This Valentine's Day weekend, February 12-14, animation lovebirds can watch a couple of Valentine-themed specials on Nickelodeon and ABC. Nickelodeon will air An Off-Beats Valentine's Special on February 12 at 8:00 p.m. and the 14th at 1:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Based on The Off-Beats, a series of shorts created at Curious Pictures by Mo Willems, which appear on Nickelodeon's animated sketch comedy show Kablam!, the special features four adorably hapless kids who are tormented by the Populars.
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Hash Inc. has released Animation Master 99 (AM99), an updated version of their popular computer animation program, which runs on Windows 95, Windows NT and the Mac OS. Many of the new features in this update revolve around a particular theme: Film, Workflow and Video Games. Among the numerous additions to AM99 are Smart Skin, Action Blending, Real-Time Blended Joints, Film Grain, Skeletal Poses, Real-Time Model and Map Export and Field Rendering. The software package still sells for $199 (U.S.). For further information, visit www.hash.com.
Nickelodeon received their highest Nielsen ratings ever on January 18 with the premiere of a new half-hour "Rugrats" episode in primetime. The show garnered a 13.8 rating and 35 share among kids 2-11, representing one-third of all 2-11 year-olds watching TV between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m. that evening. The record-breaking number was the climax of an all-day "Rugrats" marathon during Martin Luther King Day.
In the show's first outing on Monday, January 25, "Dilbert" delivered UPN's highest-rated telecast of a comedy in adults 18-49 (3.3 rating/9 share) and 18-34 (3.7/11). The show's performance among total viewers (4.2/6) more than tripled UPN's season averages in the 8:00 p.m. Monday time slot and was UPN's best household rating for a comedy since a February '97 airing of "Moesha."
M&M/Mars in conjunction with San Francisco-based Protozoa introduced their new M&M's Crispy Chocolate Candies and character, Crispy, to a live broadcast audience using Protozoa's real-time performance animation software, ALIVE. The character has appeared on Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, E! News Daily and numerous other television shows. Protozoa executive producer Jana White said, "This is a great opportunity for Protozoa to showcase its talents to a live national audience. Crispy is one of the first living, breathing, 3D characters to appear on live television."
Blue Sky | VIFX's Jan Carlée directed and designed a cinematic bug's-eye-view of the natural world for a series of three 30-second computer animated spots for Nature's Resource herbal products: "Echinacea," "Ginko Balboa" and "St. John Wort." All three ads, which feature a ladybug searching out the choicest flowers and herbal ingredients, "bring the camera down to the ladybug's level and stage the scenes so that we see the world from her point of view," explains Carlée.
Animation veteran Byron Vaughns ("Animaniacs," "The Lionhearts," "The Pink Panther") has announced the opening of a new school, Animation Creations, a cartoon workshop studio geared toward both children and adults. Among the 4-8 week courses being offered are Very Simple Toons (ages 6-18), Scriptwriting (16-adults) and Timing and Slugging (adults 18 and older). This Saturday, February 6 an open house celebration will be held from 1:00 to 6:30 p.m.
"The Ren and Stimpy Show" creator John Kricfalusi and his company, Spümco, have completed a second set of retro-styled commercials for clothing retailer Old Navy - "Boys Big Hood Fleece" and "Girls Curly Fleece." The two 30-second spots, which started airing in December, promote Old Navy's Performance Fleece line complete with characters like a Curly Fleece Poodle and a walrus. Both were produced through (Colossal) Pictures and directed/produced by John Kricfalusi. Executive producers were Kevin Kolde (Spumco) and Jana Canellos (Colossal).
The animated feature "Princess Mononoke," Japan's highest-grossing feature of all-time, had an amazing television debut in Japan on January 22. Airing on Nippon Television Network (NTV), the Hayao Miyazaki film brought in a 35.1 rating, the eighth highest ranking in Japanese television history for movie broadcast ratings and the highest rating for a broadcast movie in 15 years.
The 18th annual Imagina 1999, Europe's premiere computer graphics festival, wrapped up on January 22. During the show, the 13th edition of the "Prix Pixel-INA" awards were presented. Blue Sky | VIFX's "Bunny" took home three awards including top honors, the Grand Prix Imagina. For more information on the festival, visit www.ina.fr. Here are the winners from this prestigious European awards program honoring the world's best computer graphics:
Grand Prix Imagina: "Bunny" by Chris Wedge of Blue Sky | VIFX (USA).
* Saturday, February 6 - Saturday, February 13. New York City, New York, USA.
"The 1999 New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) will be held at Cantor Film Center in Manhattan. Among the highlights are a screening of Hayao Miyazaki's feature "Kiki's Delivery Service" and an Ub Iwerks Retrospective in Animation. Forty-two films will be in competition including such animated entries as "Mario the Show Cleaner," "Pingu Steals," "A Dog Cartoon" [AF 12/22/98], "Frank the Wrabbit" and "Furious George." For further information call (212) 677-6478.
* Friday, February 12 - Thursday, February 18. London, UK.
