Animation World Magazine, Issue 2.12, March 1998


Vinton Making PJs For Fox. Will Vinton Studios is starting production on The PJs, a stop-motion puppet animated series created by comedian Eddie Murphy, and being produced by Imagine Television. Writers/executive producers Steve Tompkins (The Simpsons) and Larry Wilmore (In Living Color) are writing the show, which is about life inside an inner city housing project ("The PJs" is short for "The Projects"). Hoping to expand on the success it's had with The Simpsons and King of the Hill, Fox Broadcasting Co. has ordered an initial 13 episodes of The PJs from Will Vinton Studios, and plans to air them as a weekly, primetime series on the Fox network in fall 1999. Will Vinton Studios' Mark Gustafson (Mr. Resistor) will direct at least the first six episodes. Vinton studio heads Tom Turpin and Will Vinton will be executive producers with Murphy. Murphy will also voice the main character, Thurgood Stubbs. In addition to this role, Eddie Murphy is also the voice of a character in Disney's upcoming animated feature, The Legend of Mulan.

UPN To Bring Dilbert To Primetime. Also bringing a new animated series into primetime is U.S. cable network UPN, which just ordered 13 episodes of the animated series, Dilbert from Columbia TriStar Television. Based on Scott Adams' popular comic strip about a hapless, cubicle-dwelling office worker, Dilbert has the "smart, slightly subversive appeal" that UPN hopes will win audiences such as those which have developed for shows like Dr. Katz or South Park on Comedy Central. UPN aims to launch the series in late 1998 or early 1999. Scott Adams, who says readers have been begging him to bring the character to TV, will executive produce the series with Larry Charles, whose writing and producing credits include live-action shows such as Seinfeld and Mad About You. Dilbert is the fastest-growing comic strip in syndication, and is the subject of 13 books, including the best-selling business book of all time, The Dilbert Principle. Dilbert made moves into animation earlier this year in a web cartoon created by Protozoa, and in a series of recent television commercials for Office Depot, created by (Colossal) Pictures.

MGM Reveals Animation Slate. Five-year-old MGM Animation has announced several animated series and home videos which are in production and development. Set to debut in fall 1998 are two animated series: The Lionhearts (13 episodes), based on the MGM mascot and set to be distributed in the U.S. by Claster Television, and Robocop: Alpha Commando (40 episodes) based on the live-action feature, Robocop, to be distributed in the U.S. by Summit Media. International sales for both series will be handled by MGM Worldwide Television Group. On the development slate are the series, Stargate: The Animated Series, The Outer Limits: The Animated Series, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Tiny Tank, all based on existing MGM properties. "These shows are a testament to the diversity that will become the signature of our future in this business," said Jay Fukuto, senior vice president of MGM Animation. Home videos in development include All Dogs Go to Heaven 3, Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, The Monkees and Jack the Giant Killer. MGM will release two home videos during the holiday 1998 season: The Secret of Nimh II and An All Dogs Christmas Carol..

Virtual Bill, Protozoa's 3-D animated character for MTV was
featured on the cover of Animation World Magazine's
February 1998 issue. The "Virtual Bill" image is
courtesy of and © MTV Networks.
Virtual Bill, Protozoa's 3-D animated character for MTV was featured on the cover of Animation World Magazine's February 1998 issue.

Clinton Virtually On MTV. No, its not "Rock the Vote"'s "Virtual Bill!" After America tuned in to network TV on January 27, 1998, for one of the most-watched State of the Union addresses in history, MTV viewers were treated to a special called, "The State of Music Videos" hosted by a 3-D, animated "Virtual Bill Clinton." The very realistic lampoon was created by San Francisco-based Protozoa, using motion-capture technology to animate a CG-rendered character. "Typically, animated characters are expected to be wacky, eye-popping, tongue-wagging cartoons that use extremes of appearances or action to make them entertaining," said Protozoa's creative director Steve Rein. But MTV wanted Virtual Bill to be believable. Animator Steve Rein added that "photo-realistic humans are extremely hard to achieve in CGI, especially when the subject is such a recognizable figure." Production on "The State of Music Videos" was completed before the media frenzy surrounding Bill Clinton's alleged affair started, so the special did not include topical jokes on the situation which a Protozoa spokesperson noted "isn't funny yet." MTV plans to use Virtual Bill in future broadcasts to respond to current events, live on television.

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