Illuminati Entertainment, a new management and production company focusing on clients with backgrounds in comic books and video games, has been founded by producer Ford Lytle Gilmore, former vice president of development at Goodman/Rosen Productions. In addition to representing its roster of clients and their properties, the company's mandate is to build new brands and franchises that can crossover into comics, games and toys.
All the speculation that the Muppets might join Mickey Mouse as part of the Disney family seems to have been for naught, as German entertainment company EM.TV and Merchandising AG announced that it has completed a letter of intent with a U.S. investment group for the partial sale of The Jim Henson Company, Inc. (JHC). EM.TV acquired 100 percent of Jim Henson in 2000 and then put the company on the block in 2001.
Toronto-based independent animation company Cuppa Coffee is not for sale. Owner Adam Shaheen reportedly turned down a US$38 million offer from a U.S. and Japan-based broadcast consortium. According to a statement released by Cuppa Coffee, the consortium offered Shaheen a deal which involved expanding the Toronto facility and opening a second studio in Tokyo that would create series animation exclusively for the Asian market. Shaheen responded saying, although the offer was flattering, he was never seriously interested.
The U.K. MEDIA Desk is now offering U.K. industry professionals the opportunity to apply for development funding for long fiction, documentary, animation and multimedia projects. The MEDIA Plus program, based in Brussels, is calling U.K. production companies to apply for development funding for their projects throughout the first six months of 2003. The funding covers single projects and slate funding. The final date for submissions is June 16, 2003. In 2002, £1.6 million was awarded to U.K.
David Pritchard, former CEO and president of Film Roman, has launched Fat Rock Entertainment, a new venture dedicated to producing and distributing family-friendly films. Fat Rock has licensed multiple properties from Hasbro, including MY LITTLE PONY and SUPER SOAKERS, upon which it will build its first slate of films. The first of the films is expected to debut in theatres in July 2003. The G-rated films will be in the $5-10 million budget range and will be a combination of live-action and digital animation.
eStudio founders and creative team Ken Martin, Mark Cohn and Ivan Todorov have recently formed Blitz Digital Studios, a new animation studio and integrated marketing firm. While at eStudio, Martin, Cohn and Todorov produced online and interactive games for Warner Bros., spots for companies such as Best Buy, Pioneer Electronics and Kellogg's, and were the team behind the Web animated series GARY THE RAT. Blitz Digital Studios is currently in production on several new projects for Warner Bros., Showtime, J. Walter Thompson, the General Electric Company, Infogrames and Flipside.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is partnering with children's entertainment developer Back Home Studios to produce KURT WARNER'S GOOD SPORTS GANG, a series of CG-animated programs targeted to kids from preschool to age 10. The Christian values-based property features Kurt Warner as the coach of the eight "Good Sports," who have crazy adventures while promoting faith, self-esteem, good sportsmanship and ethical behavior. The first of the half-hour episodes will be available in spring 2003 on both DVD and VHS, with other releases to follow.
Santa delivered early this year to Toronto-based visual effects studio GVFX, which has expanded its global operations to the Los Angeles area and brought on a new executive producer and head of business development. GVFX, which recently completed visual effects on the popular holiday film THE SANTA CLAUSE 2, has opened a new location in Santa Monica to augment its expanding efforts in Toronto and Vancouver.
4Kids Entertainment subsidiary, 4Kids Technology, Inc., has entered into a three-year agreement with Toys "R" Us to develop toys and games jointly for sale exclusively at Toys "R" Us retail locations throughout the world. Under the terms of the agreement, 4Kids Technology, Inc., will invent, create and engineer "Tech Toys" that use existing and novel technology. Toys "R" Us will be responsible for the final development, manufacture and sale of the products. "Tech Toys" include electronic features that enhance play patterns, making them particularly appealing to kids.
Based on the lackluster performance of its latest animated feature TREASURE PLANET, The Walt Disney Co. has lowered its fourth quarter earnings. Disney reported quarterly earnings of 11 cents per share and total income of $222 million. The company is now reporting earnings of 9 cents per share for the fourth quarter ended September 30 for a quarterly net income of $175 million. The adjustment changes its per-share earnings for the full year from 63 cents to 60 cents. TREASURE PLANET cost $140 million to make and has earned approximately $17 million in six days of release.
The Mill, one of Londons premier visual effects facilities, has announced that its feature effects division Mill Film will no longer work on feature film visual effects but will instead concentrate on advertising, The Mill's core business. Mill Film won an Academy Award in 2000 for its feature film effects work on GLADIATOR, the only U.K. company ever to be so honored.
Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, co-writers/directors of the animated hit LILO & STITCH, have entered into a deal with The Walt Disney Co. to write, direct and produce animated and live-action fare. DAILY VARIETY reports that Sanders and DeBlois will earn multiple seven figures for both live-action and animated films. Future projects for the duo include an untitled CG animated project directed by Sanders, and THE GUMSHOE CHRONICLES, a live-action family film that will be written and directed by DeBlois.
