Weta Digital has landed work on both the KING KONG remake and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE feature. Head of Weta Peter Jackson has inked a deal with Universal to bring his version of the giant ape tale to the screen, reported DAILY VARIETY. The deal is worth $20 million and 20% of the gross to Jackson for his writing and directing duties, which he will split with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens who also helped the Oscar-nominated director pen the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Welsh is set to produce the KONG redux.
As part of the recent studio trend, DreamWorks SKG has formed a new specialty division, Go Fish Pictures, with MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, the critically acclaimed anime title by Satoshi Kon, as its first release. MILLENNIUM ACTRESS opens September 12, 2003 in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto. INNOCENCE: GHOST IN A SHELL II will follow in the spring of 2004, but there may be more titles in between, including live action.
Mike Newell (the upcoming MONA LISA SMILE and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) will direct HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, the fourth movie in the blockbuster fantasy series based on the phenomenal best sellers by J.K. Rowling, and the first to be helmed by a Brit, according to a Warner Bros. Pictures announcement. Production is scheduled to begin in England in April, 2004 for a holiday 2005 release, with David Heyman producing and Steve Kloves scripting.
As expected, Sony's S.W.A.T. ruled the weekend box office ending Aug. 10, 2003, with an impressive $37M (with VFX by Pixel Magic). Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY remake came in second, drawing a very impressive $22.2M and $33.1M for the five-day period, with Jacqueline Allard serving as digital compositor for the VFX. Universal's AMERICAN WEDDING (with VFX by Soho VFX) took third place after a 53% nose-dive, garnering $15.4M and $65.2M in its second weekend.
Italian animation house Mondo TV and its German division, Mondo Igel Media AG, has inked a deal with Neue Deutsche Filmgesellschaft (NDF) to produce two animated features as well as a TV series. The TV series will be the second season of NDFs LETTERS FROM FELIX, based upon the famous German childrens books by Annette Langen and Constanza Droop. The feature projects have not been announced yet. The price tag on all three projects is $5.8 million.
In a move that looks like it wants to recapture the success of its HARRY POTTER franchise, Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned Phillip Ardaghs childrens trilogy of books, featuring the main character Eddie Dickens, reported DAILY VARIETY. Scribe Matthew Huffman (ME AND MY MONSTER) has been tapped to write the screenplay for the first book, A HOUSE CALLED AWFUL END. The story follows an 11-year-old British boy, who goes to live with his Mad Uncle Jack and Mad Aunt Maud when his parents get sick and ends up in the St. Horrid's Home for Grateful Orphans.
For the upcoming feature FREDDY VS. JASON, Freddy vs. Jason Prod used Eyetronics mobile scanning services. The filmmakers chose the technology so they could increase the quality of the visual effects and meet their goals within their tight 10-week production schedule.
The countdown for Aardman Animations WALLACE & GROMIT THE MOVIE has started, as the studio in Bristol, England starts as the DreamWorks-backed feature gets underway in September, according to DAILY VARIETY and confirmed by a DreamWorks spokesperson.
Universal's AMERICAN WEDDING (with VFX by Soho VFX) powered the weekend box office ending Aug. 3, 2003, grabbing a huge $33.3M slice of cake. SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER fell to second place, dropping 41% while collecting $19.5M for a total of $68.5M in its second weekend. Hybride Technologies and The Orphanage shared VFX duties for the Dimension Films release.
Talkshow host Kelly Ripa is the latest to join the star-studded cast of DELGO, the independently produced computer-animated feature from Atlanta, Georgia-based Fathom Studios. Ripa (LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY, HOPE AND FAITH) is providing the voice of Princess Kyla's handmaiden. The fantasy adventure is set in a divided land where a troubled youth and some unlikely friends must save the world from itself.
