1998: A Year to Remember

Unless you've been asleep for most of the year, it's hard to miss how pivotal and important a year 1998 was to the animation world. What you'll find below is not a comprehensive listing of all the news, but rather the highlights and landmarks that helped make this an animated year to remember.

Manga Disarms General Chaos
Box Office Bankrolls
Cashing in on 1998's animated features.
Title - Opening Date - Gross (as of 12/21/98)

Quest for Camelot - (5-15-98) - $22,734,144
Mulan - (6-19-98) - $120,000,000
Antz - (10-02-98) - $87,016,039
The Rugrats Movie - (11/20/98) - $76,828,697
A Bug's Life - (11/20/98) - $96,342,660
The Prince of Egypt - (12/18/98) - $14,524,321
© Manga
U.S. anime distributor Manga Entertainment made a bold move this year by introducing General Chaos, a compilation of animated shorts meant to compete with the long-running Spike & Mike animation festivals. However, the touring film program proved unsuccessful, shutting down in the same year it started and leaving the door wide open for Spike & Mike to continue their reign. [1/27/98]
Universal Forays Into Features
Universal Pictures announced their entry into the animation world by forming Universal Pictures Animation and Visual Effects, co-headed by John Swallow and Doug Wood. Their first project is an all-CGI Frankenstein animated feature. [2/03/98]
Menken's Decade-Long Deal
  Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) entered a ten-year contract with Walt Disney Studios to continue composing songs and/or scores for animated and live-action films. [2/10/98]
  The Simpsons Go Silent
  The cartoon world went silent when Simpsons' voice cast members - Hank Azaria, Dan Castellaneta, Harry Shearer, and Yeardley Smith - demanded more money for their role in the show's successful run. They ended up doubling their pay to $50,000 per episode with increases for each subsequent season. Plus, each actor will receive a $1 million bonus in the year 2005. [4/07/98]
Toon Disney Launches
Break out the popcorn...

Upcoming Animated Features in '99.
• Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 (Columbia TriStar).
• Princess Mononoke (Miramax Pictures).
• South Park: The Movie (Paramount).
• Tarzan (Disney).
• The Gold of El Dorado (Dreamworks).
• The Iron Giant (Warner Bros.).
• The King and I (Morgan Creek).
• Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of the Mists .
• Toy Story 2

Toon Disney, Disney's 24-hour all-animation equivalent to the Cartoon Network, launched on April 18 showcasing animation from the Disney/ABC library. [4/15/98]
Disney Opens Animal Kingdom
© Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Disney's new 500-acre theme park, Animal Kingdom, opened in Orlando, Florida on April 22. Many of the attractions utilize state-of-the-art technology and animation such as "It's Tough to be a Bug" and "Countdown to Extinction," while a number of the stage shows are based on animated features like The Lion King, Pocohontas and Jungle Book. [4/21/98]
Sony Acquires Sunbow
  Sony Wonder, the kids and family entertainment division of Sony Music, acquired animation production company Sunbow Entertainment. The deal allows Sunbow to distribute Sony Wonder titles internationally and have Sunbow products distributed under the Sony Wonder label domestically. [4/28/98]
  Planet Ice Out in Orbit
  The making of Fox Animation Studios' second animated feature, Planet Ice, is worthy of its own story. After numerous directors, writers and production facility changes, it seems that the animated sci-fi epic has landed in the capable hands of Fox's own Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, responsible for the company's first feature, Anastasia.. [5/26/98]
Max Howard Heads Out
Dust off your VCRs

More choices provided a collector's paradise in '98:
• Ralph Bakshi's American Pop.
• An American Tail
• David Hand's Animaland.
• Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero.
• Best of Bruno Bozzetto.
• Kiki's Delivery Service.
• Lady and the Tramp
• Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
• Rankin/Bass' Mad Monster Party (re-release).
• Melody Time
• Peter Pan
• Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
• South Park
Vol. 1-6.
• The Black Cauldron.

