Shockwave.com announced Jim Belushi will join their ranks to create an animated show entitled THE GREEDY SHOW. The deal calls for 13 episodes and will debut before the end of the calendar year. Each two to five-minute episode is expected to contain several sketches with recurring characters. Belushi, who began his career as a member of Chicago's legendary Second City Improvisation Troupe, will be joined in the cast by fellow Second City alumni Danny Breen, Mark Belzman, John Rubano and Michael McCarthy, as well as Sue Nelson from the Los Angeles-based improv group The Groundlings.
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WireBreak.com, an Internet entertainment destination, announced the debut of its first slate of interactive animated series. "We are thrilled to launch into the animated world with three digital shows that are consistent with our vision of Internet programming that is interactive as well as bold and outrageous," said David Wertheimer, chairman and chief executive officer of WireBreak.com. FRASIER co-executive producer Jon Sherman will produce the first show, THE SHAPE OF THINGS. The series follows Graham, Wex and Ira, who are drawn as simple squares.
AtomFilms, a leader in next-generation entertainment, and Bill Plympton, world-renowned traditional animator, announced a new spotlight channel at www.plympton.atomfilms.com. This agreement grants Atom "first look" rights to new Plympton content while showcasing his earlier works and providing a profile of the animators career. At the World Animation Celebration, Plympton unveiled his first Flash produced animation. A new Flash flick will premiere on Atom Films each week.
Vancouver-based EnterCor Entertainment Corp. has signed a deal with Johannesburg-based TV and film conglomerate, Sasani Limited. As part of the deal, EnterCor will represent Sasani in North America. EnterCor COO Ed Richardson said, "I think North Americans will be astounded to see the level of sophistication of the Sasani Group and the extent of their world-class facilities.
Starz Encore Entertainment's STARZ! Pictures will present the premiere of the sci-fi animated feature film HEAVY METAL 2000. The eagerly-awaited follow-up to the 1981 cult classic HEAVY METAL will bypass theatres in the States and debut on STARZ!, Friday, July 14, 2000 at midnight. "STARZ! Pictures is pleased to offer the many rabid fans of cult classic HEAVY METAL the never-before-seen premiere of HEAVY METAL 2000, the eagerly awaited and already much talked about follow up -- chat rooms have been buzzing about it for months," said Robert Leighton, president of Starz Encore Entertainment.
Britt Allcroft, producer and rights holder of THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE, has signed distribution deals that will send the little engine that could and other properties to Nickelodeon, Paramount and Disney. The deal with Nickelodeon will see THOMAS aired on the station daily and ties into the release of the feature based on the TV series entitled THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD. A 15-year Paramount pact will bring 39 30-minute episodes of the pre-school animated MUMFIE to video.
Noggin, the new network from Nickelodeon and the Children's Television Workshop, has announced it has greenlit three new animated series. The new projects will converge the educational opportunities of the Internet and TV and target the higher end of the channel's demographic of kids 6 to 12. Two of the projects will be produced by SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK creator, Geomar Philms. The first, THE MARTAINS ARE COMING! THE MARTAINS ARE COMING!, will follow a time-traveling rock band who will draw connections between seemingly unrelated events in history like science and literature.
Warner Bros. has announced THE OBLONGS will hit the Net before the network. Warner Bros. On-line will produce 25 30-second sketches based on the characters that will appear in the TV series in early 2001. THE OBLONGS follows five friends who develop abnormal physical and emotional attributes after extensive exposure to a local industrial waste dump. The OBLONGS MOMENTS Webisodes will roll out on the newly designed Warner Bros. On-line next month. To coincide with the Web sketches, Warner will launch interactive games and behind-the-scenes info about the series.
The Journal of the American Medical Association has released a study that violence in G-rated films is on the rise. Two researchers from the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis looked at all 74 G-rated films released on video prior to September 1999. The report lists at least one act of violence in every film; 46 films contained at least one character injured and over half of the 74 films had a character killed. The movies averaged 9.5 minutes of violence, up from 6 minutes in 1940. "A G-rating does not automatically signify a level of violence acceptable for very young viewers.
France-based Alphanim Digital Corp. and Magelis - Pôle Image Angoulême have partnered to create verysmallcity.com. Magelis is an organization set up in Angoulême to help support and develop animation and technology in the city. The image center (Pôle Image) will hold shares in the new Net firm and help provide human and technical resources when Alphanim opens this new production division in Angoulême in July 2000. The new site will be targeted toward the 18 to 25 age group. Verysmallcity will feature short animation series and interactive fiction and games.
New York City-based visual effects house, Black Logic, had launched a new broadband division. "We routinely take advantage of the Internet to show our advertising and broadcast clients their work-in-progress, as well as finished spots," said Alfie Schloss, Black Logic's VP of marketing.
