As a follow-up to Barbie's direct-to-video debut in Mattel's BARBIE IN THE NUTCRACKER, CGI animation company Mainframe Entertainment has been contracted to animate the second direct-to-video Barbie feature, BARBIE AS RAPUNZEL. Scheduled for a fall 2002 launch, BARBIE AS RAPUNZEL will feature the voices of Anjelica Huston as the evil stepmother, Cree Summer as Penelope the dragon and Kelly Sheridan reprising her role as Barbie. In this new adaptation of the classic fairytale, Barbie portrays an artist who paints her way out of the castle tower to save her beloved prince.
The RTV family entertainment company has licensed an extensive non-exclusive program package to tv.nrw, the provider of regional television programs in North Rhine Westphalia. The package includes among others the animation series TIMOTHY GOES TO SCHOOL, DONKEY KONG COUNTRY, MARVIN THE TAP-DANCING HORSE, SEVEN LITTLE MONSTERS and TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER along with several live-action series. The deal with tv.nrw, which RTV plans on being a long-term cooperation, underlines RTV's desire to be an important provider of up-market entertainment for children and families.
Disney Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher confirmed that more cuts are scheduled in the Mouse House Feature Animation division. According to the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Disney plans to lay off up to 265 employees at its Burbank facility over the next year. The cuts will reduce the staff to about 1,000 by May 2003 and are part of Walt Disney's ongoing restructuring of its animation division. When the company-wide cuts were announced in April 2001, approximately 200 animation employees were laid off from the Burbank facility and animation salaries were reportedly cut by 30% to 50%.
Canadian-based animation company Bardel Animation has a new digital production division comprised of two core departments utilizing Flash and 3D Maya. "Traditional animation is by no means dead," said Bardel's president Barry Ward. "It's alive and well and living digitally.
Miami-based Latin American distribution outfit Salsa Entertainment has concluded several deals with leading broadcasters throughout the Latin American region. Puerto Rican broadcaster Telemundo has picked up the live-action/animation preschool series SALTYS LIGHTHOUSE (40 x 30 min) from Sunbow Entertainment.
Animation producer and distributor TV-Loonland has sold three preschool properties LITTLE GHOSTS (39 x 7 min), CONNIE THE COW (52 x 7 min) and HENRY'S WORLD (26 x 11 min), to public broadcaster France 5. The channel, which until recently was called La Cinquième, is recognized for being France's primary broadcaster of preschool programming and for providing its young audiences with television that promotes learning through play. LITTLE GHOSTS is a co-production between TV-Loonland and its subsidiary, UK animation studio Telemagination.
Gullane Entertainment has joined forces with independent animation company Collingwood O'Hare Entertainment to create a new animated preschool series called YOKO! JAKAMOKO! TOTO! UK broadcaster CiTV commissioned 52 five-minute episodes of the series. YOKO! JAKAMOKO! TOTO! is inspired by traditional Spanish, Latin American and African art and music and tells the tale of the friendship between Yoko (a bird), Jakamoko (an armadillo) and Toto (a monkey) solely through music and action.
Barcelona-based animation house Neptuno Films and Megatrix, a Spanish kids' content multi-platform provider, have sealed a co-production deal to produce the animated series 2020. Aimed at 8 to 12 year-olds, the series focuses on the everyday life of a middle-class family in the year 2020, but the series' creators say it is an ironic reflection on what is happening now. 2020 will consist of 26 half-hours animated in Flash for broadcast on television and the Internet. The first episode will be launched in April 2002 at MipTV, and the remaining episodes are scheduled for delivery in fall 2003.
Independent animation producer Delaney and Friends is planning to merge with 3D and interactive content providers Brainchild Studios and Furious Entertainment to create the new, publicly traded entity SecondSun Entertainment. Combining the strengths of the three Vancouver-based companies, the new venture will focus on the development, financing and production of animated TV series, direct-to-video features, TV commercials, special effects, movies and interactive games.
BRB Internacional's slate of animated programming will be seen in Spanish language markets in both Latin America and the U.S. BRB has signed an agreement with Venevision International, the production and distribution arm of the Cisneros Group, to distribute the BRB animation catalogue of over 700 half-hours and 20 TV movies throughout North, Central and South America, excluding Mexico.
Entertainment company Curious Pictures Corporation, producer of the series SHEEP IN THE BIG CITY (Cartoon Network) and AVENUE AMY(OXYGEN), has been acquired by its founders, Susan Holden, Steve Oakes, David Starr and Richard Winkler. The transaction includes the acquisition of creative services agency DCode, Inc. Both firms had been subsidiaries of iNTELEFILM Corporation which purchased a controlling interest in Curious Pictures in May 1999 and founded DCode in 2000.
Raven Moon Entertainment, Inc. is collaborating with Hacker-Rumsey Entertainment to develop and market a slate of three projects for television over the next two years. The first project on tap is a CG-animated kids' project called THE ICELY BROTHERS, a mix of live-action and animated characters. Hacker-Rumsey is completing the pilot and will begin domestic and international marketing in spring 2002.
