WireBreak Entertainment has restructured its business model to fight going under. As a result, the company has laid off most of its staff except for a few key executives. Started in October 1988, the company quickly moved from being a Web destination site to an online producer and syndicator. Now the firm is moving away from Web content and focusing on interactive television, television and film. Current projects will be outsourced to other production houses.
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Creative Planet Inc., a business-to-business solutions firm for the film and TV production industries and parent company of Animation World Network, laid off 72 employees, or 20% of the work staff, on Wednesday, December 13, 2000. The move comes on the heels of the company securing US$30 million in financing from United News & Media PLC. "These reductions are unfortunate," said Creative Planet chairman and CEO Alan DeBevoise. "But we have acquired a number of companies, and as you're scaling and integrating and market conditions change, we have had to streamline the organization.
Jack S. Liebowitz, the comic book publisher who first brought Superman to the page, passed away on Monday, December 11 at his home in Great Neck, New York. He was 100 years old. Liebowitz immigrated to New York in 1910 from his birthplace in Proskurov, Ukraine. He and his partner, former pulp magazine publisher Harry Donenfeld, started publishing the series DETECTIVE COMICS in 1937. This title was the first successful comic centering on one theme. The series later provided the name for the company DC Comics.
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have secured a star and director for the UNDERCOVER BROTHER feature. Based off the UrbanEntertainment.com cartoon series, the live-action film will star Eddie Griffin (MOD SQUAD) and Malcolm Lee (BEST MEN) will direct. The UNDERCOVER BROTHER Webseries was one of the first Webtoons to make the jump to film. John Ridley (THREE KINGS) signed a US$2 million deal to pen and executive produce the feature adaptation.
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies have announced that the third installment of the RUGRATS movie franchise will team the precocious tykes with the characters from Nick's THE WILD THORNBERRYS. Los Angeles animation house Klasky Csupo, who produces the TV versions of THE RUGRATS and THE WILD THORNBERRYS, will produce the feature film with Paramount distributing it. No release date has been set of yet. The second edition of the theatrical franchise, RUGRATS IN PARIS, now in theaters, has grossed US$60.5 million to date and reportedly cost only $30 million to make.
DreamWorks is releasing its animated feature THE ROAD TO EL DORADO on VHS and DVD December 12, 2000. In conjunction with the release, DreamWorks is running a national "Instant Win" campaign for the opportunity to win the grand prize of US$1 million. The film follows friends Tulio and Miguel and their search for the mysterious city of gold. EL DORADO stars the voices of Kevin Kline (Tulio), Kenneth Branagh (Miguel), Edward James Olmos (The Chief), Armand Assante (Tzekel-Kan) and Rosie Perez (Chel).
Anime 18, a top distributor of erotic anime, is releasing MAGIC WOMAN M on video December 12, 2000. Nineteen-year-old Meru is a sorceress who battles unsavory beasts with her explosive power unleashed during the state of pure ecstasy. The 60-minute adventure will sell for US$29.99.
Dimension Home Video is proud to present Miramax's highest grossing film of all time SCARY MOVIE on DVD. Hitting stores December 12, 2000, the sidesplitting teen horror movie spoof was directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans and features visual effects by Centropolis Effects. The DVD will feature a behind-the-scenes featurette; six additional scenes; theatrical trailer; French language track; Spanish subtitles; and DVD-Rom bonuses. The film will retail for US$ $29.99.
DIC Entertainment has named Kaaren Lee Brown senior VP in charge of creative affairs. She will oversee project development and act as a liaison to broadcasters and rights-holders. DIC's current productions that she will head are SUPER DUPER SUMOS, POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC, MARY-KATE AND ASHLEY: MOVIE TOONS and SALEM. Previous positions Brown has held are VP of entertainment licensing for Full Moon Productions, VP of entertainment licensing at Tyco Toys, VP of acquisitions at Hanna-Barbera and director of licensing at Mattel.
Wild Brain, Inc. announced the appointment of John A. Schwallie as the company's new chief financial officer. As CFO, he will oversee all financial and IT, Facilities and HR operations. Previously, he served as CFO of London-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME), a publicly traded company. While there he helped launch and operate NOVA TV, CME's first national broadcast television station in the Czech Republic. "We are very pleased to welcome someone of John's caliber to Wild Brain," said Jeff Ulin, CEO of Wild Brain, Inc.
One more avenue for Web content to make the jump to TV is dead. ABC has pulled the plug after only one airing of the series DOT COMEDY, which aired comedic shorts from the Internet. The Friday, December 8 broadcast scored a 2.8 rating/5 share -- one of the worst ratings for a regularly scheduled program in ABC history. The show's immediate replacement until January will be repeats of the live-action comedy TWO GUYS AND A GIRL, then the fourth installment of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE will take the slot.
UPN will finally premiere the long-in-the-works GARY & MIKE stop-motion animated series. The series will begin airing Friday, January 12, 2001 at 8 pm. In a major show of support for the toon, a special preview episode will air on Thursday, January 11, 2001 at 9:30 pm following UPN's top rated show WWF SMACKDOWN!
