Animation World Magazine, Issue 2.1, April 1997
Compiled by Wendy Jackson
_ Items are reprinted from the March 7, 1997 Animation Flash.
__ Items are reprinted from the March 21, 1997 Animation Flash.
QUEST WINS OSCAR! On March 24, German director Tyron Montgomery and producer Thomas Stellmach were awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, for Quest, their mixed media stop-motion film. Friends and fans celebrated while watching a live telecast during the opening night party at the World Animation Celebration. Immediately after the announcement, the film's distribution plans were confirmed; German distributors and worldwide rights holders Detelina and Joachim Kreck have named Manga Entertainment's new animated shorts division as the exclusive rights holder for North America. Visit AWN's special tribute to Quest, featuring contributions from Paul Driessen, Cristoph Lauenstein and others.
__ Varga And TVC Form New Company. After closing shop last year, 40-year old TVC Cartoons Ltd. (see article in AWM 07/96 issue) is joining forces with Hungarian animation house VARGA Studio to form VARGA tvc Ltd. The company, to be officially launched in May 1997, will be jointly owned by TVC's John Coates and Varga's Andras Erkel. While they will continue to act as a service company for broadcasters and distributors, VARGA tvc plans to move into developing more original, in-house projects. Production plans include traditional cel-animated adaptations of children's books, as well as managing and financing young UK talent's short films, and creating opportunities for broadcasters and distributors to develop original television projects. Ken Anderson, co-owner (with Jill McGreal) of the UK company, Codename Cartoon, has been named managing director of VARGA tvc, while David Unwin has been appointed creative director.
__ Nelvana Increases Animation Volume. The Canadian studio has expanded its' animation production plans, with the anticipated addition of 117 half-hour episodes of original programming to their library in 1997, including several new series. Shows in production include Pippi Longstocking, Franklin, Ned's Newt, Rupert, Little Bear, Donkey Kong Country (with Medialab), and Sam & Max. As is the tradition with the Toronto-based production company, many of Nelvana's new series are co-productions with European companies.
_ Nickelodeon Movies Officially Opens L.A. Studio. Although several executives have been setting up camp at Paramount for more than a month now, Nickelodeon announced just this week that it has officially opened its Los Angeles office, with the appointment of Kathrin Seitz as vice president. Seitz was formerly supervising producer for the company's Nicktoons division, overseeing production on series such as Hey Arnold, Angry Beavers and Rugrats. Jerry Beck, vice president of animation for Nickelodeon Movies, relocated from New York in January. He is overseeing production on the Rugrats movie, Nickelodeon's first animated feature, now in production by Klasky-Csupo in Hollywood.
__ Cartoon Network Fastest Growing. Time-Warner/Turner's Cartoon Network has been identified as the fastest-growing network in cable television by the Nielsen ratings bureau. The network, which launched in 1992, and is now the 26th most distributed cable network, added 9.4 million homes to its subscriber base between December 1996 and March 1997, bringing the total subscription base to more than 40 million homes in the US.
_ Cable Industry Addresses Issues. On April 7, key executives in the cable industry will present The American Family and Television: A National Town Meeting, a special presentation focusing on issues about children and television, as part of the "Tune Into Kids and Family Week" initiative. Media journalist Linda Ellerbee will moderate a panel discussion featuring Time/Warner vice chairman, Ted Turner, CBS Entertainment president Leslie Moonves, producer Marcy Carsey, and Federal Communication Commission chairman Reed Hunt. The discussion is aiming to explore issues and raise questions such as whether TV reflects reality when it comes to the family. We hope to shed some light on who today's families are, what they are looking for from television, and, conversely, the decision-making process television networks go through that results in what is on the air." said Linda Ellerbee. The discussion will be taped on March 17 at the convention of National Cable Television Association, and will air commercial-free in the US simultaneously on Animal Planet, Bravo, Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, the Family channel, Nick at Nite's TV Land, Nickelodeon, USA Network and Sportschannel Chicago, April 7 at 6:30 pm Eastern and Pacific time.
