December Issue News Section


Fifth International Children's Day Of Broadcasting Announced: Over 2,000 television and radio stations from more than 170 countries are expected to participate in the global day of broadcasting slated to take place on December 15, 1996. Coordinated by UNICEF and the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, this year's event is of special significance as it marks the 50th Anniversary of UNICEF. The purpose of the day is to draw world media attention to children and issues which affect--to spur broadcasters and audiences to "Tune in to Kids."

MSH Launches Animation Production Managment Software Systems: San Francisco-based MSH Entertainment Corporation has a new production managment and authoring system, code named Jethro. It is designed to be "the entertainment industry's first open system managment scheduling program for the animation business." The new system is designed to provide an alternative to the professional animation standard which up until now has been held by Silicon Graphics and other high cost workstations providers. While developing the system, MSH started utilizing its capabilities to create children's programming. Projections call for two of these projects to be finished by the middle of 1997, with the anticipation that the company will also partner with outside entertainment entities on other projects.

DIC Will Bring Cosmos Down To Earth For Kids: Carl Sagan, renowned astronomer who gained acclaim and fame with his Cosmos TV series, has inked a deal to create Cosmos for Kids in partnership with DIC Entertainment. The new show, which will be produced by Sagan and fellow scientist Ann Druyan, is likely to be a major component of DIC's plans to help broadcasters meet the instituted guideline of three hours of educational programming a week.

Film Roman's Story Of Santa Claus To Air December 4, 1996 On CBS. An all-new one-hour primetime animated special produced by Arnold Shapiro Productions (Scared Straight and Rescue 911) is set to air on CBS on Wednesday, December 4, at 8:00 pm. The story follows the long-ago adventures of Nicholas and Gretchen Claus from their native home in Europe to their small toy shop at the North Pole. There, after saving the life of a young elf, Nicholas is granted his fonded wish, "To give every child in the world a toy at Christmas."

The following items are from AWN's November 7th, 1996 email News Flash:


Maccurdy To Head Hanna-Barbera As Seibert Resigns: Following in the wake of Time-Warner's merger with Turner Broadcasting, Jean MacCurdy, Warner Bros. TV Animation president, will now also head up Hanna-Barbera. At the same time, Fred Seibert has resigned as president of Hanna-Barbera. Hanna-Barbera, which pioneered both prime-time and Saturday morning TV animation in the US, has lately concentrated on making shows for Turner's Cartoon Network and other Turner outlets, including the "World Premiere Toons."

MacCurdy is not unfamiliar with Hanna-Barbera, as she served as its vice president of children's programs from 1983-87, before returning to Warner Bros. (She was director of animation programming at Warners Bros. Cartoons from 1979-83.) At Warners, she has been in charge of developing new shows, managing the studio's classic characters, and heads up the children's programming service that supplies the new WB Network. There is no indication what Seibert's next move is yet; prior to joining Hanna-Barbera, he worked with Viacom's MTV Networks, and was involved with the launch of the MTV cable network.

Poor Showings Of Saturday Morning Shows Induce Rebates: The sharp decline in ratings for terrestrial broadcasters' kid shows (which are mostly animated series) has been causing networks to give rebates to advertisers as ratings fall short of what the networks had guaranteed. Thus, the WB Network has seen its ratings plunge some 24% for its highly-touted Superman series, though there has been some rebound in the past few weeks following some programming changes. (See news item in the October issue of Animation World Magazine.) The rebates could be as much as $12 million, while CBS, whose ratings have gone down 45% since last season could be liable for up to $22 million. (This has spurred rumors that CBS may abandon its Saturday morning cartoon lineup.) While such rebates are nothing new, their scale is. At the same time, ratings for the Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network cable channels have skyrocketed.

Fox Gets Rights To Pippin: Fox has purchased the film rights to Pippin, Stephen Schwartz' 1971 hit Broadway musical, to be made as an animated feature. The film will be co-produced by John Davis' Davis Entertainment and Dave Phillips' Corner of the Sky Productions. Schwartz' career has had a big boost of late from his lyrics for Disney's Pocahontas (for which he won two Oscars) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is also doing the music and lyrics for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt. He will also write new lyrics and music for the screen version of Pippin.

