ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.2 - MAY 1999
Casper. © 1996 MCA TV International.
Harvey Posts Losses. Harvey Entertainment, whose roster of animated properties include Casper, The Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Little Audrey, and Baby Huey, has posted a 1998 fourth quarter net loss of $5,869,000, compared to a net income of $627,000 for the fourth quarter in 1997, and a net loss of $11,238,000 for the year ended December 31, 1998. Net operating revenues for the year-ended 1998 were a negative $1,569,000, compared to revenues of $15,404,000 in 1997. Meanwhile, the company announced that it has entered into a definitive Stock Purchase Agreement with Roger A. Burlage, Michael R. Burns, Paul Guez, Ken Slutsky and The Kushner-Locke Company pursuant to which Harvey will receive $11.5 million in cash and $5.5 million in common stock of Kushner-Locke in consideration for newly-issued shares of Harvey's Series A Convertible Preferred Stock. Says Roger A. Burlage, "We were attracted to Harvey because of its significant portfolio of world-renown character assets which have achieved very impressive sales and box-office performance in several entertainment outlets." Harvey Entertainment has recently been the subject of rumors involving a possible takeover by Marvel Entertainment. (AF 4/6/99)
Disney May Convert Internet Holdings. Disney, the Burbank, California entertainment company, is quietly considering ways in which it could package its Disney Online assets together with the company's 43% stake in Infoseek Corp., of Sunnyvale, California, for a public offering, according to The Wall Street Journal. Disney and Infoseek jointly created and own the Go Network Internet portal launched earlier this year. Disney Online operates the Disney.com Web site. Disney has recently begun negotiations to take majority control of Infoseek sooner than expected. Disney's 1998 pact to take a stake in Infoseek allows Disney to take majority control eventually, but not for at least three years. Infoseek is a publicly traded company already and could itself become the vehicle for a separate Disney Internet stock, if Disney can take control of the company sooner rather than later. No decision appears imminent, and the company could yet decide to do nothing. Issuing a separate Internet stock could create more problems than it solves. It would likely pose complex legal and logistical problems for Disney in dealing with the new entity. Disney declined to comment. As reported in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, April 12th, Infoseek Chief Executive Officer Harry Motro wouldn't comment except to say that Infoseek is "always talking to Disney about how to build a great product for the consumer. We are very excited about the potential for working with them in developing an even deeper relationship." Lately, Disney officials and Wall Street alike have been frustrated with the sluggish performance of Disney's stock. It has been especially vexing that, in an Internet-crazed market, the Web operations of companies such as Disney don't seem to get the same high valuations because they are hidden inside bigger companies. The call for a Web-focused Disney offering intensified when J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. analyst Richard J. MacDonald raised the prospect in a recent report. Mr. MacDonald argued that traditional valuation methods are shortchanging Disney's true value. He called for "a tracking stock or other vehicle through which public investors can accord value to the company's non-earnings-producing assets," as reported by The Wall Street Journal..
Cinar Approved For Stock Listings. CINAR Corp. has announced that the company's options have been approved for listing on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX), the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange (PHLX). CINAR options began trading on all three exchanges under the symbol "CUF" on Wednesday, April 7, 1999. CINAR Corporation is an integrated entertainment and education company involved in the development, production, post-production and worldwide distribution of non-violent, quality programming and educational products for children and families. CINAR's original productions include the Emmy Award winning Arthur, The Busy World Of Richard Scarry, Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, Wimzie's House, and Lassie, as well as mini-series and family films, which are seen in over 150 countries.
Motion Factory Receives Funding. The Motion Factory, developer of the award-winning Motivate Intelligent Digital Actor(TM) System, has announced the completion of a new round of venture funding from BankAmerica Ventures, SofInnova, and Digital Media Group. With the newly committed funds totaling $2 million, The Motion Factory plans to accelerate the development of the Motivate system and will invest in expanded customer support services. The company also recently announced development is underway to support Sony PlayStation 2, Sega DreamCast, and Apple Macintosh platforms. "The Motion Factory has made impressive progress with Motivate, and we're delighted with the industry's acceptance of the technology," said George Rossmann, vice president of BankAmerica Ventures. "The company now has more than 40 major licensees, including Mindscape/Red Orb, Interplay, Pyro, Dramaera, and Human Code. We share their confidence in the Motivate technology." Motivate is the company's unique suite of tools for creating truly interactive, intelligent, 3D characters and environments for next-generation games. The Motivate system is powered by breakthrough research in robotics and real-time process control technology. Motivate's animation engine features Real-time Motion Synthesis, allowing character motion to be generated on-the-fly in response to dynamically changing environments. Designed to work seamlessly with the animation engine, Motivate's behavior programming framework introduces a new paradigm for creating sophisticated character logic. Since its founding in 1995, The Motion Factory's mission has been to develop radically new technologies and products that empower game and other multi-media content developers to create the next generation of rich interactive 3D content.
