The voice cast of THE SIMPSONS has stopped working to force Twentieth Century Fox TV to finalize their new contracts, reported VARIETY. The cast's previous three-year contracts expired several months back. Apparently, the cast has not showed up for two script readings over the past few weeks. Actors participating in the stoppage include Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu, Comic Book Guy), Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns and others), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart).
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy dismissed the 13-year-old lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. brought by Stephen Slesinger Inc., the owners of the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights, after concluding that they "tampered with the administration of justice" by hiring a private investigator to take documents from Disney's trash bins. Mondays ruling spares Disney from having to pay royalties and damages that might have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Disney.
With the acquisition of the company by former Nelvana execs Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor complete, Cinar's name has been officially changed to Cookie Jar Ent. The once publicly traded company will now be a private entity. The principals include Hirsh and Taylor along with Steve and Patty Carson, TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS). The overall Cookie Jar Group also includes leading education companies Carson-Dellosa and HighReach Learning.
Comcast Corp. announced that it has signed an agreement with Vulcan Programming Inc. to acquire TechTV Inc. Comcast plans to merge TechTV with G4, the Comcast-owned television network devoted to videogames and the gamer lifestyle. The deal increases Comcasts content portfolio and expands G4s distribution. The combined channel will be available to 44 million cable and satellite customers nationwide.
Announced at MIP-TV, independent animation studio Mike Young Prods (MYP) announced the formation of Taffy Ent., the new business unit dedicated to the rights management and worldwide distribution of family and childrens entertainment. Mike and Liz Young and Bill Schultz created Taffy to own and represent its library as well as to actively seek to acquire rights to other animation properties.
Entertainment Rights has announced that it has purchased the complete rights to the Filmation library from Hallmark Entertainment in a $20 million deal. The library includes more than 1,700 hours of programming, featuring HE-MAN AND MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, SHE-RA, GHOSTBUSTERS, MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN, THE LONE RANGER, THE ARCHIES, FAT ALBERT, SABRINA and BRAVESTAR.
Focus Features has opened a new action, thriller and urban dedicated label called Rogue Pictures, reported VARIETY. Supervision of the new unit will be headed by Focus' management team. Focus president of distribution Jack Foley will be the go-to man on Rogue releases. The first film to be released by the new arm with the forthcoming CHILD'S PLAY sequel, THE SEED OF CHUCKY, directed and written by series creator Don Mancini.
THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE director Sylvain Chomet has opened an animation company called Studio Django in Edinburgh, Scotland. The new firm has already signed on for two productions. Chomet's wife Sally will serve as a producer for the company.
Square Enix Co. Ltd. has acquired UIEvolution, Inc., a leading wireless software company, through its subsidiary, Square Enix U.S.A. Inc. This move is in hopes to capitalize on the growing mobile market in the U.S. Square Enix invested approximately $4 million in UIEvolution in December 2003. UIEvolution will function as the research and development center for core technologies that will help Square Enix produce a new type of network-based entertainment.
With the epic undertaking of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy behind them, Weta Digital is considering renting out several racks of IBM blade servers in partnership with Telecom, reports www.stuff.co.nz. Telecom Advanced Solutions started hosting the hardware last winter after Weta ran out of room in the Miramar facility. The new servers were linked to Weta's main site using a 10 gigabit fibre-optic connection.
A core group of Disney Orlando character animators have announced the formation of Project Firefly Animation Studios. The new 2D and 3D studio will be based out of offices on the Universal Studios Florida back lot. Project Firefly has a slate of original projects in development for theatrical and video release.
Santa Barbara-based production/distribution company Foothill Entertainment Inc. has formed a broad-based strategic alliance with recently established creative content house phuuz entertainment inc. to extend the business and creative reach of both organizations globally.