Taos Talking Picture Festival: Call For Entries: The Festival, which takes place April 10-13, 1997, attempts to program in light of the New Mexico city's reputation for having an eclectic mixture of cultures, traditions and philosophies. As such, the Festival is looking for exceptional new independent films and videos, including features, shorts documentaries, experimental, and animation. All lengths and genres will be considered for programming. Of special interest is the Innovation Award of 5 acres of land to be given to a narrative, documentary or experimental film which is 70 minutes or longer.

Entry fees are $15 for productions 30 minutes or less and $25 for those over 30 minutes. The deadline for entries is January 15, 1997. For entry forms, send a stamped, self-addressed enveloped to: Taos Talking Pictures, 216M North Pueblo Rd. #216, Taos, NM 87571, email:; web page: (Foreign entries please contact the Festival for additional submission information.)

Aardman Scores In International Emmys & Royal TV Nominations: Among the International Emmy Award nominees announced on October 31 by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was Nick Park's A Close Shave (Aardman Animations) in the Popular Arts category. The show also gained a nomination in the Royal Television Society Crafts & Design Awards for Phil Lewis and Trisha Budd for Production Design--Any Other Program (i.e., not drama); other nominees in the latter category include Sophie Becher for Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood (Picture Magic) and Gina Part for Christmas Shooting Stars (BBC). Nominees in animation-related categories include:

The Incredible Mr. Limpet Remake In Works: Director-producer Norman Jewison's Yorktown Productions is developing a updated version of the 1964 live-action/animated Warner Bros. film that originally starred Don Knott that was originally set in World War II. A new script is now being prepared by Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick, who wrote Space Jam and The Santa Clause. The project is part of Yorktown's first-look deal with New Regency, which has a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Jewison is best known as the director of such films as In the Heat of the Night and Moonstruck.

The Lion King On Stage: After debating whether to adapt The Lion King as an ice show, a Radio City Music Hall extravaganza, or for the Broadway stage, the Walt Disney Company has decided to go the Broadway route. This marks the second Broadway musical to be based on a Disney animated film in recent years, the other being Beauty and the Beast. (Some years ago, before the current Eisner administration, there was an ill-fated show based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that played in New York's Radio City Music Hall.) The decision to do it as a stage play was decided after a presentation by stage director Julie Taymor, known for her experimental work, including productions of The Green Bird,The Flying Dutchman and Titus Andronicus. The play will feature 15 songs, including 5 by Elton John and Tim Rice that were used in the film. The new songs will be provided by John and Rice, along with selections from the Rhythm of the Pride Land album inspired by the film and songs by Hans Zimmer, Leo Morake (Lebo M), Mark Mancina and Jay Rifkin. Zimmer and Morake were responsible for the film's background score, which will be more prominently featured in the play version. The Disney organization is planning to have an 8 week tryout in Minneapolis next summer before opening at Disney's New Amsterdam Theater, in New York City.

Red Rubber Ball To Develop Titles For Living Books: Atlanta-based Red Rubber Ball, a division of The Nicholas Frank Company, has signed an agreement with Living Books to create CD-ROM titles for the new Little Ark Interactive imprint. The first two titles under the terms of the deal are the kickoff of a series of Old Testament stories told through "art, music and characterizations." The first two stories--Daniel in the Lion's Den and The Story of Creation--will be done under Red Rubber Balls' children's label, Little Works, and are scheduled to be released in early 1977.

Activision Acquires Minority Interest In Titantic: In a move that will enable it to expand into Internet gaming, Los Angeles-based Activision has acquired an equity stake in Titantic Entertainment--a year-old game company started by four ex-employees of Origin Systems, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts. During that time Titantic contributed to such games as Ultima, Crusader, BioForge and Wing Commander, and laid the foundation for Origin's forthcoming title Ultima Online.

Titantic will now develop a PC-based networked strategy game for Activision with full Internet support. Additionally, Activision will retain the rights to a sequel or alternative second title. This will represent Activision's first game designed specifically for Internet play, one of the hot new areas in the interactive world. However, Bobby Kotick, Activision's Chairman and CEO, noted that while, "The Internet offers tremendous opportunities, but a successful online game must incorporate design features that offset the technical constraints of the medium today." He adds that, "Titantic's deep understanding of compelling entertainment coupled with its expertise in designing multi-player network games make it an incredibly attractive opportunity for us."

