Dark Horse Entertainment and Slovenia-based Strip Art Features (SAF) have teamed up to create a new company, Venture, which will publish graphic novels and comic books with the intent to launch them onto film and television. The first graphic novel to be produced by the firm will be BLOOD TIES by Belgian artist Hermann and writer Yves H. The story is described as a Faustian tale that journeys into a rotten big city with a junior detective from the suburbs named Sam Leighton.
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DreamWorks is backing out of GameWorks, a string of location-based entertainment centers, which it helped found five years ago. DreamWorks' spokeswoman Vivian Mayer said, "Our commitment was a creative input. We fulfilled our commitment." Steven Spielberg was one of the original initiators of the company and oversaw the design of many of the coin-operated arcade versions of his films, like JURASSIC PARK. GameWorks has reported that same store sales are up an average of 10% in the past six months and overall revenue is up US$10 million from last year.
Sega Corp. has announced that it will cease production of its next-generation gaming console Dreamcast and will focus on game creation for Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's Game Boy Advance and GameCube. "It's becoming harder and harder to be profitable with a hardware platform. It's the games that matter," said Peter Moore, president of Sega's U.S. operations. Very low holiday sales are attributed to this decision. As a result, the company will cut prices on the remaining consoles from US$149 to $99.95 beginning Sunday, February 4, 2001.
The British Academy of Film & Television Artists have announced the nominations for the 2001 Orange British Academy Film Awards. Visual spectacle ruled the list with GLADIATOR and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON receiving 14 nominations each. Both films garnered nominations in the outstanding film, screenplay, music and visual effects categories. Joining the Roman romp and romantic fantasy for best special effects are THE PERFECT STORM, VERTICAL LIMIT and CHICKEN RUN.
Pierre Lambert's new book BLANCHE NEIGE (SNOW WHITE) delves into the art behind Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. It serves as a showcase for story sketches, inspirational paintings, rough and finished animation drawings, cels and background paintings drawn from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and private collections around the world, including many never-before-published images.
Plagued TV producer Cinar has filed a CA$28.6 million (US$19 million) civil suit against company founders Ronald Weinberg and Micheline Charest and former senior executive VP and CFO Hasanain Panju.
* Thursday, March 1, 2001. Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
ASIFA-Hollywood is presenting a "Best of Ottawa Festival" screening. Ottawa Festival director Chris Robinson will present some of the highlights of the festival. For more information contact ASIFA-Hollywood at: 725 South Victory Blvd., Burbank, California 91502, U.S.A.; Tel.: (818) 842-8330; Fax: (818) 842-5645; E-mail: email@example.com; or Web: www.asifa-hollywood.org.
R!OT has provided visual effects for a new 30-second spot introducing the Escape, Ford's sporty, new SUV. The commercial opens with a simple black on white graphic reading "consumer affairs director." Several letters pull out of the graphic and reform as part of a logo on the back of a surfboard hitched to the top of an Escape driving along an animated beach.
Quiet Man has created the visual effects for the spots "Turkey" and "China," from the new four spot Fox Sports campaign via agency Cliff Freeman & Partners (NYC). "To convincingly create the effect of diving off a 50-meter cliff onto dry ground, I needed footage of a stuntman diving into an airbag, and a shot of a dummy falling onto the ground from an elevation of about 12 feet," said Johnnie Semerad, Quiet Man founder and lead visual effects artist. "With that we could then create a composite effect, using Discreet Logic Inferno, of the free-fall.
Web4's new Internet production and post-production tool for animation and digital video and film premiered at NAPTE. eReview Producer provides real-time streaming, keyframe and office document view, markup, collaboration and archiving, audio and music support, integrated real-time video conferencing and chat features all accessible from multiple global locations. "eReview is the only production/post-production software tool of its kind for use with digital based film, video and animation," said Charles Sleichter, vice president of marketing for Web4.
DigiCel, Inc. recently released FlipBook PT, their new pencil test software for Windows. The new software follows the classical approach to cel animation letting animators scan and shoot or draw their artwork directly into a traditional exposure sheet and play it back instantly. The user can then adjust the playback rate, synchronize the soundtrack and even edit the exposure sheet while the scene is playing, then see and hear those changes immediately. This is also useful for storyboarding, animatics and track reading to improve lip synch.
Audience numbers for top toon THE SIMPSONS were hurt this past week due to the Super Bowl, NFL football's championship game, airing in the same time slot. Bart and the family scored a 4.1 rating/6 share in 81st place. At #91, FUTURAMA and KING OF THE HILL scrapped up a meager 2.5 rating/4 share. UPN's animation Friday block of CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH and GARY & MIKE drummed up a 1.6 rating/3 share tied in 106th place. In a three-way tie for #118, WB's THE PJS scored the lowest numbers of the week for the network a 1.1 rating/2 share.