Australian animation veteran Yoram Gross has teamed with L.A.-based production firm Coote/Hayes Prods. to form YG USA, reported VARIETY. The new firm has already inked a domestic television and homevideo deal with Miramax on the series FLIPPER & LOPAKA, which is set for release in July. Greg Coote and Jeff Hayes head Coote/Hayes Prods., whose executive Edward Olson will serve as president of YG USA. Olson will oversee the development of new projects and properties as well as promoting Gross' animation library in North and Latin America.
The Walt Disney Company is exploring India as a production base for its animation and feature films, and is planning to tap the country's commercial ability, including that in radio, animation and TV broadcasting and content, reports the HINDUSTAN TIMES.
A Parisian judge, on March 12, 2004, threw out a claim made by French children's author Franck Le Calvez that would stop the sale of FINDING NEMO merchandise in France, reported the DOW JONES BUSINESS JOURNAL. Le Calvez claims that NEMO is a copyright infringement of his 2002 book PIERROT LE POISSON CLOWN, which features a lead clown fish character who looks strikingly like Nemo.
Broadcasters may have to rethink how adult their adult animation gets now that the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation increasing the maximum fine for radio and TV indecency from $11,000 to $500,000, reports the ASSOCIATED PRESS.
The vote was 391-22. A U.S. Senate bill is under discussion. The bill raises the maximum fine for a broadcast license-holder from $27,500 to $500,000 and the fine for a performer from $11,000 to $500,000.
The merger of the distribution arms of Antefilms Production and France Animation has resulted in the launch of Moonscoop at MIP-TV, a new joint distribution brand. It will combine the respective sales slates of the two companies to create a catalog of more than 1,600 half hours of programming including popular titles such as FUNKY COPS and TITEUF.
London-based Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group has established a new company called Dreamcloud on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, Australia as a joint venture with Light Knights Entertainment, the Brisbane-based animation company whose credits include the 3D musical animated drama series, THE SHAPIES.
Disney veteran animators Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley have formed a new animation development company, Funnypages Prods. Llc, which joins their already existing subsidiary comic book publishing company, Funnypages Press in Orlando, Florida. Funnypages Prods. will offer a full range of animation production as well as illustration, character design and artistic development. The animation house has also developed many original properties for film and television.
Marvel Enterprises Inc. has released its financial results for its fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2003, in addition to a three-for-two stock split in the form of a stock dividend of one additional share of the company's common stock for every two shares held. The additional shares will be distributed on March 26, 2004 to stockholders of record on March 12, 2004.
A whopping 43% of Walt Disney Co. shareholders voted against retaining Michael Eisner as chairman and ceo today (March 3, 2004) in Philadelphia, delivering a stunning blow that lead to the Disney board of directors stripping Eisner of his chairman title within hours after the vote, the strongest rebuke in U.S. corporate history. The Disney board then elected former U. S. Senator George Mitchell to the newly created position of chairman of the board.
A day before the Walt Disney Co.'s annual shareholder meeting in Philadelphia, ex-directors Roy Disney and Stanley Gold proclaimed at a news conference they will work as long as it takes to oust Disney chairman and ceo Michael Eisner. They believe that a dissenting vote of 15-20% will be sufficient. Gold said whatever the outcome they are not going away. They hope to rally as many as 1,000 shareholders during their 15-minute presentation at Wednesday's (March 3, 2004)10:00 am meeting (EST), which will be Webcast live at www.disney.com/investors.
After three successful years rhinofx, the New York visual effects studio, has launched a new division offering 3D previsualization. Having ventured into visual effects projects for film, television and video games, rhinofx is doubling its workspace in their New York midtown office building. A larger workforce and more artist stations are in place and previs services are being ramped up to form the new division called rhinofx previz.
The founders, the stockholders and now the Canadian authorities have approved the sale of CINAR Corp. to the investor group comprised of Michael Hirsh, Toper Taylor and TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners through 4113683 Canada Inc. ("Newco").
The Quebec Superior Court granted approval by Justice Joel A. Silcoff, on Feb. 25, 2004, following a hearing in Montreal, on February 19 and 20.