"Art & Animation: An International Symposium & Week of Film Screenings takes place at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. The event kicks off on Friday with a lecture on Art & Animation by Russian filmmaker Yuri Norstein. Speakers in the symposium include Dr. William Moritz, Christine Panushka, Ruth Lingford, Stuart Hilton, Erica Russell and Simon Pummell. To find out more, contact Jayne Pilling at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0171 930 3647 to book symposium tickets.
The second season of MTV's "Celebrity Deathmatch" starts Thursday, February 4th at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT). The clay-rendered matches for the season opener are Ice Cube vs. Ice-T, Robert DeNiro vs. Al Pacino and the Backstreet Boys vs. the Beastie Boys. Upcoming matches in the second season include "Battle of the Teen Scream Queens," "Battle of the Bonds" and a match with the cast of "Friends," along with "Deathmatch Fashion Show," where clay supermodels fashion the latest in Deathmatch body armor and weapons.
Kids WB! has ordered 13 additional episodes of the futuristic "Batman Beyond," which debuted in January to strong ratings in both its primetime preview and regular Saturday morning slot. The new episodes will be ready for the 1999-2000 season.
Disney's 36th animated feature, "Mulan," is released on video on February 2 at $26.99. It will receive a simultaneous release in Disney's Spanish-language collection, Disney En Espanol. As a special bonus, the video will feature an exclusive five-minute behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney Pictures' upcoming animated film, "Tarzan." DreamWorks will release "Antz" on home video on February 9 only four months after its theatrical release at $26.98.
HBO Family, a new 24-hour commercial-free channel dedicated exclusively to family programming, launched February 1. The channel is teaming up with producers like Nelvana, Cinar, S4C and Hit Entertainment to deliver original animated programming. Among the new animated series premiering are "George and Martha," "The Adventures of Paddington Bear" and "Anthony Ant," as well as a new mixed-media pre-school series from Curious Pictures, "A Little Curious." In addition, a variety of original specials will have a "sneak preview" on HBO Family Channel before they premiere on the main HBO channel.
Showtime Network's Internet service Showtime Online has acquired the on-line rights to the futuristic Web-based animated sci-fi strip, "WhirlGirl," in a multi-year pact with WhirlGirl parent Visionary Media LLC. "WhirlGirl" will debut on the site on February 26 with a complete season of 28 new weekly episodes. Chronicling the adventures of a sassy, 21st century superheroine, Kia Cross (a.k.a. WhirlGirl) fights to save the world from an evil, mediatech empire. "WhirlGirl" is Showtime's first original series developed exclusively on the Web.
Mark Osborne's animated short film, "MORE," has won the Jury Award for Special Recognition for Short Filmmaking at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The 6-minute film, about an inventor's struggle to find meaning in a grey emotion-less world, is the world's first stop motion short produced for exhibition on 70mm/15 perf (IMAX). "MORE" is inspired by and features the instrumental song "Elegia" by British electronic pop group New Order.
The Scientific and Technical Academy Awards will be presented on Saturday, February 27 in Los Angeles. Avid Technology will receive an Oscar statuette for the concept, system design and engineering of the Avid Film Composer for motion picture editing. Of the thirty-four other awards (Academy plaques and certificates), the sole animation-related distinction goes to Cary Phillips of Industrial Light & Magic, who will receive a Technical Achievement award for the design and development of the "Caricature" Animation System
DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt" was the top animated film on Super Bowl football weekend placing 10th with $2.6M, making a grand total of $90.8M. Disney/Pixar's "A Bug's Life" followed closely at 12th taking in $1.9M for a dazzling cume of $154.1M. "Bug's Life" has already outgrossed Disney's "Pocohontas" ($141.6M) but won't reach Pixar's blockbuster first effort "Toy Story" which accumulated $191.8M. Disney's live-action/CGI "Mighty Joe Young" moved up a slot to 13th with $1.6M amassing $45.5M in 6 weeks.
After the success of "The Rugrats Movie" and plenty of hit television shows, Klasky Csupo is relocating to a bigger building at 6353-57 Sunset Boulevard, across from the Hollywood Cinerama Dome. The 6-floor, 95,000 square ft., state-of-the-art glass and steel structure was originally designed as an auto showroom for Mercedes-Benz, but will now hold up to 500 Klasky Csupo employees. Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan says, "This is great news for the heart of Hollywood.
Fox Kids Network has promoted Roland Poindexter to Vice President, Head of Programming. In the newly created position, Poindexter will oversee day-to-day management and administration of all programming and development for Fox Kids. He replaces Carol Monroe, Senior VP, Programming and Development, who left the company to pursue new opportunities. "Roland is a dynamic, creative executive who has solid relationships within the creative community and a wealth of experience developing children's entertainment," said Maureen Smith, General Manager of Fox Kids Network.
New York-based Spontaneous Combustion has hired 3D modeler/animator Brian Austin in a further expansion of the company's CGI capabilities. Austin, who had been freelancing in the New York City area for the past couple years, is an accomplished fine artist as well as a digital artist and has works in the permanent collection of New York's The Museum of Modern Art.