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Headline News FUNimation Launches Our Time Family Ent.

FUNimation Productions, Ltd., one of the leading independent home video entertainment and brand management companies in the U.S., has created Our Time Family Entertainment, a new division developed to provide high quality entertainment properties to the burgeoning preschool and children's market.

Headline News Chinese Toon Center Set to Open

The National Center of Animation and Computer Games will open on July 27, 2004 at East China Normal University in the city, reports SHANGHAI DAILY. The Cultural Research Center of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Shanghai Broadband Television Corp. invested 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) in the center to encourage more domestic production.

"As the birthplace of the Chinese film and cartoon industry, Shanghai won the right to have the center over cities like Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu," said Tong Zuguang, vp of East China Normal.

Headline News Marvel Sues Disney

Marvel Enterprises has sued the Walt Disney Co. and ABC Family (formerly Fox Family) for at least $16 million, which it claims it is owed on the cartoons it licensed to Fox Family, which Disney acquired in 2001, reports VARIETY. As part of the suit filed July 15, 2004 in L.A. Superior Court, Marvel argues that Disney improperly accounted for profits on animated series THE INCREDIBLE HULK, X-MEN AND SPIDER-MAN and failed to promote the shows. In the complaint, Disney claims the toons lose money, but will not provide proper accounting.

Headline News Walden Media Moves From Mouse to Fox

Philip Anschutz's Walden Media has left Disney for Fox, reports VARIETY. The AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS producer will team with Fox on five features, including Kate DiCamillo's BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE (due for release January 2005); Katherine Paterson's BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA; Lois Lowry's THE GIVER; Wendy Orr's NIM'S ISLAND; and Adam Mortimer's as-yet-unpublished comicbook proposal BIBLIONAUTS. Unlike the past Disney deal, the Fox agreement is neither exclusive nor constrained by time limits.

Headline News Brain Zoo Studios Outgrows Office

Brain Zoo Studios, a leading character animation company for film and videogames, is re-locating its offices to a new, 5,500 square-foot building in Van Nuys, California, that will allow Brain Zoo to triple in size and bring on additional 20 team members to double its staff.

The new facility is wired with Cat 6 and a fiber optic network for heavy data management for feature, television and gaming projects.

Headline News Japan Gives Cash-Strapped Toon Houses Cash

In an effort to help its local industry produce another global sensation, the Japanese government is offering financial support to cash-strapped animation houses, reports THE JAPAN TIMES.

Anime imports into the U.S. has grown from 23 in the 1980s to 42 in the 1990s and has already reached 40 during the four years through 2003, according to a survey by the government-affiliated Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). The organization also found that the anime market in the U.S. is worth $4.36 billion, which is 3.2 times the value of Japanese exports of steel products.

Headline News EM.TV Acquires Rest of Junior Library

EM.TV has finalized its E13.5 million acquisition of Kirch Media's remaining 50% of their jointly held Junior TV program library, and settled outstanding legal and licensing issues plus all mutual claims with the bankrupt Kirch.

EM.TV's management is also seeking $158 million in financial damages "out of and, if necessary, in court" from EM.TV founder Thomas Haffa and his brother, ex-cfo Florian Haffa, plus former executive and supervisory board members. EM.TV accuses them of improprieties centering around the 2000 acquisition of a stake in Formula One racing.

Headline News WGA/IATSE Reach Animation Writers Deal

The Writers Guild of America West reached an agreement with IATSE Local 839 Animation Guild requiring producers to tell animation writers whether a prospective job falls under the WGA agreement or the producers contract.

some animation writers found out too late that they were working on a Local 839 show they had assumed was covered by WGA terms and lost their position to negotiate for higher wages and health care benefits before taking the job.

Headline News Disneyland Gives Job Boost to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland is expected to create 18,000 jobs, including 5,000 before opening of the theme park, it was reported in THE STANDARD in China. The park is expected to open by late 2005 and give a tourism and employment boom to the former British colony.

Headline News DAZ Buys 3D Bryce Package

DAZ Prods. has acquired Bryce, Corel's award-winning 3D landscaping and animation package.

Widely used by designers seeking to integrate 3D technology into their creative workflow, Bryce complements existing DAZ software packages and further strengthens DAZ's presence in the digital graphics market.

Headline News V12 + Panopoly Pictures design = Full Circle

V12 and Panopoly Pictures are merging their respective design and production departments to form Full Circle, a the new company that will provide live-action production, branding motion graphic design and animation to clients in the feature film, commercial and broadcast arenas. Leading the joint venture are V12 founder David Hwang and Panopoly Pictures co-founder Kathryn Peaslee.

Headline News Image & Dark Horse Team on Distribution Deal

DVD producer/distributor Image Ent. and comicbook-based media company Dark Horse Ent. have partnered to produce and distribute live-action and animation genre movies, music and other entertainment programming. John Landis has signed on to write and direct a horror film for the jointly owned Dark Horse Home Ent., whose film will initially be direct-to-DVD films. In addition, Bruce Campbell and novelist and graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman have agreed to be involved in several upcoming productions.

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.