funded by Warner Bros. to handle the bulk of the work on the MATRIX trilogy, which cost more than $100 million. But now the studio has decided to expand ESC's role by having it take a lead or secondary role in all of its event films, VARIETY reports.
In honor of its 20th anniversary - and perhaps owing just a little to the success of the acclaimed ABC series, ALIAS - Alias|Wavefront will now be known simply as Alias. According to the Toronto-based 3D graphics technology leader and creator of the Oscar-winning Maya software, the name change "provides a simple yet powerful name that is well known throughout the 3D industry and beyond."
Humunculus, launched only nine months ago in Venice, California, has already expanded into a new, 2,000-square-foot facility. The new studio, located at 529 Victoria Avenue, was designed by Predock Frane architects of Santa Monica, and modified by studio founder Saam Gabbay for Humunculus. "Using the architects' original materials of Lexan, MDF and sanded homosote, we created four subdivisions in the space to fulfill our distinct needs," Gabbay explained.
When the Nickheads.net fansite (which is not connected with Nickelodeon) posted news that Klasky Csupo was only getting an order from Nick for eight episodes of the RUGRATS spinoff, ALL GROWN UP, and thereby was laying off lots of employees, AWN asked reps at Nickelodeon and Klasky Csupo to respond.
With the demand for CGI growing, animatronics special effects wizard Stan Winston has launched a CGI division as part of his Stan Winston Prods, reports VARIETY. Entitled SW Digital, the new Van Nuys, California-based firm will start by offering digital effects services to mid-to-low budget projects. SW Digital will start hiring new staff as projects warrant it. This move adds to the in-house power Winston has to produce his own films. Stan Winston Prods recently produced this summers horror flick WRONG TURN, along with New Regency Prods., Summit Entertainment and Constantin Films.
The legal battles are over with Viacom gaining the right to call its TNN Network Spike TV. Movie director Spike Lee settled his legal debate July 7, 2003 with Viacom Inc. State Supreme Court judge Walt Tolub lifting his injunction barring Viacom from using the moniker Spike TV. Details of the settlement were not disclosed. Viacom claims the delay has cost media conglom $30 million in marketing expenses.
On Friday, June 27, 2003, Marvel Enterprises filed yet another lawsuit worth $10M against SPIDER-MAN partner Sony, this time specifically Sony Electronics, reported VARIETY. Marvel claims in the suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, that Sony Electronics refused to license the Spider-Man character for its electronic products like radios and portable CD players and has advised sister company Sony Pictures to do the same with competitors.
Maybe he couldnt quite afford to buy KirchMedia and its ProSiebenSat1 channel, but media mogul Haim Saban and his philanthropist wife, Cheryl, are donating $100 million in charitable gifts to health care and education in the U.S. and Israel, according to a report in the LOS ANGELES TIMES. The man who got rich on kids programming like the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS and the Fox Kids and Fox Family Channels has dedicated $40 million to Children's Hospital Los Angeles to support ongoing research into cancer and gene therapy as well as further research into neuroscience.
His permanent thank you card will be an 88,500-sqaure-foot facility research facility to be named the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. It is the single largest donation to a childrens hospital to support pediatric research in North America according to Walter W. Noce Jr., president of Childrens Hospital. Cheryl Saban has served on the hospital's board for seven years.
After a four-year hiatus for Disney comic books in the U.S. market, Disney Publishing Worldwide has signed a deal with Gemstone Publishing to bring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and other Disney favorites back onto the printed page. Gemstone will release the first two monthly comics, WALT DISNEY COMICS AND STORIES and UNCLE SCROOGE, in June at $6.95, while the first bi-monthly, DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES ($7.95), debuts in July, and monthlies DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS and MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS ($2.95), arrive in September.
Playhut Co., a toy designer and manufacturer, launched its own production and distribution company, Playhut Entertainment, to produce anime and childrens programming for home video and broadcast.
Just as it gears up for more VFX feature work, Blur Studio (www.blur.com) has moved into a new, 20,000 square-foot computer animation studio that is nearly triple the size of its former Venice, California headquarters. Through an international talent search, it has also increased its artistic staff to 65, with additional talent to come.
Hong-Kong-based animation production house Stvdio Media has established an office in Los Angeles to handle sales and marketing for the North American Market. Founder/ceo Larry Feign, an American animator and cartoonist, has appointed Susan Goldstein to head the U.S. office. Goldstein worked for the Screen Actors Guild, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and was evp of VIDEO INSIDER.
Based in the U.K., Jennifer Taylor and Clair Daintree have combined a wealth of expertise and recognition in the field of voice overs, as well as a unique link with Hollywood to provide a genuinely full service voice over agency, Shining Management, Ltd., in London to service the broadcast and production industry.
Due to the success of Digital Fusion and DFX+, eyeon Software Inc. has opened two new offices eyeon USA and eyeon Europe. Los Angeles-based eyeon USA is lead by Digital Fusion guru and director of business development, Rony Soussan, who has been influential in Digital Fusion's proliferation on the west coast, and has a long history as a digital compositor. Soussan offers expertise with both the product and the pipeline, as well as advanced training.
KirchMedia, the once mighty German media giant, shut down on June 16, 2003 after a flurry of attempts to buy it. It looked like the cash-strapped company was going to be owned by American entrepreneur Haim Saban, until the parties couldn't agree on final terms and nullified the deal after the contract expired on May 31. Management and creditors had hoped to restructure the company to maintain it until the market climate improved to sell it, but shareholders voted to sell off its main assets into separate companies.
Just days after Hiam Saban withdrew his bid to acquire KirchMedia's television and its library, the American entrepreneur is said to be teaming up with a consortium to buy British broadcaster ITV. Some say he's looking to buy ITV shareholder companies Granada and Carlton, which are planning to merge to form a $4.4 billion ITV company. The two broadcast/production/distribution powerhouses are working on a solution to make their merger pass the Competition Commission regulator in the U.K.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
My good friend and associate, Jim Hardison, said it best, "It's surreal!"
After many great years building Will Vinton Prods. and creating groundbreaking Claymation and 3D-animated films, television and commercials, and growing Will Vinton Studios, I have been forced out of active involvement with the company by Phil Knight and his associates. The situation could also be described as "Machiavellian"! And I expect you'll hear much more about this David and Goliath story in the near future.
"I'm definitely on my way back from hell," Will Vinton told AWN, a few months after the studio he founded, Vinton Studios, gave him the boot. The king of Claymation claims he is much happier now, having signed with Creative Artists Agency and is shopping around a number of animated projects, including a feature film script, THE QUEST, written by Peter Crabbe.