__ Disney, Katzenberg Will Go To Court. A November 13 trial date has been set for former Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg's breach-of-contract suit against The Walt Disney Company. After a filing last April, and unsuccessful efforts to settle out of court, Katzenberg is suing Disney for $250 million, which he feels he is owed in profits on animated blockbusters such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, which he played an instrumental role in developing before his resignation in 1994 to form DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
_ Disney And Pixar Deal. Pixar's patience and hard work has finally paid off, to the tune of a 10-year, 5 picture deal with Walt Disney Pictures, signed last week. After receiving only about 10% of the estimated $400 million in profits on their animated feature Toy Story, Pixar from now on will receive 50% partnership and profit participation on all projects produced within the definitions of the pact, which includes features, videos, merchandise and interactive media. In addition, Disney has purchased 1 million shares of Pixar common stock ($15 per share), and has an option to purchase 1.5 million more, which would result in Disney owning 5% of Pixar. Plans are in development for a Toy Story direct-to-video sequel in 1998, but this will not be part of the 5-picture Disney deal. The current Pixar/ Disney film in production is Bugs, an animated feature due for a Christmas 1998 release, and not to be confused with Ants, currently in production at Pacific Data Images for Dreamworks.
__"Toy Story 2." Walt Disney Home Video has finally announced plans to create a direct-to-video sequel to Pixar's Toy Story. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have signed on once again to voice the characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear. This is a separate deal than the one entered into between Disney and Pixar earlier this month. Pixar will produce the film, John Lassetter will act as executive producer, while original Toy Story story artist Ash Brannon will direct. The film, yet to be titled, is expected to be finished in 1998.
__ New Chuck Jones Short. Warner Bros. distribution is featuring Pullet Surprise, the new animated short from Chuck Jones, which will be spliced on to every print of the feature animated film Cats Don't Dance. It comes as no surprise that Warners is using the Turner-produced Cats as a vehicle to promote their own properties, after they acquired the property in the Time/Warner and Turner merger last year. Pullet Surprise, which features classic Warner Bros. characters such as Foghorn Leghorn and Pete Puma, was directed by Darrell Van Citters (on loan from his Renegade Animation studio) for Chuck Jones Productions.
__ O'Plenty Short Film. New York-based O'Plenty Animation Studio is currently in production on Officer Buckle and Gloria, a 10 minute animated short film based on the Caldecott-award winning children's book of the same name, and narrated by actor John Lithgow. Produced by Weston Woods and parent company Scholastic Productions, Officer Buckle will be completed in September and distributed to schools and libraries.
_ Men In Black to be Animated Show. Columbia Pictures' upcoming summer live-action film, "Men In Black,"produced in association with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, will also be done as an animated series by the children's division of Columbia Tristar Television. The show will ultimately air on the Kids WB network on Saturday mornings. This is the third network series from Columbia Tristar's 15-month old children's division; their other projects on include "Jumanji,""Extreme Ghostbusters" and "Project Geeker".
__ Felix Goes Global. Film Roman recently announced deals with several Asian broadcasters to license The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat which will bring the animated series to audiences in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and the Phillipines. Elswehere, Felix has already been sold to broadcasters in over 40 territories worldwide.
__ Pillsbury Doughboy Goes to Russia. As many American companies are attempting to expand their markets into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, some interesting commercials are being produced to advertise everything from laundry soap to soft drinks. Massachusetts-based director Bill Linsman recently completed a 30 second spot for Leo Burnett and Pilsbury, presenting the animated icon "Pilsbury Doughboy" speaking in Russian, and baking "bulochki" instead of rolls.
__ Dovas Animates HBO ID's. New York-based animation director Steven Dovas recently completed production on a series of station ID's for Home Box Office's (HBO) new Family Channel. The spots were produced using traditional 2-D animation techniques, with additional rendering and compositing done on a Macintosh with Adobe Photoshop and AfterEffects. Music and sound effects were created by John Schnall.
Curious Pictures' origami spot for Hershey's Nuggets.
_ The Curious Art of Origami. New York's Curious Pictures has used stop motion animation and motion control to turn out two :15 spots for Ogilvy & Mather Advertising and Hershey's with the theme that, Hershey's chocolate is "One of life's little rewards." The commercials involve using origami characters, and were directed by Steve Oakes and animated by Dave Figliola and Patrick Zung.
Olive Jar's spot for Nestle's Quik.
__ Olive Jar Animates Quik. Boston-based animation studio, Olive Jar Animation recently completed animation for Nestle Quik Mrs. MacGruder, a 30 second commercial, with live action by New York's Taxi Films. Daniel Sousa served as director of animation, and digital effects were created by Bill Weber at Western Images in San Francisco.
Duck Soup's El Torito spot.