Burbank, California's S4 Studios is a 3D and Flash animation content studio founded by animation veterans Dale Hendrickson, Geoffrey Kater and Larry Le Francis. Dale Hendrickson spent eight years as a character designer on THE SIMPSONS, Geoffrey Kater is an award-winning industrial design futurist (THE SILVER SURFER) and Larry Le Francis has over 15 years of long form production, development and marketing experience on THE SIMPSONS, RUGRATS, DUCKMAN and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, among others.
Stating a continued commitment to diversify its animation production, independent animation company Film Roman, Inc. reported improved third quarter revenue results. According to the studio, revenue increased by 54% or $2 million, to $5.7 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2002, from $3.7 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2001. The revenue increase is attributed to the company delivering more fee-for-services episodes.
According to reports from Austrian news sources, a fresco of an animal that bears a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse has been uncovered on the wall of a 700 year-old church in the Austrian city of Malta. The painting is in the Community Church in Malta, Carinthia and was discovered by art historian Eduard Mahlknecht. While Malta's government officials claim that this 14th century mouse could overturn Disney's copyright on the familiar rodent, Mahlknecht believes the similarity to Mickey is purely coincidental, and the figure most likely represents a weasel or a beaver.
Comic book publisher Marvel Enterprises, Inc. reported a 96% increase in third quarter net sales benefiting from a growing list of entertainment, publishing, toy and consumer products including summer blockbuster SPIDER-MAN. Results for the quarter ending September 30, 2002, reflected approximately $4 million in revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) related to SPIDER-MAN which had been anticipated to be received in Q4 2002.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS has reported that SPIDER-MAN creator Stan Lee has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Marvel Entertainment, seeking 10% of the profits from the blockbuster franchise SPIDER-MAN. Lee, who has created a myriad of super hero characters for Marvel, including SPIDER-MAN, claims Marvel Entertainment signed a deal to give him 10% of any profits from his characters used in films and television shows. Although SPIDER-MAN has grossed over $800 million worldwide, Lee says he hasn't seen any money from his character's newfound global success.
Video game developer Vicarious Visions, Inc. has partnered with The Animation Academy of Burbank, California to develop new intellectual property and character brands, starting with a multi-platform video game set for release in 2003. Vicarious Visions is an independent game development studio whose recent titles include STAR WARS JEDI KNIGHT II: JEDI OUTCAST for Xbox and Gamecube, and the award winning CRASH BANDICOOT and TONY HAWKS PRO SKATER series for Game Boy Advance.
Los Angeles-based design and production studio B1 Media continues to grow with the launch of a DVD pre-mastering arm to provide compression, authoring and quality control services. Heading up the pre-mastering department are pre-mastering director Steve Gustafson and business development director Steve Alvanos. Both Gustafson and Alvanos were most recently with Cinesite, where they launched that companys pre-mastering arm. At Cinesite, Gustafson served as executive creative director of DVD and Alvanos was director of business development.
Mainframe Entertainment has established a global sales division and has named Joy Tashjian as vice president, worldwide sales and marketing. Tashjian will oversee the new division as the company expands its presence in the U.S. and strengthens its position in the global marketplace. She will also oversee the international distribution and will supervise the domestic sales for Mainframe's properties including TONY HAWK'S FEASTERS, DOT'S BOTS, BETTY BOOP, WUBBIES and SCARY GODMOTHER among others.
Yet another twist in the bitter battle for Winnie the Pooh royalties surfaced this week when Disney reportedly made an announcement that the granddaughter of Pooh creator A.A. Milne and the granddaughter of Pooh illustrator E. H. Shepard have decided to reclaim all rights to the characters. According to an AP report, Disney cited a clause in the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act that will allow the heirs to reclaim the international rights granted to Disney, as well as rights granted to Stephen Slesinger Inc. and grant all those rights exclusively to Disney starting in 2004.
Creek & River America (C&R), a talent management company representing freelance creative artists and production and design firms, has opened its first North American office in New York. Creek & River America represents U.S.-based talent on behalf of its parent company, Tokyo-based Creek & River Co., Ltd., which currently represents more than 20,000 creative artists including directors, producers, cinematographers, animators, designers, illustrators, copywriters and photographers.
Pixar Animation Studios announced the largest quarterly profit in the company's history with the financial results for its fiscal third quarter of 2002 and for the nine months ended September 28, 2002. For the quarter, Pixar earned $46.9 million or $0.87 per diluted share, compared to earnings of $6.2 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, achieved in the year-ago quarter. Revenues for the quarter were $102.5 million, as compared to $11.3 million in the year-ago quarter. These results were largely driven by better than expected sales of the MONSTERS, INC.
In announcing its fourth quarter and August 31, 2002 year-end results, Corus Entertainment Inc. revealed it has taken a CAD$200 million (approx. US$128 million) write-down of its investment in Nelvana. Nelvana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corus Entertainment. The company took the write-down because of the slowdown in the production and distribution industry over the past year. The write-down includes $40 million (US$25.6 million) from Nelvana's library and $160 million (US$102 million) for goodwill and other intangibles.
The long-running litigation over WINNIE THE POOH royalties took a startling turn as accountants hired by the court to audit Disney's records were officially fired on October 25, 2002. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige had determined that the accountants were biased in favor of Disney and their auditing methods unreliable. He has ordered that a new independent accounting firm be hired.