C-3D Digital Acquires Strata. C-3D Digital, Inc. has increased its content capabilities for its 24 hour 3D channel by executing a definitive agreement for the acquisition of security interests in the technology and principle assets of Strata Inc., a premier name in 3D computer graphics. "The acquisition of Strata assets and technology has been selected for its strategic fit into the C-3D Digital Inc.'s network of companies for the ability to add eye-popping 3D effects, that Strata is famous for, to our growing content currently shown on the 3D channel. In addition, by adding the Strata product line, C-3D Digital will gain one of the best 3D technologies in the industry and tens of thousands of creative production artists worldwide who rely on their software," said Doug Stanley, Network General Manager. As part of the acquisition, Evans and Sutherland exchanged their security interest in Strata Corp. for an equity position in C-3D Digital Inc. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The transaction is subject to the enforcement of C-3D Digital Inc.'s security interest in the technology. The Strata 3D tool line has been used for such well known films as Contact, The Fifth Element, and Batman Forever, the 1998 hit computer game "Myst," and television shows like the 1998 MTV Movie Awards, Hercules, Xena, and the websites of Warner Bros., Blockbuster Video and NBC. A leader in computer graphics since 1968, E&S develops and manufactures hardware and software to produce vivid and highly realistic 3D graphics and synthetic environments. The company's product offerings include a full range of high-performance visual systems for simulation, training, and virtual reality applications, as well as professional graphics accelerator products for MCAD, animation, visualization, and content creation on NT workstations. Its workstation and software partners include: Intel, Dell, HP, Gateway 2000, Strata, and Computer Associates. C-3D Digital, Inc. is an advanced technology-oriented company in the communication and entertainment industries. As innovators of 3D entertainment technology, C-3D Digital is the first television network to offer exclusive 3D programming to satellite and cable TV subscribers, and gives its customers the ability to convert current 2D content to 3D in real time.
Loop Filmworks Opens Up Shop. Award-winning animation director David Chartier has launched Loop Filmworks (www.loopfilmworks.com), a new animation production company. His stop motion animated spot, "Talk Show," won both the Gold Medal and Grand Prix award at this year's New York Festival. Since starting in the industry in 1991, he has worked for Olive Jar Studio and Curious Pictures, and recently designed two stop motion/cut-paper animation campaigns for Nickelodeon. "I started Loop Filmworks as a means of rededicating myself to creating innovative animation for advertising," said Chartier. "I strongly believe there is a lot of uncharted territory and my clients are reaping the benefits of that vision." In addition to Chartier's work as an animator, he also directed the live-action indie short I Remember, which premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.
Neurone Rescues Fantome. After a long struggle, Fantôme, one of Europe's premier producers of 3D animation, was put into receivership. Founded in 1985, Fantôme was a pioneer of completely computer-generated animation TV series. In addition to an Emmy, Fantôme has garnered more than 40 international prizes, and their 3D television series Insektors (26 13-minute segments) has sold in 160 countries. Fantôme's assets have been bought by rising Belgian Group Neurones, a production and distribution company which produced or co-produced more than 100 half-hour shows in 1998, and in addition to numerous European studios, has just opened a new studio in Lisbon, Portugal. Neurone's goal is to continue developing Fantôme's current projects, as well as launching new projects. Current undertakings include turning the Insektors TV series into a feature, and producing The Giraffes, a 50 x 1-minute TV series adapted from a Mordillo comic book. Neurones kept six of Fantôme's employees, who range from computer graphic artists to 3D Research & Development personnel. The crew will continue developing work in Paris, at Neurone-France offices, where Fantôme will be a 90% filial. Fantôme president Georges Lacroix will serve as the studio's overall artistic director, as well as direct on specific projects. Production work will be done in Angouleme, France, Fantôme's new company headquarters, where Neurones already has two studios.
A year ago, in "In Peril: France's 3-D Industry," Georges Lacroix, President and Founder of Fantôme, alerted French government officials to a national problem in his open letter to them. For more information about Fantôme, visit their website, hosted on AWN.
Marvel Gains Credit. Marvel Enterprises has secured a $60 million credit line from Citibank. This lends credence to rumors that it is interested in taking over Harvey Entertainment which owns the rights to many animated and comic book characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich. Three years ago, Marvel Entertainment Group filed for bankruptcy. Toy Biz, which had been a subsidiary, acquired the bankrupt Marvel Entertainment Group, then created Marvel Enterprises as the umbrella company. More recently, Marvel announced it had resolved the legal problems that had prevented it from making and profiting from a Spider-Man film. Other Marvel film projects, most prominently X-Men and Fantastic Four, are nearing production start-ups. Harvey Entertainment, meanwhile, suffered financial setbacks last year, posting a third quarter loss for 1998 of $2,006,000, making it ripe for takeover.
Silicon Graphics Changes Name To SGI. Silicon Graphics, Inc., the 17-year-old high-tech company known for breakthrough graphics in movies such as Jurassic Park, is changing its name to SGI. The change is part of a major branding shift, which also includes a new logo, national advertising and consolidation of hundreds of separate product brands. SGI decided to change its name after a branding consultant found that while the company's products were perceived as innovative and visionary, the company was viewed as a niche-oriented, high-performance 3D graphics workstation provider. In fact, company officials say their servers and supercomputers for small, medium and large businesses generate about half of their revenues, and their hope is that by changing their name they will eventually be thought of as a company that makes more than just workstations. The company has been struggling for several years, losing money in nine of the past ten quarters as competitors have come on strong and the supercomputer market has weakened.
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