Tele Munchen Group (TMG) has made an offer to buy out CEO and co-founder Thomas Haffa's 43% share of EM.TV. The offer is reported at DM250 million (US$109 million). However, media giant Kirch Group reportedly has a first-look option for Haffa's stake after it bailed out the troubled company by purchasing a 25% stake this past spring. Former EM.TV exec Nickolaus Becker, who pushed a TMG bail out over Kirch, is shepherding TMG's proposal for Haffa's share. Currently, EM.TV holds a 45% stake in TMG, but it has to sell it in order to get regulatory approval for its alliance with Kirch.
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San Francisco-based Western Images is restructuring to focus solely on visual effects, CGI, design direction and creative editorial services. Facility services, which include the linear edit suite, Henry, telecine and video service bureau, will be retired. In addition, the company will expand its efforts in long-form broadcast and feature film effects. As a result of the restructuring, five people were laid off. Four were related to fax work and the fifth was executive producer Ken Solomon. "Kenny (Solomon) worked very hard and was very good.
VARIETY reports that Dreamworks is offering Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz US$5 million apiece to reprise their roles for the SHREK sequel. For the first film the three stars deferred most of their salary to the backend. With SHREK's gross standing at over US$240 million, each has made approximately $3 million on the film so far. Murphy is reportedly the first to negotiate his deal, which will dictate how much the others will receive.
With primetime TV animation boiling down to what airs on Fox, four toon comrades battle it out for rating supremacy. THE SIMPSONS finished at #47 with a 4.9 rating/9 share. The debut of FAMILY GUY's new season placed 63rd in its Wednesday 9:30 pm slot, bringing home a 3.8 rating/7 share. At #69, KING OF THE HILL hooked a 3.6 rating/7 share. FUTURAMA placed 81st, racking in a 3.2 rating/7 share. The U.S. universe estimate used for calculating ratings for the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, UPN, PAX and WB) is equal to 100% of all TV households.
Shanghai-based Hweilai Studios has announced that Dennis Hopper is set to star in a new special effects heavy TV series, entitled FLATLAND. The EASY RIDER star has agreed to appear in 22 episodes as the mysterious villain Mr. Smith, who controls the show's strange universe. The show follows the adventures of three young adults trapped in a fourth-dimension where time and space crisscross. Hweilai is still looking for a distributor in the States. The studio is spending approximately US$1.75 million per episode.
Arriving in stores on September 25, 2001, Fox Home Entertainment will release THE SIMPSONS SEASON ONE COLLECTOR'S EDITION DVD BOX SET featuring every episode from the premiere season. The three-disc set will feature all thirteen episodes from the show's first season and outtakes from an un-aired version of the first 22-minute episode. Bonus features include original scripts and audio commentaries by Matt Groening, James L.
Empire Interactive, one of the U.K.'s leading computer game developers and publishers, and Vivendi Universal Publishing has announced a distribution deal, which will bring six new franchises to North America. The deal includes fifteen titles scheduled to premiere in fall 2001. As part of the deal, VU Publishing has acquired the rights to distribute six of Empire's upcoming titles, VICTORIOUS BOXERS, END GAME, ANTZ RACING, STARSKY & HUTCH, GHOSTMASTER and WORLD SPORTS CARS in the U.S. and Canada. Empire plans to publish the titles for multiple next-generation platforms and PC-CD Rom.
NewTek, manufacturer of industry-leading video, 2D and 3D animation products, has announced the promotion of Jim Plant to the posts of president and CEO. Plant joined NewTek as a consultant in February and was named executive vice president of business and strategic development in April. Tim Jenison, NewTek founder, CTO and chairman, has served as the interim president and CEO since early 1998. As president, Plant will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the company's operations.
Nickelodeon has announced that its new Nick Jr. series, OSWALD THE OCTOPUS, will premiere in primetime on Monday, August 20, at 8 pm. The series follows the thoughtful blue octopus (voiced by Fred Savage of THE WONDER YEARS) and his friends Weenie the dog, Henry the penguin and Daisy the flower. The show was created by children's author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino. Nickelodeon and HIT Entertainment are co-producing the series. The acoustic music in OSWALD is done by jazz musician Evan Lurie, a member of the group The Lounge Lizards.
AurenyA, is about to start production on the next three half-hour specials of STORIES FROM THE SEVENTH FIRE for Storytellers Productions Inc. The computer animation and visual effects studio will be responsible for the 3D animated portion of the half-hour animated and live-action productions, currently to be shown on various Canadian broadcasters, including CBC National, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Vision, Access and SCN.
Boomerang, the classic toon channel from Cartoon Network, will launch on Telewest's digital service, in its Supreme Package, beginning mid-July. Casey Harwood, commercial director U.K. & Ireland for Turner Broadcasting said, "The launch of Boomerang means that Telewest Active Digital will carry all of Turner's UK channels. Telewest consistently delivers high penetration for their TV packages and I am sure the addition of Boomerang will help grow this further." James Greville, head of Cartoon Network U.K., said, "Boomerang is the success story of 2001.