Max Howard.
After three years of heading Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Max Howard left Warners to produce an animated feature for competitor DreamWorks SKG. [6/9/98]
Microsoft Sells Softimage to Avid
Softimage, a 12 year-old animation and graphics software company, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microsoft in 1994, merged with Avid Technology to form one integrated company. Microsoft sold Softimage to Avid for $285 million. [6/17/98]
Anime on Trial
  Are cartoons only for kiddies? A precedent setting case got underway in France when the publishers/editors of AnimeLand, an 8 year-old French magazine about animation, were put on trial charged with corrupting the minds of children. The publishers maintain that their publication, which features images from adult-oriented anime, is aimed at and read by adults and not children. They must now prove in court that an adult audience for animation exists. [6/17/98]
Ottawa Breaks ASIFA Ties
The Ottawa International Animation Festival announced that it is dissolving its 22-year relationship with ASIFA, the international animation association, due to the organization's inability to respond to the changing needs of the animation community and animation festivals. [6/23/98]
Dreamworks Ups the Ant-y
Between the Pages

Two beautiful animation art books that deserve a spot on any fan's shelf are:

* Mickey Mouse by Pierre Lambert (Hyperion).
* Batman Animated by Paul Dini and Chip Kidd (HarperCollins).

Two informative animation history books that are must-reads for animation fans are:

Cartoon Charlie: The Life and Art of Animation Pioneer Charles Thorson

* That's Enough, Folks: Black Images in Animated Cartoons, 1900-1960
© DreamWorks SKG. 1998
DreamWorks/PDI's Antz was originally scheduled to be released in March 1999, months after Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life hit theaters in November 1998. However, Katzenberg shocked everybody by announcing he'd moved up the release to October 2, 1998. This clever scheme helped give Antz an $80+ million U.S. gross. Of course, this was followed by another stunning announcement: that Antz will hit video on February 9, 1999 - a little more than four months after its theatrical release. [7/1/98]
Rich Cronin Headed for Fox
Rich Cronin joined Fox as president and CEO of Fox Kids Network and Fox Family Channel. Cronin was previously president of Nick at Nite's TV Land. [7/14/98]
Vital! Goes Lifeless
  The Vital! International Animation Festival (formerly known as Cardiff) closed its doors due to financial losses incurred during its latest edition in June 1998. The festival began more than 30 years ago in London. [8/26/98]
  Writers Pact with Fox
  The Writers Guild of America made a groundbreaking deal with Twentieth Century Fox to cover writers working on prime-time animated shows including The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Futurama, The PJs and Family Guy. This agreement gives animation writers on these shows the same benefits as their live-action counterparts. [8/19/98]
Autodesk Makes Discreet Purchase
Animated Games
One constant in computer gaming is the high-quality animated games from LucasArts. This year they gave us The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango.
Autodesk, the parent company of Kinetix, a leading supplier of 3D software such as 3D StudioMAX, purchased Discreet Logic, makers of editing and broadcast production software such as inferno* and flame* in an ever-consolidating software market. Earlier in the year, the two companies had announced a product integration partnership foreshadowing this merger. [8/26/98]
Record-Breaking Simpsons
The Simpsons became the longest-running sitcom currently on television with the start of their 10th season this past fall. Says creator Matt Groening: "They [the writers] get the characters and they are creating original stories that don't repeat what we've done or anything else I've seen on television." [9/15/98]
Sito Joins Warners
Tom Sito.
Tom Sito, animation artist and M.P.S.C. Local 839 president, left his post as head of story at DreamWorks Feature Animation entering a one-year development deal with Warner Bros. Feature Animation where he joined the Osmosis Jones feature team. Says Sito, "Everyone thought they were down and out after Quest, but I think Warner Bros. is a company that's going to surprise a lot of people." [10/7/98]
BKN Established in LA
Bobhot Kids Network (BKN), scheduled to launch August 29, 1999, acquired Joe Pearson's Epoch Ink Animation to establish BKN Studios. Under studio head, Stephanie Graziano, BKN Studios will produce original shows like Roswell Conspiracies. [11/10/98]
Margaret Loesch's Odyssey
Animation late night
The days of Capitol Critters and Fish Police have passed as primetime TV animation had a major rebirth this year. Networks, that were no doubt influenced by Comedy Central's enormous success with South Park, premiered and developed an unprecedented number of primetime cartoons as shown below:
•Baby Blues (WB).
• Bob and Margaret
(Comedy Central).
• Celebrity Death Match (MTV).
• Dilbert (UPN).
• The Downtowners (WB).
• Family Guy (Fox).
• Futurama (Fox).
• Home Movies (UPN).
• Invasion America (WB).
• PeeWee (NBC).
• PJs (Fox).
• Rex the Runt (BBC2).
• Stressed Eric (NBC).
Former CEO of Fox Kids Network, Margaret Loesch, joined The Jim Henson Company in February 1998 as president of the new Jim Henson Television Group. In November 1998, she was named president and CEO of Odyssey cable channel after an announcement that Hallmark and The Jim Henson Company had bought a "substantial" stake in the network. After helping establish Fox Kids Network as a leading kid's station in the mid-90's, she now has the power and know-how to turn Odyssey from a primarily religious channel into a more mainstream and popular wholesome network for these family-friendly times. [11/17/98]
Fox President Roth Resigns
Fox Entertainment Group President Peter Roth resigned in November after a disappointing season for Fox Network's television shows. Comedy Central CEO Doug Herzog, responsible for bring South Park to Comedy Central, was the announced replacement. Regardless of the changes, Fox network has made a serious commitment to animation with five primetime animated shows on the schedule for 1999. [11/ 24/98]
Buildings - From the Ground Up

