Spreading its areas of interest and wealth around, IDT Entertainment announced May 6, 2004 it has acquired a minority equity interest in POW! Entertainment LLC, headed by comic book legend Stan Lee. In addition, IDT Ent. has acquired exclusive distribution rights for all POW Ent. animated DVD properties plus the companies will co-produce and co-develop a minimum of six animation projects for direct-to-DVD distribution and broadcast.
According to TRENDWATCH, 22% of all U.S. studios/facilities do 3D modeling/animation/rendering (including character set-up, enveloping/skinning, lighting, etc.).
Significantly, this number jumps up to 68% for vfx/animation studios/facilities specializing in 3D work. Also, 35% of post-production studios/facilities do this type of 3D work as well. This number is up from 31% of post houses doing this work in TRENDWATCH's summer 2003 survey.
Excerpted from the TRENDWATCH VISUAL EFFECTS/DYNAMIC MEDIA REPORT Issue #4, Winter 2003-2004.
INdTV Holdings, LLC a newly formed media company led by former U.S. vp Al Gore and successful entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, acquired Newsworld International (NWI) from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition was announced during the annual NCTA convention in New Orleans. NWI will be developed by its new owners into an independent network offering innovative alternative programming created by and for a target audience of 18-34 year-olds.
Hearst Corp., King Features Syndicate and Fleischer Studios have filed a federal suit against 43 defendants for copyright infringement on the BETTY BOOP AND HER GANG characters. Hollywood attorney Gary Hecker, who specializes in copyright protection, is heading the case for Betty's owners. The defendants in the case include makers of electronics, underwear, t-shirts, jeans, baby clothes, jewelry and more.
Former Disney director Stanley Gold said he and fellow dissident investor Roy Disney chairman will nominate an alternate slate of directors next year if the current board does not "face up to the issues," he told REUTERS NEWS.
MGA Ent., which owns those hugely successful Bratz fashion doll line, is more aggressively translating its intellectual properties into entertainment with the launch of its new production unit, MGA Ent. Films. MGA has recruited animation vets Jay Fukuto as vp of the entertainment division and Ellen Levy-Sarnoff as senior director of creative for Bratz Ent.
Comcast Corp. announced April 28, 2004 that it has withdrawn its proposal to merge with The Walt Disney Co., right after the Disney board of directors concluded its annual retreat where it reiterated its confidence in ceo Michael Eisner, which, in turn, angered Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold, who have been trying to oust the chief executive.
Brian L. Roberts, president/ceo of Comcast said, "It has become clear that there is no interest on the part of Disney's management and board in putting Comcast and Disney together. As a result, we have withdrawn our offer."
Klasky Csupo Animation Studio has launched a mature entertainment arm, Global Tantrum (www.globaltantrum.com). Klasky Csupo ceo Terry Thoren will oversee all business operations. Global Tantrum will target the 18-35 age group and produces TV series, feature films and content for the Internet.
Klasky Csupo principal Gabor Csupo said, "It is refreshing to have a vehicle that expresses such a different creative vision. We hope viewers are entertained by the material, whether in film, television or internet form as we move forward with the Global Tantrum brand."
Tokyo-based Kadokawa Holdings will invest $100 million in DreamWorks, reports VARIETY. This deal will make the Japanese media corporation 2.83% shareholder in the privately held studio, which was created by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994. As part of the investment, Kadokawa will have exclusive distribution rights to DreamWorks films, videos, DVDs and other products in Japan. The deal is similar to ones DreamWorks has with Universal and Korean distribution company Cheil.
Calabasas, California-based THQ Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire leading PC development studio, Relic Entertainment. THQ expects the acquisition to be completed by May 1, 2004. Other terms of the all-cash transaction were not disclosed.
Previously, THQ had partnered with Vancouver-based Relic Ent. through a two-property, multi-year publishing agreement including the upcoming realtime strategy (RTS) title, WARHAMMER 40,000: DAWN OF WAR, scheduled to release in fall 2004.
Board members of the Walt Disney Co. assembled at Disneyland on Monday for an informal two-day retreat to discuss, among other things, whether to renew ceo Michael Eisners contract, which expires in 2006, the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported. CalPERS and other pension funds recently demanded a meeting with the board, which is scheduled for May 21, 2004.
The restructuring of EM.TV Merchandising AG is complete into EM.TV Vermögensverwaltungs AG, with the resulting company to be known henceforth as EM.TV AG, headquartered near Munich, Germany.
Word has leaked out that Sony Corp. is in talks to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. for a cash deal valued at approximately $5 billion, according to AP and other news organizations. Sony and two private firms, Providence Equity Partners and Texas Pacific Group, have been examining MGM's books in anticipation of an offer that might take place in several weeks.
A deal would likely fold MGM into Sony Pictures Ent. and expand Sony's film library with an additional 4,200-plus titles, including lucrative United Artists franchises such as James Bond and the Pink Panther.
The ongoing war between The Walt Disney Co. and ex-Disney board members Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold has flared up again with the two sides debating the actual percentage of No Confidence votes received by Disney ceo and former chairman Michael Eisner and board member and newly elected chairman George Mitchell.
SPIN takes its vision to Vancouver, creating a new studio, SPIN West VFX. The new studio (SPIN is headquartered in Toronto with another shop in Atlanta) has hit the ground running, landing vfx work on the much-anticipated television miniseries STEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL. Close behind the Stephen King production is work for STARGATE SG1 (Sci Fi Channel) and SPYMATES (Keystone Pictures).
Dean Valentine, former UPN president/ceo and president of Walt Disney Television, has partnered with prominent entertainment execs Richard Cohen and Nicolas Van Dyk to form First Family Entertainment in Los Angeles. The new company will develop and produce niche-oriented, direct-to-DVD/video programming for family audiences. The new venture already has inked a home video distribution deal with MGM.
13 member-companies of TV France International will be presenting programs at the Second Regional Showcase in Beirut at the Sofitel Gabriel, April 20 21, 2004. To date, 44 executives, representing Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, and Tunisia, have confirmed their presence. The Film and Television sections of the French embassies in Amman and Beirut are supporting the event, which is aimed at promoting the French productions in the Near and Middle East.
Visual effects vet and former Secret Lab head Hoyt Yeatman has formed Whamaphram Prods. to produce CG animated features, reported VARIETY. Burbank-based toon house will specialize in completely animated and hybrid live-action/animated films.
The new studio is pitching its first project G-FORCE to several studios. The live-action family adventure would chronicle the NSA's top secret unit of highly intelligent, talking animals. Yeatman plans to direct the film.
Roy Disney sued the Walt Disney Co. on April 8 to release information on how many employees participated in last month's protest vote against the reelection of chief exec Michael Eisner, the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported.
In the suit filed in Delaware Chancery Court, Disney asked the court to make the company show documents, records, proxies and ballots from the annual meeting in Philadelphia.
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.