_ El Torito & Applebee's Restaurants Serving Duck Soup. Los Angeles' Duck Soup Producktions recently created Get Together, a "line animated" :30 commercial spot for El Torito Restaurants and its agency, Cohen/Johnson Advertising. Director/Animator Maureen Selwood noted that the spot uses a "painterly" technique and was originally done in black and white, with color added later to give it a Mexican flavor. Selwood's team at Duck Soup included assistant animator Jenny Walsh and colorist Isabel Herguera. Selwood is perhaps best known in the independent animation community for teaching at California Institute of the Arts' experimental animation program, as well as for doing the animated introductory sequences for the PBS/Side-Kick Productions' Animated Women documentaries produced in 1994.
Duck Soup also did Lunch Combos, a :30 spot for Applebee's restaurants and Wyse Advertising, features a voice-over by singer Billy Vera. It also uses black lines, this time to produce a "vibrant neon look." It was directed and animated by James Murphy.
__ Many of our American readers may have already noticed the heavily aired commercials for Wal-Mart, featuring a computer-generated yellow smiley face whistling to the tune of falling prices. Well, those spots were created by none other than Duck Soup Producktions, and The Front, their new media/live-action production arm.
Duck Soup's The Front spot Wal-Mart.
__ Renegade Animation created the animation for At the Movies, a 30 second spot for Bozell Worldwide's client, Taco Bell. The 2-D cel animated sequences in the live-action spot feature animal characters, eating nachos at the movie theater, to promote Star Wars toy giveaways for the fast food chain.
__ EAI Animates Asteroids. Ames, Iowa-based animation studio Engineering Animation, Inc. recently created computer visualization animation sequences for the National Geographic special, Asteroids: Deadly Impact. Producer Eitan Weinrich commented, "Advanced animation technology helps us to visualize strange or amazing scenarios--those which cannot be filmed or photographed--to truly understand our world and its' complexities." EAI is a leading producer of photo-realistic animation for scientific visualization, as well as interactive multimedia and 3D visualization software.
__ SPI Animates Anaconda. Sony Pictures Imageworks' (SPI) recent work can be seen in the new feature film Anaconda, for which they produced 22 computer generated shots. The animation director at SPI was Eric Armstrong. This is said to be the most extensive use of direct contact between live actors and computer generated characters created for a feature film.
_ Columbia Postpones Dinotopia. Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) production of Dinotopia has been put on turnaround by Sony's Columbia Pictures. The 3-D computer live-action/animated feature has been in development at SPI for close to a year now, with Ken Ralston supervising. High expectations for the film were deflated when it was determined that the film will take more than $150 million to produce. This is also what happened to Harold and the Purple Crayon, the live-action/animated feature that Raimund Krumme was working on developing before it was also put on turnaround earlier this year by Columbia Tristar. Sources say that although Columbia Pictures wants to get into animation, the timing just may not be right for it at this time.
_ Fox Puts on a Show For Anastasia. During the recent ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, 20th Century Fox presented a Broadway-style ice show to promote Fox Feature Animation's debut feature film, Anastasia. The estimated $1 million ice show was narrated by director Don Bluth, and featured world champion skaters such as Randy Gardner. There are discussions of adapting this and other future Fox animated films into other media, such as ice shows and stage plays; a path that Disney has been very successful at exploiting. While Anastasia. is slated for a November '97 release, Fox Animation in Phoenix is already working on their second film, Planet Ice, and are narrowing down the choices of projects for a third feature effort. "We want to convey our enthusiasm and commitment to animated films" said Chris Meledandri, president of Fox Family Films.
__ Writers Guild Award Noms. The Writer's Guild of America announced nominees for outstanding achievement in writing for screen, television, radio and on-air promotion for 1996 productions. Among the nominees are several animated productions in the Children's Script category: IF/X Productions' Peter and the Wolf (ABC), written by George Daugherty and Magnet Productions' Look Who's Balking: Gullah Gullah Island (Nickelodeon), written by Eric Weiner.
_ TV Academy Presents Student Awards. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has announced the winners of the 18th annual College Awards, presented by Kodak and the Walter Lantz Foundation. First place awards went to Hamid Rahmanian for his computer animated film, The Seventh Day, produced at Pratt Institute, and to Thor Freudenthal, for his traditional animated film, The Tenor, produced at the California Institute of the Arts.