Photo by Rick Wilson, courtesy of Nickelodeon.
1998 was a big year for everything animation related -- including its buildings. In Burbank, California, Nickelodeon's "brand spanking new" state-of-the-art animation studio opened, as did Disney's new Frank Wells building. The studios will house TV animation units for the respective companies. The classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons building remained unused and abandoned as the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission denied to grant Cultural-Historic Monument status to the time-honored Hollywood building. DreamWorks animators moved into their lush new animation studio in Glendale, California to continue producing animated features; while they premiered their first traditionally animated feature, Prince of Egypt, at the newly restored Hollywood Boulevard landmark, the Egyptian Theatre. For comic book fans, the new comic-themed Marvel Mania restaurant opened in Universal City, California serving up "Mutant Chicken Wings" and "Chocolate Carnage."
Awards for Everybody

* "Backstage" for Lipton Brisk Iced Tea. Production Company: Loose Moose, London.
* "Rocky" for Lipton Brisk Iced Tea. Production Company: Loose Moose, London.

Daytime Emmys:
* Best Children's Animated Program: Arthur (Cinar/WGBH).
* Special Class-Animated Program: The New Batman/Superman Adventures (Warner Bros. Television Animation).

The Old Navy kids. © Colossal/Spumco.

* Animated Theatrical Feature: Mulan (Walt Disney).
* Animation Primetime Program: The Simpsons (Gracie Films/Film Roman).
* Animated Daytime Television Program: The New Batman/Superman Adventures (Warner Bros. Television Animation).
* Animated Television Commercial: "Flares/Big Pockets" (Old Navy/Spumco, Inc.).
* Animated Home Video Production: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (Warner Bros. Animation).


* Best Animated Short: Geri's Game (Pixar).
* Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Titanic (Robert Legato, Mark Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, and Michael Kanfer).

Primetime Emmys
* Animated Series: The Simpsons (Gracie Films/Film Roman).
* Music and Lyrics: The Simpsons, "You're Checkin In (A Musical Tribute to the Betty Ford Center)" (Gracie Films/Film Roman).
* Voice-Over Performance: The Simpsons, Hank Azaria as Apu

Amid Amidi is Associate Editor of Animation World Magazine.

Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to

Table of Contents
Past Issues

About | Help | Home | | Mail | Register

Animation World Magazine | Animation World Store | The AWN Vault 
The AWN Gallery | Animation Village | Calendar of Events | Career Connections | Forums & Chats | Home

©1999 Animation World Network