Banking on some slightly different kind of toy stories, Miramax Films and LEGO Co. are in production on a second CGI-animation direct-to-video based upon the toy companys BIONICLE brand and are developing a theatrical motion picture scheduled for release in 2005. These are early commitments considering their first collaboration, BIONICLE: MASK OF LIGHT, wont debut on DVD and video until September 16, 2003.
Out of nowhere, SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER topped the box office charts for the weekend ending July 27, 2003, bringing in $33.4M for Miramax's Dimension Films, with VFX by Hybride Technologies and The Orphanage. Meanwhile, even though Disney/Pixar's FINDING NEMO reeled in $4.4M in the eighth spot, it topped $313M as this year's best grosser, good enough to break the LION KING's record as the all-time animation king. However, if you count the recent IMAX reissue, THE LION KING technically has earned a total of $328.5M.
TroubleMaker Studios and Janimation animators used AMD processors with hardware support from BOXX and NVIDIA, as well as software from Microsoft and Softimage on SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER. The third installment of Robert Rodriguez' highly successful family franchise features stereoscopic elements enhanced with 3D glasses.
Blur Studio, whose acclaimed AUNT LUISA short will screen at the SIGGRAPH Conference (July 29-31, 2003), is producing a 7-minute sci-fi adventure as a change of pace. The untitled computer-animated project, directed by Blur co-founder/creative director Tim Miller, is about a fisherman in the far future that catches more than he bargained for.
Sydney, Australia-based animation studio Mad Cow Pictures announced it is providing pre-production and production design, effects and support for the upcoming feature version of CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG. The film is being produced by Scholastic Entertainment, Big Red Dog Productions and Starburst Studios. Mad Cows co-owner Steve Trenbirth will serve as the unit director.
In a deal stemming from connections made at the Annecy International Animation Festival, Monster Distributes has acquired the rights to Adam Elliots HARVIE KRUMPET. Monster now holds the international distribution rights for the 23-minute stop-motion film.
R!OT Santa Monica created a massive and richly detailed digital replica of 19th Century London as part of its VFX package for Fox's new THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. The R!OT team also concocted a roomful of missile silos inside a giant submarine, impaled a man on a rhinoceros horn and came up with a unique way of visualizing the voices on an old phonograph recording.
Burt Reynolds is the latest addition to the star-studded cast of DELGO, the independently produced computer-animated feature from Atlanta, Georgia-based Fathom Studios. The Oscar-nominated actor said in a release, "I am very proud to be a part of the first animated film being produced in my home state of Georgia."
Burt Reynolds (BOOGIE NIGHTS, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT) is providing the voice of Delgo's boisterous father. The fantasy adventure is set in a divided land where a troubled youth and some unlikely friends must save the world from itself.
Darkwoods Prod., the production house of SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION director Frank Darabont, has signed on with Himani Original Prod. to develop a CG-animated feature film, animated TV series, comic books and video games based on Bernie Wrightson's (SWAMP THING) comic book character Captain Sternn. The character originally appeared in HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE and made an appearance in the 1981 animated cult flick HEAVY METAL. Also attached to the project are writer David J. Schow (THE CROW) and Himani president/founder Kevin Kutchaver (HERCULES, XENA) as director of animation.
With a one-two punch of his own, producer Jerry Bruckheimer ruled the weekend box office like no other producer before him, with BAD BOYS II debuting impressively at an estimated $46.7M and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL hauling in a hefty $33.2M in its sophomore turn. At least for the moment, the curse of the summer sequel has been given a respite.
After the dismal box office performance of SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS ($23.4 M since July 2, 2003), DreamWorks animation head Ann Daly proclaimed in the NEW YORK TIMES that the studio will no longer be making traditionally-drawn features. Co-founder and animation guru Jeffrey Katzenberg added that the 2D art form sadly may be obsolete as a result of changing technology.
With PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK already past $85M after one week of release, Disney has acted quickly in setting course on a sequel with all of the main participants, including Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, and confirmed by a Walt Disney Co. spokesperson. No story has been conjured, but writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are said to be huddling with the studio.