Design, animation and visual effects studio Hornet, Inc., is expanding its operations in the commercial arena with the addition of several directors, designers and animators. New additions include animator and director Steve Talkowski, character designer and director Peter de Séve, director and designer Brian Koons, title designer Deborah Ross and the collective design team HONEST.
SportsBlast, the animation development company founded by voice-actor Nancy Cartwright (THE SIMPSONS, RUGRATS), has chosen Canadian-based animation house Bardel Entertainment as its new animation partner for THE KELLYS, the animated Web series about a family of professional stock car racers. Bardels production credits include the DreamWorks films JOSEPH: KING OF DREAMS and THE ROAD TO EL DORADO, as well as work for Columbia TriStar, Disney and Fox. Bardel will provide all the visual elements for THE KELLYS second season, which begins in February 2002.
Animax Interactive, a new digital animation studio, has launched their Website which features samples of the companys brand of "advertainment," including animated shorts featuring celebrity voiceovers that demonstrate and explain Animax Interactives business model. The company develops and produces entertainment for existing brands using both digital and traditional animation.
Pixar Animation Studios recently announced financial results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ending December 29, 2001. The studios Oscar-nominated film MONSTERS, INC. helped Pixar more than double the previous quarters profits. Fourth quarter profits were $13 million, or $0.25 per share up from the $6.2 million or 12 cents per share earned for the third quarter of 2001, but down from $35.2 million, or $0.71 per share for the same period in 2000. Revenue driven primarily by the $234.2 million domestic box office receipts from MONSTERS, INC.
Paris headquartered animation production and distribution company Millimages, is expanding into the factual programming business with the acquisition of a 50.1% stake in French documentary producer, Gedeon Programmes. Millimages will acquire the majority interest in exchange for Euro 1.37M (US$1.19M) in cash plus stock. In addition, Gedeon Programmes chairman Stephane Milliére will assume a position on Millimages board. Millimages chairman Roch Lener stated that the move was made as part of Millimages overall strategy for growth and development.
French animation studio Xilam Animation has launched its first initial public offering (IPO) on Paris Second Market (Marché dEuronext). The producers of the series OGGY AND THE COCKROACHES, SPACE GOOFS and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LUCKY LUKE raised 15 million Euros through this IPO. The company floated 1 million shares representing 27.03% of its capital. Shares rolled out at 15 Euro. The companies founder and CEO Marc du Pontavice will retain the remaining 66.7% of the capital.
Troubled childrens television producer Cinar Corporation avoided criminal prosecution from tax-fraud charges brought against the company by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). After completing an analysis of the evidence presented, the Crown prosecutors' office claimed an investigation could not go forth. The charges stemmed from allegations back in 1999 when Cinar was accused of illegally obtaining Canadian tax credits by forging Canadian names on scripts written by U.S. citizens.
SD Entertainment, a content creator and property builder, has formed two new divisions, interactive and licensing. The divisions will be headed by Michele Martell, SDs senior vice president and general counsel. In its first licensing venture, SD will become the domestic master toy licensing agent and television representative for MAKE WAY FOR NODDY. SD has produced 100 episodes of the new CGI animated series, which is an update of the Emmy Award-winning preschool series, NODDY, based on characters created by author Enid Blyton.
Led by strong sales for its HARRY POTTER game franchise, Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts (EA) reported a net profit of $132.3 million, or 92 cents per share, compared with net earnings of $88 million, or 63 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. Excluding goodwill and other charges, the company reported earnings of $147.1 million, or $1.03 per share. Revenue in the quarter was $832.9 million, up from $640.3 million a year earlier.
The innovative studio that brought the synthespians of FINAL FANTASY to life, is planning to close up shop. Pressure from parent company Square Co., Ltd. of Tokyo is forcing Honolulu-based Square USA into closure, if they cannot find investors between now and March 31, 2002. Square Co. ceased funding of the studio in September, and although Square USA attempted to find partners in major U.S. studios, they have not been able to procure outside funding. Although the studio hopes an investor will appear in the 11th hour, a March 31st shut down seems inevitable.
The Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) and DreamWorks SKG have entered into a three-year, multi-million dollar technology strategic alliance aimed at revolutionizing animation production. The alliance designates HP as DreamWorks' sole "preferred technology provider" for core technology purchases meaning HP will provide a broad range of products, services and integration expertise to create a new DreamWorks production facility at the Glendale campus.
Animation producer Millimages is expanding into German territory with the acquisition of 51% of the Hamburg-based animation company, Toons n Tales. This latest acquisition follows the companys announcements in 2001 of the launch of Millimages USA, headed by Dorian Langdon, and the international distribution center, Millimages London. Toons n Tales managing director and co-founder Sunita Struck, will continue to oversee the company in partnership with Millimages.
U.K. independent Tiger Aspect Productions (TAP) has created a new animation division and upped Claudia Lloyd, former creative director of comedy and entertainment at Tiger Aspect, to head of animation. With the creation of an animation division, TAP is pursuing an active animation development slate. Currently, producer Chris Skala is developing EARTH KID, a series to be co-produced with Cartoon Pizza for the 6-12 year old age group. Lloyd would like TAP to produce only two or three mainstream or childrens and family specials or series per year.
