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.
FrameStore, specialists in visual effects and computer animation for commercials, film and broadcast television, and Computer Film Company (CFC), renowned for its award-winning digital film effects, as well as pioneering development in digital film, have merged. The newly rebranded company is named Framestore CFC and will be led by a single management team, headed by joint chief executives Sharon Reed and William Sargent. The 240 staff positions and the senior management team remain unchanged.
Design and production studio Charlex has formed a 3D department, adding new equipment and creative talent to the companys existing setup. Bryan Godwin, formerly of Blue Sky Studios, heads the new team of 3D artists -- who bring extensive experience in the worlds of feature film and videogame production. The new group has recently completed a holiday spot for AT&T, and two spots for Sunny Delight.
TV-Loonland has formed an alliance with Artists Management Groups Animation & Family Entertainment Department to produce a minimum of four animated television series over the next three years. Artists Management Group (AMG), co-founded by Michael Ovitz, Rick Yorn and Julie Silverman-Yorn, represents many well-known talents in the animation arena including RUGRATS creators Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere, director Henry Selick (THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) and animation studio Film Roman.
Lego Company Signs Co-Publishing Deal With Electronic Arts. Entertainment software company Electronic Arts (EA) has inked a deal with the privately owned LEGO Company where EA will co-publish and provide marketing support for more than 30 LEGO software titles on a minimum of four platforms over a three-year period. LEGO Company and EA will create software targeted to young gamers, while building current franchises and establishing new ones. Current franchises include: LEGO RACERS, BIONICLE and GALIDOR: DEFENDERS OF THE OUTER DIMENSION. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
NBC has confirmed it will lease its Saturday morning block to Discovery Networks, beginning in fall 2002, reported VARIETY. Discovery is reportedly putting up $18 million for a three-year contract. "This is a strategic move to keep NBC competitive in the kids arena," explained NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa, who said that without a weekday platform, it was difficult to promote the Saturday morning block. The block is currently 2 and 1/2 hours of programming, and will be jointly branded by Discovery and NBC.
Los Angeles-based design studio B1 Media has launched a games division, B1/Games, and hopes to develop products for set-top game consoles. B1 Media has primarily been a provider of interactive design for DVDs and has created games and interactive content for numerous DVD titles like DINOSAUR, UNBREAKABLE, THE SIXTH SENSE and PLANET OF THE APES. The company also recently launched a broadcast design division, B1/Broadcast.
R!OT and Liberty Livewire LLC's Interactive Services Group, both units of Liberty Media Group, have launched a joint venture aimed at developing interactive television applications. Under the plan, R!OT will link its broadcast post-production services with the Interactive Services Group's Web authoring, data management and e-commerce services. As part of the new venture, Liberty Livewire's Interactive Services Group has relocated its creative staff to the R!OT campus in Santa Monica.
Toonz Animation India has acquired Toonsense Studios in Mumbai, India. Focusing on the creation of traditional animation for the advertising community Toonsense Animation Studios has created animation for dozens of diverse television commercials, combining traditional animation with live-action and computer graphics. Toonsense founders Suhael Merchant and Shrirang Sathaye will remain with the company.
After a four-year organizing drive, the membership of the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, Local 839 IATSE (M.P.S.C. Local 839) has unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement with BKN Studios, Inc. (BKN). "The BKN contract marks the successful end of one of the longest organizing drives in the union's history," business representative Steve Hulett said after the vote at the local's membership meeting on November 27, 2001. M.P.S.C.
An AP Newswire brief stated that Sega Corp. has reported a $169 million loss for the first fiscal half, largely because the declining value of its investments more than offset the improvement in its video-game business. Sega, which earlier in 2001 abandoned production of its Dreamcast game system, has also announced another reduction in price for the discontinued console. The Dreamcast system, which originally retailed for $199, will now be available for $49.99. Sega hopes the drastically reduced price will move the remaining 270,000 units out of stores by the end of the holiday season.
Scandal-plagued children's television producer Cinar Corp. has laid off staff and appointed new auditors in an attempt to restructure its entertainment and corporate divisions. Under the restructuring, Cinar's Montreal staff has been reduced from 164 to 110. While most of the layoffs were corporate positions, 22 employees were cut in Cinar's studios and animation department. The restructuring is the latest of several administrative steps taken during the past 20 months by Cinar's current management to put the company on solid footing once again.
SIMPSONS producer Film Roman, Inc. announced a revenue decrease of 26%, or $1.3 million, to $3.7 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2001. This number is down from $5.0 million for the previous year at this time. Total revenue decreased primarily because the company delivered fewer prime time fee-for-services episodes offset by more Saturday morning fee-for-services episodes.
In an aggressive attempt to discredit Nickelodeon, the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) has launched an advertising campaign requesting Nickelodeon Animation Studios adhere to the standards of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) Code of Business Practices or the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Workplace Code of Conduct. The request is in reference to the licensing and manufacturing of toys and other merchandise based on two Nickelodeon animated characters SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS and JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS.
TV-Loonland AG has its eyes set on 29.9 percent of the British DVD and video distributor Metrodome Group plc., London. If the green light is given at a general meeting on November 29, 2001, TV-Loonland will buy 4,184,250 new shares from Metrodome at a price of 17 pence (approximately US$.25) per share as part of a capital increase. At the same time TV-Loonland is prepared to extend a £1.5M ($2.18M) loan to Metrodome for the purpose of buying new film and DVD/video rights.
In further developments of the MTV restructuring that has so far resulted in layoffs and the closing of MTV Animation production, Abby Terkuhle is no longer president of MTV Animation. However, according to an MTV spokesperson, Terkuhle will continue his relationship with the company, although the nature of this relationship could not be discussed at press time. Sources suggest that Terkuhle will have a first look producing deal or some similar arrangement.