THE RUGRATS ruled the May rating sweep by topping both of its Saturday morning time slots. The top toon, RUGRATS, gained 2.4 million viewers at 9:30 am and 2.1 million at 9 am, placing that episode in the second slot. Nickelodeon shows ROCKET POWER and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS took the third and fourth spots respectively. ROCKET landed an audience of 1.8 million at 8:30 am and SPONGEBOB sank 1.8 million viewers into their couches at 10 am. The regular champion POKEMON slipped to 5th place, only luring in 1.74 million viewers for its 10:30 am broadcast.
With GLADIATOR opening wider in Europe, the DreamWorks darling finished atop six box office charts. Still reigning in Australia and the U.K., the Roman rampage made another US$2.42 million and $2.95 million respectively. The Australian total for hometown boy Russell Crowes action debut is $10.19 million, while the flick has grossed $16.81 million in Britain. The worldwide wonder had successful premieres in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Hong Kong making over $10 million in the four countries combined.
In easily the biggest box office weekend of all time, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 rode in atop the U.S. box office charts. In the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, the motorcycle-cruising crime caper grossed a phenomenal US$70.82 million. Since opening on Wednesday, May 24, the John Woo-directed actioner has exploded forth with a $91.82 million total. Disneys DINOSAUR has already slipped to second rustling up another $32.04 million.
Wild Brain Inc., a San Francisco-based animation producer, has landed US$20 million in its second round of financing, led by first round backers Interfase Capital Partners, LP. The new round of investment dwarfs the original round by $14 million. The funds will be used to continue wildbrain.coms Webisodes; produce POOCHINI, a TV series co-production with German EM.TV; and growing their CGI division with the completion of HUBERTS BRAIN.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania senior Joe Gorski has won the first Chuck Jones Foundation Award. Speaking by telephone from his home in California, animation legend Chuck Jones announced the winner of the first ever Chuck Jones Award for Excellence in Student Animation to a standing-room-only audience at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Jones daughter, Linda Jones Clough, was on hand to present the award to Gorski. Jones created the foundation that bears his name to recognize, reward, support and inspire continued excellence in art and animation.
Mondo Media has announced that it will produce six new original Web shows. The Internet content provider will be unveiling the six new Mondo Mini Shows at their booth at World Animation Celebration's Tradeshow and Recruitment Expo in Los Angeles. "We are very proud of our new lineup and believe it reflects our commitment to creating character-based, witty animated shows for audiences both on-line and off," said John Evershed, co-founder and CEO of Mondo Media.
Icebox, Inc., an original Web-based animated content destination, has signed an exclusive three-year agreement with REN & STIMPY creator John Kricfalusi. As part of the agreement, Icebox will commission and air three new Kricfalusi series and will be the exclusive Web home for Spumco entertainment which includes the GODDAMN GEORGE LIQUOR PROGRAM. In addition, Icebox will serve as the exclusive Internet distribution outlet for RealCartoons.net, the new on-line animation network founded by Kricfalusi.
Walt Disney has promoted Leo Chu to the position of vice president, creative affairs for Walt Disney Feature Animation. Chu will now oversee the development of new features at the California, Florida and Paris-based Disney studios. Previously Chu had worked in various development roles on MULAN and DINOSAUR. Prior to joining the animation wing, Chu helped develop projects for Walt Disney Pictures. Currently, Chu is focusing his attention on next year's ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE.
Mainz, Germany-based ZDF Enterprises is planning to re-invent the popular TV detective DERRICK as an animated feature film. Last year DERRICK finished its unprecedented 24-year run on German television and 100 plus other territories worldwide. The theatrical release is being produced by ZDF, Ireland-based Magma Film and Hamburg-based neue deutsche Filmgesellschaft (ndF). The producers on the project are ndF's Matthias Walther, Magma Film's Ralph Christians and ZDF's senior VP of North American operations, Horst Muller. The trio have been developing the project for the last two years.
India-based UTV Toons, a division of UTV Group a media and entertainment company, has signed a US$65 million deal with Ottawa-based Funbag Animation to produce nine animated series. Funbag will produce 26-episodes of each program over the next 3 years. Both companies will own all global merchandising rights. "This deal clearly puts India on the global map for animation," said UTV Group chairman Ronnie Screwvala. Recently, UTV produced JASON AND THE HEROES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS for Fox/Saban, co-produced KONG with BKN and co-produced FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE with Funbag.
Lycos becomes the first major Internet portal to launch a programmed video network with tv.lycos.com. Three of the twelve channels will feature animated content. The first of the channels presents Mondo Media's Webtoons LIKE, NEWS and THUGS ON FILM. The second channel presents Animation Express' Net series WENCHELL BOGUM, BULBO, MR. MAN, SEX SLAVE and FATMAN, which is produced by Honkworm International. The final channel broadcasts Animation Express shorts like SLEEP ELUSIVE and THE BUS STOP. Lycos plans to launch more Webcasters in the upcoming months.