__ Animation Seminar in Seattle. Scarecrow Video and the Seattle Art Museum will present "Masters of Animation," the first-ever animation forum to be held in Seattle, this July 4-6, 1997 at the museum. The three-day event will present seminars in which animators will present their work and discuss stylistic approached to animation. Confirmed presenters include The Quay Brothers, Marv Newland (International Rocketship), Henry Selick, Mark Gustafsen (Will Vinton Studios), Steven Holman (Nickelodeon), Igor Kovalyov (Klasky Csupo), Bill Plympton, Silverman (DreamWorks), Ralph Bakshi, David Anderson, Gerald Potterton, Jim Blashfield, Rose Bond, Joan Gratz and Ruth Hayes, while additional unconfirmed invitees include Chuck Jones, Tim Hittle, Martin Rosen, Richard Condie. Tickets will be available starting June 15th through Scarecrow Video in Seattle (800) 700-8554 or http://www.film.com/video/scarecrow.
_ The 1997 Capi Conference on "Japanese Popular Culture," presented by the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives of the University of Victoria, will be held April 10-12 at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., Canada. The conference offers a program of presentations and events on Japanese popular music, manga & animation, television, movies, TV commercials, and leisure activities, plus themes such as popular culture and changing Japanese society, and the growing influence of Japanese pop culture outside Japan.
Guest speakers include Fred Schodt and Monkey Punch. Schodt, is an authority on manga, whose books include Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan. Monkey Punch (aka Kazuhiko Kato), is one of Japan's best-known manga artists, who was responsible for the popular Lupin series.
Conference information, including program details, accommodations and transportation info, links to the conference hotels and other event sites, and a registration form, is available on-line at: http://web.UVic.CA/hrd/capipopcult, or by sending email to email@example.com.
__ Chromacolour Acquires Exclusive Animation Disc. Animation supply company Chromacolour International (North America) has been granted exclusive European and North American distribution rights to the Korean-made plexiglass animation disc. Negotiations were completed during the recent "Team Canada" trade mission to Korea, involving the prime minister of Canada. Chromacolour president Rita Egizii said, "This accord represents and binds the strengths of both our companies--it is an honor to have the event recognized in such a prestigious manner."
__ Publishing With Acclaim. Software publisher Acclaim Entertainment's six-month old book division has entered into several publishing deals with Disney, Saban and Fox Kids Network to publish children's books based on animated and other properties. Starting in May, Acclaim's Young Readers line will release several series of low-cost monthly book series' based on properties such as Disney's Hercules, Saban's Samurai Pizza Cats, and Fox's The Tick, Bobby's World and Life With Louie.
Will Vinton Studios' new CEO, Tom Turpin
__ Will Vinton Studios Names Tom Turpin CEO. The Portland, Oregon-based dimensional animation company has hired the new top executive as part of its strategy to increase its global business. Turpin will, in taking on this position, leave his post as CEO of Virgin Sound & Vision, the interactive company currently being sold by Spelling Entertainment. Will Vinton Studios is planning to expand in the realm of creating original content for film, television and multimedia programming. Currently in development are two feature film projects, one with DreamWorks and the other with Mel Gibson's ICON Productions, as well as a oon to be announced TV movie deal. David Altshul will continue acting as president, and Will Vinton will shift over to the position of chairman.
