Animation World Magazine, Issue 2.4, July1997


Warner Digital Closing Doors. After several weeks of industry predictions, Warner Bros. has officially announced that their one year old digital production studio, Warner Digital, will be closing its doors in August. The studio's approximately 150 employees were informed in a meeting that they will all be dismissed by July 31. Just over two months ago, Warner Digital's senior vice president Tim Sarnoff left the studio to take on an upper level post at Sony Pictures ImageWorks. Sources inside Warner Digital speculate that the studio's staffers will likely find work at various digital effects studios, such as Lucas Arts, VIFX, Disney and DreamQuest among others.

Iris & Cinevox Join. Nicols Steil, CEO of Iris Productions in Luxembourg, has taken on additional responsibilities as director of the animation branch of Cinevox, in Potsdam-Babelsburg, Germany. Iris and Cinevox will now be co-producing several feature and television projects together, including The Magic Forest, a one-hour feature which just started production. The partners say they are actively seeking series and feature projects which have a budget under $10 million. Michel Ocelot's forthcoming feature, Kirikou and the Sorceress which has been in production for several years, is now being produced by Iris Productions and is scheduled for a release at Cannes 1998.

Metatools-Fractal Merger Complete. It was announced that the merger of graphics software companies MetaTools, Inc. (Nasdaq: MTLS) and Fractal Design Corporation (Nasdaq: FRAC) is effective with the naming of the combined company, MetaCreations Corporation (Nasdaq: MCRE). The company will have its headquarters in Carpinteria, California, while maintaining offices in Scotts Valley, California, Princeton, New Jersey, Dublin and Paris.

Atlantis' High-Calibre Investment. Atlantis Communications has purchased a 50% equity stake in Toronto-based animation and special effects company, Calibre Digital Pictures. The deal leaves Atlantis the option to acquire the remaining half of the company, which currently employs 25 people with annual sales near $4 million. Ten-year-old Calibre is comprised of two divisions: the Digital Effects Group and the Character Animation Group. "We intend that Calibre will grow as it begins to create proprietary animation," said Atlantis' CEO Michael MacMillan "The acquisition of Calibre is consistent with our intent to grow our overall business." The two companies have worked together before on effects for several live action television projects, including CG animation for Warner Bros.' animated series Beetlejuice.

Pixibox Expands All The Way To China. Anne Collet, Managing Director of Pixibox Studios in Paris, has just entered into a joint venture with Steven Ching, President of Animation Services Group in Hong Kong. Pixibox Studios and Animation Services Group will be doubling their production capacity and will have the ability to handle the service production on 20 half hour episodes per month. Furthermore, the Hong Kong studio will be fully equipped with the Pegs system. This agreement will be effective as of September 1, 1997 and will create the largest animation studio in the world.

Disney Hits a Legal Sandtrap. What's in a name? A lot, apparently. The Walt Disney Company is facing a lawsuit filed by Karsten Manufacturing Co, a sporting goods manufacturer, accusing them of violating a trademark on a particular line of golf clubs. Karsten has held a registered trademark on the PING line of golf clubs since 1959. Meanwhile, Disney has assigned the name of "Ping" to a character in the summer 1998 animated feature film Mulan. Karsten, which produces a related line of PING merchandise, requests that Disney be barred from using the name "Ping", and forced to recall any existing products using the name, as well as pay "unspecified" damages.

Viacom Opens First Retail Store. Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. opened its first Viacom Entertainment Store in May. Located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, the 30,000 square foot facility will offer merchandise from the bevy of Viacom-owned subsidiaries, including Nickelodeon and MTV. This is a long overdue move for Viacom to enter aggressively into the consumer products/licensing marketplace, alongside 429 Disney stores and 161 Warner Bros. stores to compete for consumer dollars. This new, exclusive and secure "shelf space" is sure to increase the development and manufacture of merchandise based on properties such as the hugely popular Rugrats and Beavis & Butt-head. An estimated five Viacom stores, including Nickelodeon-themed boutiques set in shopping malls, will open in other cities by 1998. Locations in New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas are being considered for additional stores. Viacom also owns the huge international chain of 5,000 Blockbuster Video and Music stores, which they initially considered using to launch their entry into entertainment retailing. However, instead they have boldly opted for this new chain. So. . . . the next time you run out of Beavis & Butt-head's "Buttwipe" toilet paper, you know where to go!

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