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Headline News CalPERS To Withhold Votes for Eisner

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, February 25, 2004 at 12:00am

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the 29th largest single shareholder in Disney, has announced its decision to withhold voting for Michael Eisner for the position of chairman/ceo of The Walt Disney Company at Disneys annual shareholder meeting on March 3, 2004. CalPERS cited the firms dismal performance for the past five years and its lack of confidence in the long-term strategic vision of the company for its decision.

Headline News Pooh Case Heats Up With Theft Accusations

On Feb. 24, 2004, the epic legal battle between the Walt Disney Co. and Winnie the Pooh copyright holders, the Slesinger family, heated up with Disney accusations that the family stole and altered documents, reported REUTERS. Disney lawyers again asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy, who took over the case in October, to throw out the case, which could lose Disney hundreds of millions of dollars.

Headline News Satellite Service to Link Company 3, R!OT Santa Monica & Encore

Ascent Media is launching a new set of services that allow advertising agencies to work with the world's best post-production talent-without leaving their hometown. UP Sessions enables Ascent Media clients to participate in telecine sessions, and other picture critical finishing work, from remote sites in realtime while interacting with the artists performing the work. UP Sessions encompasses three different products that facilitate virtual collaboration: UP Satellite, UP Fiber and UP Web.

Headline News French Judge Views Evidence in Nemo Copyright Suit

On Feb. 17, 2004, Walt Disney was in French courts defending itself against charges by author Franck Le Calvez that FINDING NEMO is an infringement on his creation PIERROT THE CLOWN FISH reported REUTERS. Le Calvez seeks to bar the release on any books and merchandising featuring the image of Nemo, which resembles Pierrot. Disney's lawyers claimed that Nemo's likeness cannot be considered a brand in and of itself. Judge Louis-Marie Raingeard de la Bletiere said he would rule on the case's merits on March 12, 2004.

Headline News Stan Lee Gives Peak Ent. More POW!

Peak Entertainment Holdings Inc. in the U.K. has finalized consulting agreement with POW! Entertainment, Llc., a company incorporated in the U.S. to capitalize on the highly acclaimed action hero creations from Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.

Lee will offer his extensive live-action experience to the traditionally animated company and Peak will offer Stan Lee a platform via its flexible vertical properties for any future creation and development.

Headline News MGM Courts Pixar

MGM vice chairman/coo Chris McGurk admitted on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004 that he has discussed a distribution partnership with Pixar Animation Studios during a conference call with financial reporters to discuss MGM's record net income of $60.3 million for the fourth quarter- spurred by DVD and video sales of LEGALLY BLONDE 2 and JEEPERS CREEPERS II.

Headline News Comcast Not Ready to Sweeten Disney Offer

After Walt Disney Co. directors rejected Comcast's unsolicited $54 billion bid as too low and rallied behind beleaguered chairman Michael Eisner, Comcast defended its merger proposal on Tuesday, leaving doubt about its willingness to sweeten the offer. On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co. lost 9 cents to $26.83. But the board said it would "consider any legitimate proposal" that would create shareholder value. Comcast was up 87 cents at $30.77 after several sessions of declines.

Headline News Muppets Moving to Mouse House

Kermit and his Muppets pals have decided to move into the uproarious mouse house, having been acquired by The Walt Disney Co. in a deal announced Feb. 17, 2004, on the heels of Disney rejecting Comcasts hostile bid to buy the entertainment conglomerate. Disney has been trying for some time to acquire from Jim Henson Co.

Headline News Techimage Expands to Keep Up With Growing CG Business in U.K.

Techimage, provider of high-end software solutions for both 2D and 3D artists in the U.K. and northern Europe, has appointed Peter Griffiths as business manager and has relocated to new and larger offices in Burford, Oxfordshire.

Seamus Morley, director of Techimage, commented: "The addition of Peter with his knowledge and understanding of the CG market, plus the move to larger offices will enable us to better serve our customers and the growing market for high end CG."

Headline News Alias Moves to Acquire Itself from SGI

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, February 11, 2004 at 12:00am

Alias has announced it is involved in exclusive discussions with a leading private equity investment firm for the acquisition of Alias from SGI. The company reassures customers that no changes to the management team, organization, services, support or product availability will occur as a result of the negotiations or the sale of the business.

Headline News DreamWorks Animation Getting IPO

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, February 11, 2004 at 12:00am

DreamWorks' entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham is working with investment banks J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs to initiate an IPO proposal of the entertainment company's animation division, reported VARIETY. The trade publication quotes a source as saying "the likelihood of an IPO at about 60%. But studio execs are 100% committed to trying to make the plan work." It's estimated that the offering would be timed around the premiere of DreamWorks' next animated feature SHARK TALE, which bows in theaters Oct. 1, 2004. Details of whether it would proceed or follow the release are not known.

