ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 3.9 - December 1998
Rugrats Offends Media Watchdogs. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, has taken issue with the depiction of a character in Nickelodeon's Rugrats newspaper comic strip. The comic in question, which ran in newspapers nationwide during the week of Rosh Hashanah - "The Jewish New Year" - featured a character named Granpa Boris in a synagogue reciting The Mourner's Kaddish, a holy Jewish prayer. In a public statement, the ADL stated "the use of the Mourner's Kaddish in a jocular fashion demands the prayer's solemnity," and added that the character design of Granpa Boris is "reminiscent of Nazi-era depictions of Jews." Nickelodeon was quick to agree with ADL's charges, apologize, and has promised never to run the character or the specific strip in newspapers again. Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon, said, "Unfortunately, the creators of the strip made an error in judgment by referencing the Kaddish." While he won't be reappearing in newspapers, the short, bald and big-nosed Granpa Boris character is also featured in the Rugrats television series and the upcoming animated feature film, The Rugrats Movie , however Nickelodeon has not been asked to change the character in its animated versions.
Toon Union Final Election Results. The Animation Union, the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (M.P.S.C.) and Affiliated Optical Electronic and Graphic Arts, Local 839 IATSE has completed its voting process and announced the new Executive Board of the organization. Re-elected to office were incumbents Bronwen Barry, Dave Brain, Pat Connolly-Sito, Earl Kress, Craig Littell-Herrick, Enrique May, Ann Sullivan and Stephan Zupkas. Also elected were newcomers Bob Foster, Warren Greenwood and Karen Nugent, replacing Board members Sheila Brown, Tom Ray and Dave Zaboski who did not run for reelection. Elected as Trustees (in addition to the Executive Board) were Dave Brain, Pat Connolly-Sito and Stephan Zupkas. As previously reported in the Animation Flash [10/13/98], the following incumbent officers were nominated without opposition and elected by "white ballot" at a membership meeting on September 29: President Tom Sito, Vice-President George Sukara, Business Representative Steve Hulett, Recording Secretary Jeff Massie and Sergeant-At-Arms Jan Browning. All officers were elected to a three-year term, expiring November 2001 (not to annual terms, as announced in the previous Flash).
For more information on the M.P.S.C. union, visit Animation World Magazine's July 1998 issue for president Tom Sito's article, The Hollywood Animation Union (M.P.S.C. #839).
Profits Down For SGI. Silicon Graphics, Inc. has reported negative first quarter results for the 1999 fiscal year. The company announced a net loss of $44 million, or $0.24 per share, compared with a net loss of $56 million in the same quarter a year ago. "Reporting a loss is never satisfying, but I am very encouraged with the progress demonstrated in this quarter's results," said Richard Belluzzo, chairman and chief executive officer. Operating expenses at $335 million were down approximately $40 million from the previous quarter while revenues were also down at $616 million compared with $768 million in the same year-ago period. SGI's initial public offering of its MIPS Technologies subsidiary at $44 million helped significantly alleviate losses for this quarter. While the losses were smaller than predicted, SGI has said that it will take some time to return to profitability. Belluzzo outlined SGI's plans for continued recovery, "One of our key strategic objectives is to impose discipline on our cost structure which has resulted in operating expenses coming down dramatically for the quarter. We've also sharpened our focus on our core businesses with the successful initial public offering of our MIPS subsidiary. And we continue to see strong performance in our origin server program. This quarter's results validate that our efforts are on target."
Pixar Posts Profit Results. Pixar, the company behind Toy Story, posted a third quarter net profit of $2.5 million, or $0.02 per share, down from a third quarter profit of $5.3 million last year. The positive profits surprised financial analysts who had forecasted a third quarter loss of $0.02 per share. The upcoming release of A Bug's Life is expected to help further rejuvenate Pixar's revenues.