___ Hollywood Shuffle.
Shirley Powell has taken on the position of vice president of media relations for the Disney Channel, where she will oversee all public relations activities for the network. To take on the position at Disney Channel, Powell is leaving her post as vice president of public relations for the Cartoon Network, where she has been for the past five years. Prior to the Cartoon Network, Powell was manager of press relations for Nickelodeon Studios. Of Powell as a new member of the team, Disney Channel president Anne Sweeney said "[Powell] is ideally suited for the position because of her extensive cable background and her knowledge of the kid and family programming arena.." . . . Webster Colcord has moved to California and joined Pacific Data Images as a senior character animator . . . Jonathan Lyons has been promoted to director of 3-D animation at Duck Soup Producktions. . . . Shawn Morris has moved from a position as staffing consultant for Sony Pictures Imageworks, over to Columbia Trstar Television. . . . Rod Henwood has been appointed the new managing director of Fox Kids U.K., the satellite cable channel launched in October under Fox Kids Worldwide, the TV program joint venture formed earlier this year between Saban Entertainment and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. . . . Paul Lipsky has been brought on as senior 3-D animator at Manhattan Transfer/Edit, a post-production studio in New York.. . . . Blue Sky Studios has named Laney Gradus production manager for digital operations, and has also promoted Amy Jupiter to executive producer/vice president of production. Prior to joining Blue Sky in early 1996, Jupiter's background includes producing at Digital Domain and Disney . . . . Bob Schreck has joined the staff of Comic-Con International, as a consultant to aide in the advertising, promotion and marketing of the annual comic book retailing convention in San Diego. Schreck has worked at Dark Horse Comics since 1990, and has been in the comics industry for more than 20 years. . . .Paula Douglass has resigned from the position of director and co-chairman of the board at Iwerks Entertainment. . . . Two top executives from 7th Level Entertainment have left the company to pursue other interests: former chairman George Grayson (a founding partner) and CEO David Henkel. The positions have been filled by Donald Schupak and Bob Ezrin (former president), respectively. 7th Level has been disappointed by sales of educational game titles lately, and plans to refocus its energies back into videogame projects.. . . . DreamWorks SKG has signed writer-producer Zak Penn to an exclusive, 2-year, first look development deal. Penn has already been involved with Dreamworks Animation projects Ants and Fish Out of Water.. . . Tim Sarnoff will soon leave his top position as senior vice president at Warner Digital, and head over to Sony Pictures Imageworks in order to take on the position of top lieutenant to president Ken Ralston. Sarnoff will fill the position left by Bill Birrell, who resigned last summer to pursue independent work. . . . Kenneth Goldstein has been promoted to vice president and executive publisher of Brøderbund Software's entertainment products studio. Venice, California effects studio Digital Domain has promoted Ed Ulbrich to head of all production. Ulbrich has been at Digital Domain since its founding in 1993, most recently as head of just the commercial production division. . . . . . .
_ Interactive Industry Shuffles. A number of recent downsizings, mergers, and acquisitions are indicating an overall slowdown in the interactive gaming industry, the result of competition in an over saturated market.
Last month, Virgin Interactive was offered for sale by parent company, Spelling Entertainment. While just this week, special effects studio Digital Domain has drastically cut staff from its interactive division, and canceled all but one of their interactive projects. This comes as somewhat of a surprise, with Digital Domain's Barbie Fashion Designer CD-ROM produced for Mattel, is a record bestseller. . . . California software company, Graphix Zone, has recently acquired both the interactive division of Trimark Holdings, Inc., as well as CD-ROM developer Inscape. Trimark's interactive division has been unsuccessful since its launch in 1993. Inscape was formerly a Time-Warner owned joint venture between Warner Music Group, HBO, and Nash New Media.
On the upswing, NBC Digital is restructuring its interactive division to accommodate expansion of their new media, interactive and Internet-based activities. And leading theme-park ride producer, Iwerks Entertainment has acquired Pioneer Technology Corporation, further expanding the company's business into productions for giant-screen exhibition.
In response to requests made by member companies such as DreamWorks, the Association for Interactive Media is planning to form an "entertainment council" to address the need for bridging the gap between the entertainment industry and the technology community.
__ Central Park Media Creates Online Content for AOL. America Online has partnered with Binary Media Works and Central Park Media, one of the largest American distributors of Japanese Animation, to present Japanimation Station, a Web site for fans of anime. The site features an archive of images, sound and video clips, a database of titles, a trade show calendar, a releases calendar, chat rooms and Anime Today, a weekly newsletter. Now, if only the AOL users could get online. . . .
__ MIP TV Online The Reed Midem organization has launched a Web site to promote and support the international TV market, MIP TV. The site (www.miptv.com) contains information about the event, registration, and exhibiting companies with special limited-access pages for registered participants offering up-to-date information. This year's market is scheduled to take place April 11-16 in Cannes, France.
_ Brøderbund & Colossal Bring Forth Koala Lumpur: Journey To The Edge. The new comic adventure computer game from Brøderbund Software, developed with (Colossal) Pictures, involves a journey by Zen master Koala Lumpur to to rectify the repercussions of a mistaken incantation to find the pieces of The Lost Scroll of Cartoon Prophesies. If unchecked, the incantation will bring about the "Comedy Apocalypse." The CD-ROM game is available is currently available in stores at a street price of about US$39.00, and requires either Windows 95 or Windows 3.1.
_ Land Before Time. Universal Home Video is partnering with Burger King and other sponsors to launch The Land Before Time Sing Along Songs, a 30 minute sing-along video based on The Land Before Time animated films. The sing along will be released with a box set of all four features released in the home video series in May. The fifth and sixth features are now in production., as well as a CD-ROM by Sound Source Interactive, The Land Before Time Activity Center.
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