International animation studio Varga Holdings has begun production on 13 episodes of ANGELINA BALLERINA, a 2D animated series based on the adventures of a ballet-dancing mouse. Following the successful launch of the pre-school series in October 2001 on the UK's CITV producers HIT Entertainment/Grand Slamm have requested a further 13 episodes. Delivery is scheduled for September 2002. Varga also commenced production in January 2002 on the ANGELINA BALLERINA 44-minute direct-to-video special, which will feature the voices of Academy Award winner Judi Dench and her daughter Finty Williams.
Design, animation and visual effects studio Hornet, Inc., is expanding its operations in the commercial arena with the addition of several directors, designers and animators. New additions include animator and director Steve Talkowski, character designer and director Peter de Séve, director and designer Brian Koons, title designer Deborah Ross and the collective design team HONEST.
Animax Interactive, a new digital animation studio, has launched their Website which features samples of the companys brand of "advertainment," including animated shorts featuring celebrity voiceovers that demonstrate and explain Animax Interactives business model. The company develops and produces entertainment for existing brands using both digital and traditional animation.
SportsBlast, the animation development company founded by voice-actor Nancy Cartwright (THE SIMPSONS, RUGRATS), has chosen Canadian-based animation house Bardel Entertainment as its new animation partner for THE KELLYS, the animated Web series about a family of professional stock car racers. Bardels production credits include the DreamWorks films JOSEPH: KING OF DREAMS and THE ROAD TO EL DORADO, as well as work for Columbia TriStar, Disney and Fox. Bardel will provide all the visual elements for THE KELLYS second season, which begins in February 2002.
Pixar Animation Studios recently announced financial results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ending December 29, 2001. The studios Oscar-nominated film MONSTERS, INC. helped Pixar more than double the previous quarters profits. Fourth quarter profits were $13 million, or $0.25 per share up from the $6.2 million or 12 cents per share earned for the third quarter of 2001, but down from $35.2 million, or $0.71 per share for the same period in 2000. Revenue driven primarily by the $234.2 million domestic box office receipts from MONSTERS, INC.
Paris headquartered animation production and distribution company Millimages, is expanding into the factual programming business with the acquisition of a 50.1% stake in French documentary producer, Gedeon Programmes. Millimages will acquire the majority interest in exchange for Euro 1.37M (US$1.19M) in cash plus stock. In addition, Gedeon Programmes chairman Stephane Milliére will assume a position on Millimages board. Millimages chairman Roch Lener stated that the move was made as part of Millimages overall strategy for growth and development.
French animation studio Xilam Animation has launched its first initial public offering (IPO) on Paris Second Market (Marché dEuronext). The producers of the series OGGY AND THE COCKROACHES, SPACE GOOFS and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF LUCKY LUKE raised 15 million Euros through this IPO. The company floated 1 million shares representing 27.03% of its capital. Shares rolled out at 15 Euro. The companies founder and CEO Marc du Pontavice will retain the remaining 66.7% of the capital.
Troubled childrens television producer Cinar Corporation avoided criminal prosecution from tax-fraud charges brought against the company by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). After completing an analysis of the evidence presented, the Crown prosecutors' office claimed an investigation could not go forth. The charges stemmed from allegations back in 1999 when Cinar was accused of illegally obtaining Canadian tax credits by forging Canadian names on scripts written by U.S. citizens.
SD Entertainment, a content creator and property builder, has formed two new divisions, interactive and licensing. The divisions will be headed by Michele Martell, SDs senior vice president and general counsel. In its first licensing venture, SD will become the domestic master toy licensing agent and television representative for MAKE WAY FOR NODDY. SD has produced 100 episodes of the new CGI animated series, which is an update of the Emmy Award-winning preschool series, NODDY, based on characters created by author Enid Blyton.
Led by strong sales for its HARRY POTTER game franchise, Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts (EA) reported a net profit of $132.3 million, or 92 cents per share, compared with net earnings of $88 million, or 63 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. Excluding goodwill and other charges, the company reported earnings of $147.1 million, or $1.03 per share. Revenue in the quarter was $832.9 million, up from $640.3 million a year earlier.
The innovative studio that brought the synthespians of FINAL FANTASY to life, is planning to close up shop. Pressure from parent company Square Co., Ltd. of Tokyo is forcing Honolulu-based Square USA into closure, if they cannot find investors between now and March 31, 2002. Square Co. ceased funding of the studio in September, and although Square USA attempted to find partners in major U.S. studios, they have not been able to procure outside funding. Although the studio hopes an investor will appear in the 11th hour, a March 31st shut down seems inevitable.
The Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) and DreamWorks SKG have entered into a three-year, multi-million dollar technology strategic alliance aimed at revolutionizing animation production. The alliance designates HP as DreamWorks' sole "preferred technology provider" for core technology purchases meaning HP will provide a broad range of products, services and integration expertise to create a new DreamWorks production facility at the Glendale campus.
Animation producer Millimages is expanding into German territory with the acquisition of 51% of the Hamburg-based animation company, Toons n Tales. This latest acquisition follows the companys announcements in 2001 of the launch of Millimages USA, headed by Dorian Langdon, and the international distribution center, Millimages London. Toons n Tales managing director and co-founder Sunita Struck, will continue to oversee the company in partnership with Millimages.