Last weeks #1, Warner Bros.' CATS & DOGS falls to third behind the debut of live-action flicks LEGALLY BLONDE and THE SCORE. CATS & DOGS nipped another US$12 million. The puppy-powered pic, with primary visual effects by Tippett Studios and Rhythm & Hues, has licked up approximately $48 million in two weeks. The much-hyped FINAL FANTASY: SPIRITS WITHIN faltered in its debut, only taking in $11.5 at #4. Produced by Sony and Square Co.
Film Roman has announced that it is stopping its live-action feature development division. Feature division president Mitchell Solomon and production VP David Jung have been let go and their responsibilities have been given to Film Roman president/CEO John Hyde and TV president Peter Schankowitz. This move marks Film Roman's desire to refocus on its core animation business. No word was given on how this decision will affect the live-action projects already in production including the adaptation of the TV series THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO for Disney.
Nickelodeon is commissioning three separate pilot concepts for proposed RUGRATS spin-off series. The first of the three spinoff ideas features spunky next-door neighbor Susie Carmichael and troublesome tike Angelica Pickles in pre-school. The second has Susie and her family moving to Atlanta to live with Grandma Carmichael and help her run the family restaurant. The third possible spinoff continues the adventures of the Rugrats as "tweens" as seen in the upcoming 10th anniversary special "All Growed Up," which debuts on July 21 at 8 pm.
TV Land, the spin-off network of Nickelodeon's Nick-At-Nite block, has announced the development of an animated pilot entitled THE ALAN BRADY SHOW, based on Carl Reiner's character on the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. This pilot is the first plot-driven series in the network's five-year history. The series will be set in the present, 40 years after the debut of THE ALAN BRADY SHOW, and will follow the backstage exploits of creating the TV show. The series will feature Carl Reiner in voice over.
The Disney Channel will premiere its new animated series, STANLEY, in September 2001 as part of a Playhouse Disney block. In addition to airing mornings on the Disney Channel, the series will air in primetime on the recently announced Playhouse Disney network scheduled to launch in early 2002. The interactive, learning-based series was created and executive produced by Jim Jinkins (DOUG) and David Campbell's (PB&J OTTER) Cartoon Pizza Productions, in association with the Disney Channel.
Spontaneous Combustion conceptualized, designed and conformed a 1 minute 20 second summer image promo, entitled "Max Blockbuster Summer," for HBO/Cinemax. Spontaneous design director Dana Yee said, "Our original intent was to incorporate a mosaic wall which would come to life and showcase a number of films. But during our brainstorming sessions, the focus shifted to graphics with more motion. We studied [fish schools] synchronized movements, how they seem to glitter and leave ripples in their underwater path and applied these characteristics to our test animations.
Angus Cheng has been named director of development for Hong Kong by Walt Disney Imagineering. Cheng will serve as the point man for Walt Disney Imagineering's Hong Kong-based project team, which is developing the new theme park resort on Lantau Island. The Hong Kong Disneyland project includes a Disneyland-branded theme park, hotels and a retail, dining and entertainment complex. The new park is scheduled to open in 2005/2006. In this role, he will serve as a liaison between the Hong Kong SAR government and the Imagineering team in the United States.
Curious Pictures has announced the signing of MTV's SPY GROOVE directors Elliot M. Bour and Saul Andrew Blinkoff and the completion of their first ever fully animated Mercedes spot. Produced for ad agency Merkley Newman Harty, the spot features the quintessential icons of Wall Street, the bear and the bull. The two stone animals come to life and put on their boxing gloves, taking turns wrestling and punching each other.
This month's Producing Animation excerpt by Catherine Winder and Zahra Dowlatabadi features stories of advice from the pitching room...
New York's Across Frontiers International, producers of CD-Rom based movies for corporate/educational interests, is looking for a VIDEO EDITOR/ANIMATOR. . . India's Animindia, a 2D animation studio, is looking for a BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE. . . Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada's Collideascope Digital Productions, Inc., a new media and convergence company, is looking for ROUGH KEY & INBETWEEN ANIMATORS, CLEAN-UP ANIMATORS and LAYOUT/BACKGROUND ARTISTS for a children's animated series. . .
The World Animation Celebration will offer the only West Coast screening of "Mutant Aliens," Bill Plympton's new animated feature that premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. This sci-fi comedy about totally evil but cuddly aliens coming to Earth to get their revenge won the Feature Film Grand Prix at the 2001 Annecy Animation Festival. Bill Plympton, who did all the animation, will be present at the screening. He will also be signing copies of his graphic novel of "Mutant Aliens." The first 50 attendees will get special collectible viewers with raunchy stills from the film.