Mainframe Entertainment, Inc. and Studio B Productions have announced their first co-development project for television entitled SURF N TURF. The traditional cel and CGI animated series is a multiple segment comedy property created by Amanda Connor and Jim Palmiotti. In 1991, Palmiotti began his career with Marvel Comics and has since worked for DC Comics and Fleer on such titles as SUPERMAN, BATMAN THE MOVIE and KID DEATH AND ASH, which has been optioned for a feature film by DreamWorks SKG. Connor's work can be seen in MAD MAGAZINE, THE NEW YORK TIMES and BARBIE FASHION.
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The primetime animation champion once again was THE SIMPSONS at #25 with a 9.7 rating/15 share. CBS' Tuesday 8 pm broadcast of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER placed #38 with an 8.3 rating/13 share. In a two-way tie for 46th place, KING OF THE HILL garnered a 7.5 rating/12 share. The Wednesday 8 pm SIMPSONS special tied three ways for #64 with a 5.6 rating/9 share. ABC's Saturday 8 pm airing of MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL sung home a 4.3 rating/8 share. On Friday at 8:30 pm on ABC, DOT COMEDY, featuring Webtoons from BunnyGrenade.com and Oxygen.com, netted a 2.8 rating/5 share.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS is still kicking at the international box office, but HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and DINOSAUR are knocking on the door. The premiere of ANGELS in Germany knocked THE GRINCH out of the top spot with a gross of $4.1 million. THE GRINCH fell to second with a ticket take of $1.98 million, elevating its German cume to $4.58 million. In its third week in Germany, DINOSAUR slipped to third with gross of $1.7 million, advancing its cume to $9.52 million. In fourth, THE CELL captured another $1.58 million, pushing its German cume to $4.52 million.
Disney's DINOSAUR was released without any restriction in Italy and is gaining quite a bit of heat over the violent content. The film was released on December 1 with a suitable-for-all-ages rating, spurring complaints from parental associations like Italy's Parents Movement, child psychologists and government agencies like the Special Senate Commission for Infants. Currently, Italy has three rating levels: suitable-for-all-ages; under 14 not admitted; and under 18 not admitted.
The Turkish government has taken the next step in its fight against the cartoon POKEMON. Broadcasting officials ordered the privately owned ATV network to shut down for a day as punishment for airing an episode of POKEMON. The move came under a law that bars "broadcasting that could affect children's and teenagers' physical, emotional and ethical development negatively." This action comes on the heels of the Turkish government's call to ban the series after two children hurt themselves imitating POKEMON characters [AWN 11/29/00].
Hoyt Curtin, composer for classic cartoons from UPA and Hanna-Barbera, passed away Sunday, December 10, 2000 at his Southern California home. Curtin was 78-years-old. In November, Curtin won the ASIFA-Hollywood Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement, but was too ill to attend the ceremony. He started his career writing commercial jingles and a few tunes for UPA's MR. MAGOO. From the late 1950s through the early 1990s, Curtin worked on many famous Hanna-Barbera cartoons. He composed the themes for such series as THE FLINTSTONES, TOP CAT, THE JETSONS and JONNY QUEST.
Munich officials are looking into several lawsuits that have been brought against kid media and merchandising company EM.TV. One case was filed by the German shareholders association DSW, which claims that EM.TV executives repeatedly held back information about their financial problems. EM.TV's financial concerns started when they first announced the cutting of revenues due to accounting errors in the acquisition of the Jim Henson Co. and Formula One racing.
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Read Rick's Pick For Monday, December 11, 2000!
Stephen Johnstone has been named head of interactive for Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) Europe. He will oversee content creation across the Internet (including Cartoon Network), broadband, wireless devices, interactive and enhanced TV. Joining Turner in 1994, Johnstone played a key role in launching Cartoon Network in European territories including Holland, France and Spain. He will move back to London from the company's Madrid office where he was Channel Manager for Cartoon Network Spain, the number one channel on Canal Satellite Digital.
Rhinoceros Visual Effects & Design has added CG director/project leader David Barosin to its roster. He was a major factor in creating character animations for ad campaigns such as J. Walter Thompson's Orkin Man, "Primetheus" the Primeco alien for The Richards Group, the Statue of Liberty for Oldsmobile and Leo Burnett, and the "Virtual Lady" for Intel. "I really like the team that's here at Rhinoceros," Barosin said. "These are great people, many of whom I've worked with before.
hey!, a New York multi-disciplinary design and production studio, has wrapped on "Nick Arithmetic," a 40-second global network image spot for Nick's international markets. hey! took still photographs of kids in various poses. The images were composited, along with graphic elements built in Illustrator and Photoshop, with animated backgrounds that string together the entire spot.
Will Vinton Studios has finished two live-action/CGI spots highlighting Midway Games' NFL BLITZ 2000 and READY 2 RUMBLE BOXING ROUND 2. The humorous spots were directed by Mike Wellins, who in the past has directed spots for Almond Joy, Chili's, Kikkoman, Mirinda, Pringles and ABC. In "Good Clean Fight," highlighting READY 2 RUMBLE BOXING ROUND 2, a 3D animated afro style boxer warms up by punching a disco ball and by the end we know that he isn't going to give a good clean fight.