Cinar Wants A New Name. Canadian company, Cinar Films Inc., recently announced that they would like to change their corporate name to CINAR Corporation (in French, Corporation Cinar). A Management Proxy Circular was sent to shareholders announcing a Special Shareholder Meeting to be held at the company headquarters in Montreal on December 10, 1998 to vote on the intended name change. The new name was proposed to better reflect the company's diversification into other areas of children's entertainment and education besides the film industry.
Harvey Posts Third Quarter Loss. The Harvey Entertainment Company (Nasdaq: HRVY) reported a net loss of $2,006,000, or $0.48 per share, for the third quarter of 1998 as compared to a net gain of $2,551,000, or $0.62 a share, for the same third quarter period in 1997. For the nine month period ending September 30,1998, Harvey has totaled a net loss of $4,788,000, or $1.19 per share, as compared to a net income of $2,551,000, or $0.64 per share, in the comparable year-ago period. Net operating revenues were also considerably less coming in at a negative $1,121,000 compared to revenues of $7,126,000 in the year-ago period. The decrease in revenue is attributed to an adjustment of $2,316,00 because of Harvey's over-estimation of predicted sales of the direct-to-video film, Casper, A Spirited Beginning, as well as the revenue fluctuations related to the timing and accounting treatment of merchandising licenses. Gary Gray, Chairman of the Board, commented, "During this period, we have continued to move forward on two projects, in addition to our ongoing licensing activities. We completed production of Baby Huey's Great Easter Adventure and have entered into a distribution agreement for this video with a major media company. We have also completed the debut issue of Harvey, The Magazine for Kids available on November 17 with an initial 200,000 copy print run." The Harvey library of characters include Casper, the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Baby Huey, Little Audrey, Herman & Katnip, and numerous others.
Nelvana Gets Puff. Toronto-based Nelvana has acquired the worldwide development, production, distribution and merchandise licensing rights to Puff the Magic Dragon. Based on a classic folk song written by Peter Yarrow of the legendary folk group Peter, Paul & Mary and Lenny Lipton, Nelvana will produce an animated Puff the Magic Dragon feature length film, television series and special, as well as license all Puff merchandise. Production will begin on this property in late 1999 or 2000. The lyrical children's story which tells the tale of Little Jackie Piper and his dragon friend Puff has sold 50 million copies since first being published in 1963 making it the best-selling folk song in history.
BKN Studios Established In LA. Kids programming syndicator Bohbot Kids Network (BKN), the fourth largest US broadcast kids network scheduled to launch August 29, 1999, has acquired Los Angeles-based Epoch Ink Animation to establish BKN Studios. Epoch was established in 1995 and has since completed many projects including Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys, Dot and Spot's Magical Christmas, Pearl Jam's Do the Evolution music video, and the Atomic Babies pilot for Landmark. The first projects that will be produced by BKN Studios include the original sci-fi, action-adventure, film noir-ish, animated series Roswell Conspiracies, and a network on-air image campaign featuring original BKN mascot characters. "BKN has committed a tremendous amount of money into BKN Studios and quality-wise Roswell Conspiracies is closer to the WB's action-adventure shows Superman and Batman Adventures than other typical shows," says Epoch founder Joe Pearson. Concurrently with the new facility, BKN has appointed veteran animation executive Stephanie Graziano as President of Programming, Production and Network Development to head the fledgling network. Graziano joins BKN from DreamWorks TV Animation where she served as Co-Head of Production since 1996. Pearson will join BKN Studios as Executive Producer/Creative Director of BKN's original animated series. Bobhot Entertainment and Media has committed $100 million for program production, viewer marketing, and promotion to support the network's launch. BKN's film library will consist of 1,000 episodes by launch date encompassing well-known properties like Sonic the Hedgehog and The Mask. This library will be furtheraugmented by BKN's production and acquisition of original animated series to be produced by the new BKN Studios.
Stephanie Graziano, BKN Studios President of Programming, Production and Network Development. Photo courtesy of BKN Studios.
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