VirtualMagic. Acquires Production Services Divion Of USAnimation: VirtualMagic International Productions, Inc., a Vancouver-based firm that provides 3D animation, computer generated imagery (CGI) and digital ink-and-paint services, finalized its acquisition of Los Angeles-based USAnimation's Production Services Division, a leading provider of digital ink-and-paint services. The parties had originally signed a letter of intent back on August 30 and the deal was closed on October 31. Terms of the multimillion dollar deal are not being released.

VirtualMagic says it will continue all operations of USAnimation's Production Services Division in Los Angeles; it intends to keep all employees and plans to "substantially" increase and expand production capacity to include 3D animation and CGI, "with a significant increase in employment." The company has also acquired additional USAnimation software licenses for up to 50 production seats for the Los Angeles and Vancouver operations, and is currently planning expansion into international venues. In addition, the Vancouver facility will add production seats using Toon Boom Technologies' Tic-Tac Toon software. (In August, Toon Boom announced that it was going to merge with the Software Division of USAnimation.)

Cinar Gets Filmfair Library & Facilities: Montreal-based Cinar Films has acquired the library and production facilities of London's FilmFair Ltd., in a deal worth £10.5 million (US$16 million) in cash and stock, from the Caspian Group Plc., who bought the company in 1991. FilmFair was founded by filmmaker Graham Clutterback in the late 1960s. The acquisition will add some 200 half hours of children's animation and feature films to Cinar's library, including adaptations of such well-known literary properties as Michael Bond's Paddington Bear and Roald Dahl's Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes. The deal will enable Cinar, which produces both animation and live-action shows (The Busy World of Richard Scary, Who's Afraid of the Dark), to gain a foothold in Europe via a series of Canadian-British co-productions.

Manga Entertainment Staff Appointments: The Chicago-based anime distributor-producer has announced the appointment of Greg Forston as National Sales Director and Mike Egan as the company's General Manager. Forston will be responsible for managing new releases and maximizing catalog sales and promotional efforts in association with PolyGram Video and PGD; in addition, he will continue to serve as Theatrical Distribution Direction, with responsibility for theatrical distribution and marketing. Egan, in his new position, will be responsible for day-to-day production, advertising and marketing operations of Manga's Chicago-based headquarters while working with Polygram Video on sell-through properties and marketing activities to retail. Prior to this appointment, Eagen served as Manga's Marketing Manager since its founding in 1994.

Mr. Bill's Play-Doh Christmas Special Video Issued: Anchor Bay Entertainment and Sluggo Broadcasting System have offered up Ho Ho Noooooo!!! It's Mr. Bill's Christmas for the holiday season in the US. Written, directed and produced by Mr. Bill creator Walter Williams, this 30-minute video guest-stars "Saturday Night Live" alum Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello). This is the third video featuring the Play-Doh character featured in "Saturday Night Live," though the animated character are now brought to life through the marvels of computerized animation and digital filmmaking. Williams characterizes the new production as a "kind of 'Frosty the Snowman Goes to Hell'." It is set in the Play-Doh patriach's home on Christmas Eve and takes on "all the Yuletide standards," from tree trimming to caroling, including a "slightly altered version" of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. It has a suggested retail price of $9.99.

Patlabor, Dancougar & Space Warriors Videos Coming From Central Park Media. The New York-based company, which specializes in anime, will issue the videos on January 7. Patlabor: The Mobile Police--The New Files Collector's Set (5 volumes, $119.95; vol. 1, $29.95), created by Yutaka Izubuchi (Record of Lodoss War) and Akemi Takada (Kimagure Orange Road) is an action-adventure series that centers around the efforts of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to combat the menace posed by the Labor, humanoid-type machines through specially designed Patrol Labors: Patlabors. Dancougar Volume 4 ($19.95) contains episodes 16-20 of the series dealing with the Cyber Beast Force's battle against aliens; Space Warriors involves a psychic warrior's efforts to deal with corporate intrigue.

Bambi Returns To Video In February: Buena Vista Home Video will reissue the 1942 Disney film to the American market on February 4, 1997. It will be packaged as the 55th anniversary collector's edition of the last of the major animated features that Disney started before World War II. It is priced at $26.99 and will be officially withdrawn from circulation at the end of March. Buena Vista also plans to release another direct-to-video sequel to Aladdin in August 1997, with the video release of The Hunchback of Notre Dame also expected sometime next year.

