VARIETY reports that BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE director Adam Shankman has been brought on board to direct another Disney picture, ENCHANTED, a live-action/animated romantic fable about a fairytale princess banished from the cartoon kingdom who finds herself loving her live-action life as a real flesh-and-blood person in New York City. The cartoon prince who loves her and the evil queen who banished her follow the princess to the Big Apple to mix things up. Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld will serve as producers while Sunil Perkash will exec produce the script by Bill Kelly and rewritten by Rita Hsiao (TOY STORY 2) and Todd Alcott (ANTZ). Shankman is also attached to direct the live-action version of THE JETSONS for Warner Bros., produce Denise Di Novi and Hanna-Barbera Prods. Start date has not been set yet for the film about the futuristic family, which has been attached to many top producers and directors in Hollywood for more than 20 years.
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Walt Disney Picture's gift for the start of spring and a safe film for parents to take their kids to is PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE, opening in theaters across America March 21, 2003. The second ever original animated Pooh feature created for the big screen, it follows in the successful footsteps of the 2001 release of THE TIGGER MOVIE. The Hundred Acre Wood characters have appeared in four previous theatrical featurettes, three Disney Video Premiere releases, four holiday-themed primetime television specials and two TV series.
Martin Weigold, CFO of Fox Kids Europe, will remain seated in his position for another two years in the game of musical chairs underway at the broadcaster ever since the Walt Disney Company bought a majority interest in FKE. Weigold has been with FKE since 1999. Previously Weigold was VP of finance at Walt Disney TV Int'l and served on the board of Super RTL, the German free-to-air broadcaster.
Animation industry veteran Max Howard has joined SecondSun Entertainment's board of directors. Howard is chairman/CEO/founder of Melwood Pictures, a Hollywood-based producer of animation and live-action films. Formerly he was president of feature animation at Warner Bros., a SVP at The Walt Disney Co. and, most recently, a producer at DreamWorks where he helped develop and produce SPIRIT, STALLION OF THE CIMARRON amongst the DreamWorks slate. While he was at Warner Bros., the studio produced THE IRON GIANT, QUEST FOR CAMELOT and SPACE JAM.
Disney director Steve Trenbirth joins Mad Cow Pictures founder Steve Sagovac as co-owner of the Australian animation company. Before directing JUNGLE BOOK 2, Trenbirth was animation director on Disneys Annie Award nominated LADY & THE TRAMP 2 and Annie Award winning LION KING 2. Mad Cow offers Flash and traditional animation services, specializing in character design/development, storyboards, Leica reels and is developing its own projects including OOSTEVEN: PLAYGROUND PRIVATE EYE and LEEROY & LOU-ANNE.
In a February 6, 2003 fourth quarter and fiscal year earnings teleconference, Steve Jobs confirmed that Pixar was in initial talks with other major motion picture studios, heightening the speculation that Pixar may not renew its partnership with Disney once the seventh film under the current deal is completed. Under the conditions of the existing agreement, Pixar had the right to begin negotiations after the fifth film was delivered.
The fur continues to fly in the Winnie the Pooh royalties case, as The Walt Disney Company has now asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the nearly twelve year-old lawsuit. According to an AP report, Disney accused Stephen Slesinger Inc., the company that owns the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights, of "pervasive misconduct and illegal activities," including stealing documents by rifling through Disney's garbage. Disney also said the company destroyed potential evidence in the case.
Action, adventure and pretty dresses, all in one game! THQ Inc. in association with Disney Interactive is in development on the game DISNEY PRINCESSES for Game Boy Advance. Scheduled for release in spring 2003, the game is based on the princess characters in Disney's animated films, and will feature six different stories that are based on each princess' respective fairytale.
As previously rumored, Thomas Schumacher has left his post as head of Disney Feature Animation to become president, Buena Vista Theatrical Worldwide, the Disney unit that oversees Disney's live stage productions around the world. David Stainton will replace Schumacher as president, Walt Disney Feature Animation. Both divisions will fall under the auspices of The Walt Disney Studios and will work directly with chairman and CEO Michael D.
In an effort to strategically streamline and organize its children's television animation programming, production and distribution under one business unit, Disney has moved Television Animation into the Disney Channel Worldwide division with former Television Animation executive vice president Barry Blumberg replacing David Stainton as president, Walt Disney Television Animation.
The Walt Disney Internet Group has entered into content arrangements with two European telecommunication companies to bring Disney Mobile branded wireless content to Italian and French consumers for the first time. As part of the agreement, TIM will be the first distributor in Italy for a range of Disney's wireless content including ring tones, logos, screensavers, wallpapers, picture messages and games, and Bouygues Telecom will bring branded wireless content to French consumers, beginning with ring tones and graphics.
