German entertainment company EM.TV & Merchandising AG is close to paying off half of its so-called "Junior loan," allowing its previously announced sale intention of half of the Muppets stake to continue. The consortium banks of EM.TV have decided to extend the term for repayment of the remainder of the "Junior loan" by three months, until the end of April 2003. The "Junior loan" financed EM.TVs 50% acquisition of its interest in the Junior TV joint venture with the failed Kirch Media Group.
VirtualMagic Animation, the North Hollywood-based digital ink, paint and compositing company and former production division of USAnimation, is on the block. According to president Don Spielvogel, the company is being put up for sale by its investors as a result of the changing dynamics of the cartoon animation business in the U.S., as well as the wishes of its non-animation industry investors to move on.
According to the latest sales figures from market information company The NPD Group, total U.S. retail sales of video game hardware, software and accessories in 2002 grew 10% from the previous year. The video game industry generated $10.3 billion in sales, surpassing the previous record high of $9.4 billion in 2001. The NPD Group credits the healthy increase in sales to the success of key properties such as: GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY, MADDEN NFL 2003, SUPER MARIO SUNSHINE, SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE, HALO and TOM CLANCY'S SPLINTER CELL.
Discreet has entered into an exclusive development and distribution partnership with New Orleans-based Turbo Squid, Inc., the world's premier marketplace for online digital assets. Turbo Squid will act as the worldwide developer, publisher and distributor for the Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-in Program. Working together, Discreet and Turbo Squid will carefully select plug-ins that bring compelling value to 3ds max artists.
Kim Mitzo Thompson and Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand, the founders of Twin Sisters Productions, Inc., have repurchased from CINAR Corporation the company they founded. The deal was concluded on January 13, 2003 for US$1.5 million. The sale also settled the outstanding litigation claims against CINAR by Twin Sisters.
New York's Abandon Entertainment is making inroads in the Japanese market with the help of agency Creek & River. Abandon has teamed with Creek & River to gain direct access to unique and untapped Japanese properties across television, comic books, anime and games. The company, which includes Abandon Television, Abandon Internet Group and Collision Entertainment, hopes to access properties that have the potential to be exploited internationally across multiple distribution platforms.
Raven Moon Entertainment, Inc., a producer of childrens programming based in Orlando, Florida, plans to spin off Raven Moon Home Video Products LLC into a separate publicly traded corporation. Pending shareholder approval, the spin-off would take place by the end of April 2003. The proposed spin-off is expected to reduce Raven Moon Entertainment's debt by approximately $1,000,000.
The Walt Disney Company can rest easy for another twenty years as the Supreme Court has upheld a 1998 Congressional Act extending existing copyrights. On Wednesday, January 15, 2003, the justices voted 7-2 to uphold the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), a 1998 law that extended millions of existing copyrights by an additional 20 years.
Creative edit house Northern Lights Post has launched a visual effects design division, which will be headed by effects artist/designer Tera Petersen. Petersen's experience includes CG/design work on commercials for Pepsi, Doritos 3D and Fruitopia, among others. "This is a natural progression for Northern Lights," said Northern Lights co-founder/editor David Gioiella.
In an effort to strategically streamline and organize its children's television animation programming, production and distribution under one business unit, Disney has moved Television Animation into the Disney Channel Worldwide division with former Television Animation executive vice president Barry Blumberg replacing David Stainton as president, Walt Disney Television Animation.
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.