In related news, Buena Vista Home Video reported 21 million orders for tapes of the Disney/Pixar blockbuster Toy Story, thus besting the 20 million advance orders received for The Lion King back in 1995. However, trade sources feel that final sales will probably fall short of the 30 million copies sold of The Lion King. But hey, when you get to these sort of numbers, what's a million copies here or there?

The following items are from AWN's November 21st, 1996 email News Flash:


Home ImprouvmentWill Vinton Studios Animates Home Improvement Sequence. Airing On November 26, at 9:00 PM (ET/PT) on ABC. "The Wood, The Bad and the Hungry" is a four minute segment produced by Will Vinton Studios (Nissan "Toys" spot) and will be combined with special guest appearances of Mario and Michael Andretti. Teresa Drilling, director of the segment, said, "The animators watched several episodes of the series to familiarize themselves with the actors' mannerisms and body language which they incorporated into the animated characters." Tool man, Tim Allen drifts off into a dream sequence while watching a Christmas special and the Taylors are transformed into animated wooden figures. This stop motion animation took three months to complete; for just one second of film, the puppets need to be moved and shot 24 times. Three animators worked on the three different scenes simultaneously.


24th Annie Award Winners Announced: On November 10, 1996 the Annie Awards, put on by ASIFA-Hollywood, took place at the Pasadena Civic Center. A clean sweep for Disney's Toy Story--here's the line up:

Annie Awards
The Awards

Toy Story Production Team
Ed Catmull (President Pixar), Bonnie Arnold, Raoph Guggeheim (Producers of Toy Story)
© Kathy Turner Photography 1996

Virgin Interactive Launches Circle Of Blood With Website And International Sweepstakes. Circle of Blood is a PC CD-ROM Adventure that will lure players into an intense and engrossing plot based on controversial, historical subject matter. The release of the game is accompanied by the launching of the Circle of Blood fully-immersive website and International Intrigue Sweepstakes, giving players who check out the website a chance to win a trip for two to Paris. Circle of Blood takes players to Paris, where they assume the role of an innocent tourist, George Stobbart, who is unwillingly thrown into a complex and dangerous mystery when a medieval manuscript falls into his hands. As George, the player must make a vanguard trip through Europe and the Middle East searching for clues, while encountering exotic characters, fiendish plots, bitter rivalries and ancient objects that will ultimately help him unravel the mystery of the Templars.

In related news, Virgin Interactive's Neo-Hunter is on the prowl with a whole new world of sci-fi thrills. Players assume the role of Rick Gage, an aggressive, self-reliant bounty detective hired to track down the assassin of a prominent U. S. Senator in the year 2095. The involving storyline was created by well-known science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, author of Speaker of the Dead, Ender's Game, and Xenocide. Created by Ronin Entertainment, Neo-Hunter was developed by the same team behind X-Wing, Tie Fighter and the Super Star Wars Game Trilogy.

Gte Entertainment And Cyberflix Announce Launch Of Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time On CD-ROM. GTE Entertainment and CyberFlix have christened their Titanic and launched her into the channel. The CD-ROM suspense thriller, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, set on board the doomed luxury liner, features a fully navigable environment that is said to be a faithful recreation of the actual ship. More than two years in the making, theTitanic was reconstructed in "digital dry dock" at CyberFlix studios on a row of high end computer workstations. A team of 3D artists fashioned the ornate details and heavy machinery of the Industrial Age behemoth fitting out more than 65 digital sets by "wrapping" hundreds of different metal, wood and other textures over a digital framework that consists of millions of computerized polygons. The finished result gives users the ability to explore the ship from bow to stern, including the magnificent staterooms, lounges and even a Turkish bath.

Street Fighter II: The TV Series, Volume 1 Due Out In February 1997. "Aniamerica" reports: This top selling video game and originally released in Japan as a weekly TV series, Street Fighter II: The TV Series focuses on the exploits of Street Fighter Characters before many of them gained their ultimate fighting skills. Characters Ryu and Ken go their separate ways. Ken returns to America to make a name for himself as a martial arts champion, while Ryu heads home to Kyushu to work as a lumberjack while continue his training.

Walt Disney Home Video Presents Pixar Animation Sudio's Tiny Toy Stories. A compilation of five animated shorts (The Aventures of Andre & Wally B, Luxo Jr, Red's Dream, Tin Toy and Knick Knack.) created by the award winning studio Pixar is available in the US on VHS for suggested retail price $9.99.

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