Animation World Magazine, Issue 2.8, November 1997

Animation World News:Business

Bohbot Branches Out. Bohbot Entertainment & Media, purveyors of children's media properties, has named top level executives to head up its three subsidiaries. George Baratta will be President of BKN Kids Network, which distributes syndicated children's programming blocks which include shows like Extreme Dinosaurs. Bruce Kravetz will be President of Quantum Media, which handles media buying, planning and research. Nadia Nardonnet has been promoted to President of the International Division, which has been renamed BKN International.

Disney Opens Shop In Toronto. Only two years after announcing their intent to open Canadian production facilities, Disney has created a fully-functional animation unit with two studios, and has produced a full-length animated video. Walt Disney Animation Canada Inc. has expanded its production service capabilities, by officially opening its' permanent studio in Toronto, in addition to the one which has been operating in Vancouver since 1996. The Toronto facility, which was "unveiled" in October, will operate in conjunction with the Vancouver studio as one co-existing production unit referred to as "the Canadian studio." The announcement was made by Walt Disney Television Animation, which until now, has overseen development and pre-production of direct-to-video titles produced in Canada. Pre-production, such as storyboarding, character design and layout, will now be handled by the Canadian studio, creating the first full-service facility in the Walt Disney Television Animation family. It was also announced by Disney TV's Senior VP of International Production Lenora Hume, that Walt Disney Animation Canada is "on target to triple production in the coming year," by simultaneously working on three films in various stages of development and production. To accommodate increased production, the total staff between both facilities is expected to expand from 200 to 225 by 1998. "The Canadian studio is central to Disney Television Animation's expansion strategy," said Joan Fischer, the recently appointed General Manager of Disney Animation Canada. Walt Disney Home Video will release Disney Animation Canada's debut direct-to-video property, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas on November 11. For an inside look at Disney's home video division, don't miss our feature article on
Buena Vista Home Entertainment in this issue of Animation World Magazine.

Will Vinton Studios' Toys commercial for Nissan has got Mattel worked up.
© Will Vinton Studios.

Mattel Takes Issue With Toys Spot. Mattel, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the Nissan Motor Company Ltd., over a complaint that the car company's animated commercial, Toys, features unauthorized use of the toy company's trademark and brands. The 30-second spot in question, produced by Will Vinton Studios, features "Roxanne" and "Tad" dolls, which resemble Mattel's Barbie and Ken properties a little too closely for comfort. In addition, Mattel is taking issue with other props in the commercial which resemble Mattel toys, including a doll house, a race track, a dinosaur and even a hula hoop. However, "Nick," the army cadet doll featured as the Nissan-driving hero, is not an issue with Mattel, as G.I. Joe is a property is owned by another toy company, Hasbro. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court's Central District of California, is now in litigation, and has yet to be resolved. Mattel's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Sean Fitzgerald, said on behalf of the company, "We are hoping for a mutually beneficial resolution through negotiation." Neither the ad agency, Chiat/Day, or the production company, Will Vinton Studios, involved in the commercial are liable in the suit, which is strictly between Mattel and Nissan.

Nelvana Divvies Up Divisions. Nelvana Ltd. has recently restructured operations at its Toronto-based studio, creating four new divisions: Animated Television Production, Domestic Production, 3-D Animation Production and Feature Film Production. In the restructuring, two Nelvana producers were moved up into the executive ranks; Stephen Hodgins has been named Senior Vice President, Production and Patricia Burns has been named Vice President, Production. "Our goal is to build depth of management to support a substantial increase in proprietary animation production," said Patrick Loubert, who is co-CEO of Nelvana with Michael Hirsch. The Animated Television Production division, headed by producer Jocelyn Hamilton, will handle the core series work that is Nelvana's staple. The Domestic Production Division, headed by supervising producer Vince Commisso, will concentrate on mixed media and non-traditional animation. The 3-D Animation Production Division, announced in June and headed by supervising producer Pamela Slavin, is already in production on the series Rolie Polie Olie, based on William Joyce's children's book. Lastly, the Feature Animation division, managed by supervising producer Merle Anne Risley, plans to produce at least one feature film a year, such as the limited theatrical and current home video release, Pippi Longstocking. The next feature project, Babar, King of the Elephants, is based on one of Nelvana's popular television series, which is, in turn, based on a line of children's books.

Sunbow Launches Into Licensing. New York-based independent production company Sunbow Entertainment has launched an in-house merchandise licensing division, in a move to broaden the scope of their business of both animation and live-action production. The division will be headed up by Vice President of Licensing and Merchandising, Glenn Weber, who was most recently Vice President of Licensing and Brands at Meridian Worldwide, an independent licensing agent. Sunbow, which owns rights to more than 1,100 half-hours of children's programming, is currently licensing three of their animated television properties: The Tick, Salty's Lighthouse and Brothers Flub.

Viacom Sells Its' Half Of USA. The Seagram Company, Ltd. and Viacom, Inc. came to an agreement regarding the ownership of USA Networks, a cable network which has, until now, been jointly owned by the two companies. Seagram will acquire Viacom's 50 percent interest in USA, for $1.7 billion in cash. This will bring USA Network (72 million subscribers), The Sci-Fi Channel (46 million subscribers) and USA Networks International, with networks in South America, Europe and Africa, under complete ownership of Seagram, which is perhaps best known as a distributor of alcohol products. As this decision has been deliberated for quite some time, USA Networks' Founder, Chairman and CEO Kay Koplovitz said "I am very gratified that the ownership of USA Networks has been successfully resolved." USA Network has been airing original episodes of Klasky Csupo's animated series, Duckman in prime-time since January 1994.

Animation World News is compiled daily for publication in the AWN Daily Flash, the weekly Animation Flash email newsletter, and monthly issues of Animation World Magazine.

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