Headline News Comcast Makes Surprise Bid to Buy Disney

With cable TV giant Comcast Corp. stunning the entertainment world with its proposed offer on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004, to buy the Walt Disney Co. for an estimated stock value of $66 billion, the industry was abuzz with speculation that Disney chairman/ceo Michael Eisner's days are now numbered. Especially in light of the fact that Institutional Shareholder Services, a leading provider of proxy voting and corporate governance services, also recommended on Wednesday that Disney shareholders withhold their vote for Eisner's reelection to the board of directors.

Headline News Disney to Partner With Microsoft on Digital Media Initiatives

The Walt Disney Co. and Microsoft Corp. have signed a multiyear agreement to cooperate on several long-term digital media initiatives to improve the quality, security and reach of digital content within the home and on Microsoft Windows XP-based PCs, as well as on a growing number of home and portable entertainment devices. As part of the agreement, Disney will license Microsoft Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Disney and Microsoft have identified three areas of joint focus that utilize effective rights management:

Headline News Wall Street Jitters End over Jobs' Disney-Bashing; Marvel Courts Pixar

Everything was back to normal Friday on Wall Street after Pixar stock dipped slightly on Thursday following ceo Steve Jobs' mid-week assault on Disney during a conference call with analysts to rejoice Pixar's fourth quarter earnings. On Friday, shares of Pixar Animation Studios stock rose 1.1% to finish at $63.27 after slipping 1.5% on Thursday to finish at $62.58. On Wednesday, Pixar reported net income of $83.9M, or $1.44 a share, for the period-ended Dec. 31, thanks to the record-breaking FINDING NEMO, compared to $17M, or 31 cents a share for the comparable period in 2002.

Headline News Is DreamWorks Primed for a Pixar-like Move?

There's a report in Tuesday's NEW YORK POST that DreamWorks is "ramping up efforts to spin off its animation unit" as part of a potential sale to Hollywood studios. DreamWorks is reportedly in considerable debt (last year its ranking with rival studios dropped) and loans are coming up payable in a little more than a year. According to analysts, an animation spin-off would allow it to raise the necessary cash to float the losses, "while maintaining an lucrative production agreement," since animation is the only profitable center.

Headline News Pixar to Go its Own Way

It's official: Pixar has concluded discussions to extend its long-term partnership with The Walt Disney Co., and will go its own way as a potential indie powerhouse with its own strong brand identity. The Emeryville, California-based CG animation studio still has two features to deliver to Disney: THE INCREDIBLES in 2004 and CARS in 2005, but is now free to continue negotiations for a distribution deal with another studio. Last August, Pixar chairman and ceo Steve Jobs initiated talks with Fox and Warner Bros.

Headline News Alias to License Diva

First Alias furthered its continuing strategic partnership with Weta Digital, now the 3D graphics technology powerhouse has formed a stronger alliance with Los Angeles-based motion capture production company House of Moves. Alias will develop and integrate House of Moves' Diva software into future versions of Maya.

Headline News IDT Finds Archie Comics Fun To Acquire

IDT Entertainment is fast approaching buying up all the ingredients it needs to be a completely diversified, worldwide entertainment conglomerate with its latest acquisition of a 5% equity interest in Archie Comics Entertainment, LLC. This agreement gives IDT the rights to co-develop and co-produce select animated properties based upon Archie Comics Ent. characters.

Headline News Avid Acquires NXN and Expands Leadership in Digital Asset Management

Avid Technology has acquired Munich-based NXN Software, the leading provider of asset and production management systems specifically targeted for the entertainment and computer graphics industries, in a cash transaction valued at approximately EUR35 million.

Headline News Ooga Booga Studio Opens For Animated Business

New animation studio Ooga Booga Studio Inc. has opened in Vancouver to focus on the production of high quality 2D and 3D animation for commercials, promos and television specials. Founder is Colleen Pollock, formerly senior producer at another Canadian house, Natterjack Animation Co.

Headline News Roger Rabbit Lawsuit Against Disney Back On

A state appeals court in California reinstated WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? novelist Gary K. Wolf's lawsuit against Walt Disney Co., claiming that Disney owes Wolf millions of dollars in merchandising royalties, reported the ASSOCIATED PRESS. This lawsuit is very similar to the one brought against Disney by the Slesinger family, owners of the WINNIE THE POOH copyright.

Headline News Alias and Weta Digital Extend Strategic Alliance

Alias is continuing to foster a strategic business relationship with Weta Digital beyond THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, as it looks forward to working together on KING KONG.

Using 165 seats of primarily Maya Unlimited, Maya proved invaluable as the core 3D animation software utilized in the production of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

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