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CAST AWAY continues to sail atop the international box office, with VERTICAL LIMIT making a climb upward. In Germany, CAST AWAY maintained its #1 finish with a gross of US$5.74 million, escalating its cume to $12.74 million. In second, BEDAZZLED bounced in $1.2 million in its German debut. UNBREAKABLE crash-landed in third with a gross of $954,843, pushing its German cume to $11.95 million. In seventh, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON collected $561,558, raising its German cume to $1.25 million. POKEMON 2000 grabbed another $420,338, lifting its German cume to $6.65 million.
Discreet recently announced that they have begun shipping the long-awaited upgrade to 3D Studio MAX, 3ds max 4. 3ds max 4 delivers a new and extensible character animation architecture, advanced game development tools and extensive rendering productivity with ActiveShade, Render Elements and unparalleled support for the new Direct 3D technology.
New reports have the Walt Disney Co. throwing its name into the hat to help bail out German producer EM.TV & Merchandising by purchasing its Jim Henson Co. EM.TV acquired the Muppet makers last February in a cash and stock transaction valued at US$680 million. However, rumors have voiced former president and CEO Brian Henson's disapproval over the deal due to the devaluation of the company's stock. In the past, when the Jim Henson Co. was privately held, Disney and the Muppet masters had signed a licensing deal with each other that brought Henson-owned characters to Disney theme parks.
Warner Bros. has folded its TV Animation, Feature Animation and Classic Animation under the single Warner Bros. Animation roof. Rumors have been flying of late about massive lays off and the closing of the Classics division, however a Warner Bros. spokeswoman has told AWN that under ten employees were let go as a result of the restructuring. Warner Bros. Animation is transforming into a running production business model, instead of its overhead model of the past. The new plan will create more accountability and efficiency throughout the division.
Embattled Montreal-based Cinar Corp. has announced that its self-imposed auditor, Ernst & Young, has resigned due to the company's failure to produce key information about possible fraud and other illegal acts at the animation production house. Due to the fact that the auditor will not sign off, Cinar will release unaudited versions of its reworked financial statements from 1997-1999. The company intends to release these long awaited documents to investors sometime during the week of Monday, January 29, 2001.
Walt Disney Co. has announced that it will close down the Walt Disney Internet Group and its Go.com portal. As a result, 400 out of nearly 2,000 employees will be laid off. Shares in the Walt Disney Internet Group will be converted in to Disney common stock. As a result, Disney will take a US$790 million second-quarter charge, or 37 cents per share, for the issuing of 8.1 million new shares in the entertainment mega-firm. In addition, Disney will also take a $25-$50 million charge for severance packages and other additional costs.
Cartoon Network has signed the original voices from the POWERPUFF GIRLS TV series for the upcoming feature. After long negotiations, Tara Strong (Bubbles), Catherine Cavadini (Blossom) and E.G. Daily (Buttercup) have signed deals which Brian Miller, general manager of Cartoon Network Studios, said in VARIETY, "All parties are happy at this point." He added, "It was always our intent to have the original voices. Reports of negotiation breakdown have been greatly exaggerated." The film, set for a summer 2002 release, is being written, produced and directed by series creator Craig McCracken.
With live-action comedy THE WEDDING PLANNER and drama SAVE THE LAST DANCE taking the top two slots respectively, CAST AWAY sunk to third with a gross of US$8.09 million. The island adventure, with primary visual effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks, has rescued $193.2 million to date. Next, TRAFFIC skidded into fourth with a gross of $6.46 million. The drug war saga, with primary visual effects by Cinesite, has dusted off $56.19 million thus far. Leaping from eighth to sixth, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON dazzled audiences to the tune of $5.06 million.
Tom Snyder Productions' entertainment division has changed its name to Soup2Nuts. The firm provides writers, casting, audio, editing, post-production and animation for its various productions, which have included DR. KATZ: PROFESSIONAL THERAPIST and THE DICK AND PAULA CELEBRITY SPECIAL. Currently the company is producing the upcoming Cartoon Network series HOME MOVIES, HEY MONIE for Oxygen Network's X-CHROMOSOME series and LIVE AT THE TEACHERS' LOUNGE for PBS online (www.pbs.org). Soup2Nuts is owned by Torstar, a Toronto-based information and entertainment communications company.