In a move to promote long-term growth of his businesses, George Lucas announced that he is bringing Lucas Digital, LucasArts Entertainment, Lucas Licensing and Lucasfilm Ltd. into one organization, as Lucasfilm president Gordon Radley leaves the company. Lucasfilm CFO Micheline Chau has been promoted to the position of chief operating officer to oversee the new unified company and to guide all of the business units.
Corus Entertainments Nelvana and Japanese publisher Kodansha Ltd. have entered into a partnership to jointly develop new childrens properties. The agreement expands on their existing relationship that has produced BABARS ADVENTURES, and seen the acquisition of CARDCAPTORS and the Fox Kids program MEDABOTS. Under the terms of the three-year partnership agreement, Nelvana will be given first look on all Kodansha projects for possible co-production or acquisition of distribution rights for non-Asian countries.
Australian visual effects companies Photon VFX and GMD have formed a strategic alliance and will begin their collaboration as joint visual effects contractors for the Disney production of INSPECTOR GADGET 2. The film, which is currently shooting on location in Brisbane, Australia, is a direct-to-video project from Disney. The eight-week shoot is will utilize Photon's motion-control services during production. Post-production is slated for completion by mid-2002.
Following in the footsteps of NBC, which recently leased its Saturday morning block to Discovery Networks, Fox Broadcasting has turned over its Saturday morning programming to 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. Beginning September 2002, 4Kids will provide all programming content for FOX's Saturday morning broadcast block, which commences at 8 am ET/PT (7 am CT). Fox hopes that 4Kids shows will help the network maintain its competitive edge in the key young boys demo.
Activision, Inc. has exercised its option to acquire the remaining 60% equity interest in Gray Matter Interactive Studios. Under the terms of the agreement, Gray Matter Interactive Studios will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision. Activision issued 133,690 shares of common stock in connection with the acquisition. "Gray Matter has a very talented team of programmers, designers and artists and we are confident that the studio's development strengths will further establish Activision as a leader in the PC action genre," stated Ron Doornink, president and COO of Activision.
Independent animation studio Wild Brain, Inc. has signed a co-production and development deal with Denmark's Egmont Imagination. The first co-production between the two companies is a 26 x 30' CG-animated series VANILLA PUDDING. The series will feature a quirky little girl who imagines herself as a superhero to handle the trials and tribulations of growing up. VANILLA PUDDING was created by in-house Wild Brain director Nicholas Weigel, with the pilot script penned by Emmy Award winner Sherri Stoner (TINY TOONS, ANIMANIACS, CASPER).
Iwerks Entertainment Inc. and Toronto-based SimEx Inc., have confirmed the completion of their previously announced merger. Iwerks is now a wholly owned subsidiary of SimEx Inc. The merger was made final on January 9, 2002. Pursuant to the terms of the merger, each share of Iwerks' issued and outstanding common stock, other than shares held in its treasury, was cancelled and automatically converted into the right to receive approximately $0.63 in cash, without interest. On the effective date, Iwerks had 3,554,301 shares of common stock issued and outstanding.
Troubled German media company EM.TVs new CEO Werner Klatten is close to closing the previously announced purchase of a 25.1% stake (approximately 36.2 million shares) in the company from founder and former president Thomas Haffa. Klatten is working with a venture capital firm to secure financing for the deal, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of January 2002. The acquisition is currently estimated at US$60 million.
Scholastic Corporation has acquired Tom Snyder Productions from Canadian-based publishing company Torstar Corporation for US$9 million. Included in the purchase is the companys television animation production division Soup2Nuts, producers of Comedy Centrals DR. KATZ and Cartoon Networks HOME MOVIES. Tom Snyder Productions, a leading developer and publisher of award-winning educational software will be part of the interactive educational software division reporting to Margery Mayer, executive vice president of learning ventures.
Interactive software developer and distributor THQ Inc. has completed its acquisition of digital entertainment creator Rainbow Studios by issuing 858,203 shares of common stock. These shares are subject to adjustment pending the determination of Rainbow's net book value. THQ also assumed existing Rainbow stock options providing for the further issuance of 106,259 shares of THQ common stock. Rainbow Studios is now a wholly owned subsidiary of THQ. Mark DeSimone and Tony Sutterheim will continue to manage Rainbow Studios as president, games and president, animation, respectively.
Iwerks Entertainment Inc. and Toronto-based SimEx Inc., have had their previously announced merger approved by Iwerks shareholders. When the merger is completed, Iwerks will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SimEx Inc. and cease being traded on the OTC Bulletin Board. The merger was expected to close December 28, 2001 but did not, and no new date has been set. Iwerks and SimEx continue to discuss the merger and related activities. Iwerks Entertainment Inc., founded in 1986, is the number one provider of 8/70 Large Format Theater systems worldwide and the industry leader in ride simulation.
Independent animation studio Mercury Filmworks recently opened a full feature and episodic television production facility in Toronto, Ontario. The expansion has nearly doubled the companys studio capacity and increased its talent to 120 employees in Vancouver and Toronto. A deal with Nelvana Limited to work on a 13-episode season of RESCUE HEROES II allowed Mercury the resources to open the Toronto location. Mercury successfully wrapped the RESCUE HEROES II series at the end of October 2001. The series airs on Teletoon in Canada and Kids WB! in the U.S.