William "Tex" Henson, who supervised animation on ROCKY & BULLWINKLE and was a force behind the popularity of CHIP 'N DALE, died Monday, December 2, 2002 of head injuries after being hit by a pickup truck in Dallas, Texas. He was 78 years old. Born in Dallas, Henson moved to California to join Disney Studios in 1944, where he was an animator on films such as SONG OF THE SOUTH, PECOS BILL and PETER AND THE WOLF. He was also one of the forces behind Chip & Dale's leap from bit players to outright stars. The chipmunk duo went on to star in 23 theatrical cartoons.
Tokyopop Releases Two New Cine-Manga Based On Disney Series. U.S. manga publisher TOKYOPOP continues its relationship with Disney with the release of two new Cine-Manga series for Disney's original television series LIZZIE MCGUIRE and KIM POSSIBLE. Each will launch as part of TOKYOPOP's developing Cine-Manga family, which currently includes CARDCAPTORS and the forthcoming AKIRA.
Based on the lackluster performance of its latest animated feature TREASURE PLANET, The Walt Disney Co. has lowered its fourth quarter earnings. Disney reported quarterly earnings of 11 cents per share and total income of $222 million. The company is now reporting earnings of 9 cents per share for the fourth quarter ended September 30 for a quarterly net income of $175 million. The adjustment changes its per-share earnings for the full year from 63 cents to 60 cents. TREASURE PLANET cost $140 million to make and has earned approximately $17 million in six days of release.
Among the notable animation home video releases for December 3 are Disney's LILO & STITCH and two excellent offerings in the Walt Disney Treasures collection, plus Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO on DVD.
Disney chairman Michael Eisner outlined his strategy to revitalize his company in the December 9 issue of FORBES Magazine. Among other juicy tidbits, Eisner reveals that he has written a letter to the Disney board recommending a successor and implies that his choice is current president and COO Bob Iger. Eisner also details his revitalization plan for Disney, which may include selling The Mighty Ducks hockey team, 64 company-owned radio stations and other ancillary businesses with an aim to substantially reduce Disney's $13 billion debt over the next 18 months.
Walt Disney Television Animation Special Projects and ESPN have teamed to bring to life the syndicated comic strip IN THE BLEACHERS. Disney has created a series of 15-second animated shorts based on the Steve Moore sports strip that will run during select ESPN Original Entertainment programming. The shorts mark the network's initial foray into animation and feature a witty, ever-changing cast of characters in situations centered around athletics.
Yet another twist in the bitter battle for Winnie the Pooh royalties surfaced this week when Disney reportedly made an announcement that the granddaughter of Pooh creator A.A. Milne and the granddaughter of Pooh illustrator E. H. Shepard have decided to reclaim all rights to the characters. According to an AP report, Disney cited a clause in the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act that will allow the heirs to reclaim the international rights granted to Disney, as well as rights granted to Stephen Slesinger Inc. and grant all those rights exclusively to Disney starting in 2004.
The Internet rumors have been flying for weeks and now a recent LA TIMES report has stated that Tom Schumacher, president of Disney Feature Animation, may leave his post when his contract expires in June 2003. No word on what Schumacher will do if he departs, but he is reportedly in discussions with Disney to figure out what his role will be with the company. Schumacher has headed Disney Feature Animation since 1999, throughout a turbulent time for the division.
The long-running litigation over WINNIE THE POOH royalties took a startling turn as accountants hired by the court to audit Disney's records were officially fired on October 25, 2002. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige had determined that the accountants were biased in favor of Disney and their auditing methods unreliable. He has ordered that a new independent accounting firm be hired.
REUTERS reports that television mogul Haim Saban is in talks to buy the Jim Henson Co. from Germany's EM.TV. According to REUTERS sources, the sale price is hovering around $100 million, a deep discount from the $680 million (cash and stock) that EM.TV paid for the Muppet factory in February 2000. Since EM.TV put the Henson Co. on the block on 2001, both Viacom and Disney have been rumored suitors for the company but no deals were ever solidified, although Disney has been hovering around the property for years.
Just days after the announcement that former Disney Resorts president Paul Pressler has left to take a position as president and chief executive officer of Gap Inc., Disney has announced his successor. James A. (Jay) Rasulo, a 17-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company and chairman and chief executive officer of Euro Disney S.C.A. has been promoted to president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide.
If you have a chance to see The Sweatbox, the inside, non-Disney created documentary of the painful making of The Emperor's New Groove, run -- don't walk -- to see it! Eric Lurio reports.
Mike and Sully will get a new look when U.S.-based manga publisher Tokyopop releases a graphic novel based on the Disney/Pixar property MONSTERS, INC. The 104-page paperback manga version of the hit CG-animated film, which features collectible stickers of the entire monster cast, will hit the shelves of bookstores and comic book retailers in October 2002, just after the film's North American DVD/VHS release.