A British spec script about two rival gangs of gnome neighbours has been put on the fast track in Hollywood. The trade paper SCREEN INTERNATIONAL reports A GNOME'S STORY, written by Rob Sprackling and John Smith, has been acquired by Walt Disney Feature Animation and Rocket Pictures, the production outfit owned by pop star Elton John and David Furnish. The big-budget project "may use TOY STORY-esque digital effects." Disney has a first-look pact with Rocket, and is funding development on GNOME'S STORY.
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DIC Entertainments CEO Andy Heyward is set to purchase DIC from owner Walt Disney Co. The deal backed by investment firms Bain Capital and Chase Capital Partners is valued in the nine digits. Disney acquired a majority stake of DIC in 1995 when it purchased ABC/Capital Cities. In 1986, Heyward purchased the toon house from France-based CLT and retained a small minority interest in the firm after ABC/Capital Cities obtained the majority share in 1993. DIC television properties include INSPECTOR GADGET (Disney co-produced a live-action feature version), G.I.
Disney has decided to divide its toy merchandising between rivals Hasbro and Mattel. Disney has had a long licensing relationship with Mattel, which now will only handle their preschool and plush toys, dolls, games and puzzles. Hasbro will handle the more lucrative toys, action figures and games portion of Walt Disney products.
SGI announced that it would be providing Walt Disney Feature Animation with more than 500 of its Silicon Graphics visual workstations, which will include their new Silicon Graphics Octane2. Previously, Disney has used SGI workstations to create digital characters and special effects for their features GONE IN 60 SECONDS, MISSION TO MARS, DINOSAUR and the upcoming 102 DALMATIANS. The Silicon Graphics Octane2 has more visualization power, a high-performance MIPS RISC processor and new industry-first features.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman analyzes the summers animated releases and relays what we can all learn from their successes failures.
On Friday, August 25, 2000, cartoonist Carl Barks, who reinvented the fowl-mouthed Donald Duck into an endearing Everyman on the comic book page, passed away. He died at his home in southern Oregon of leukemia. He was 99 years old. Barks started his association with the Walt Disney Co. in the early 1930s as an in-betweener and then moved over to the story department to write gags for many of the early Donald Duck cartoons. In 1943, he moved over to Western Publishing, which published Walt Disney comic books, to draw the Donald Duck segments for WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES.
* Tuesday, September 12, 2000. San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Robin Allen will discuss his book EUROPEAN INFLUENCES ON WALT DISNEY and the images that influenced Disney artists. Dr. Allens research is based on interviews with the artists who created the features and short films made by Disney. The event gives a rare chance to discuss the influences on Disney films from SNOW WHITE to THE JUNGLE BOOK. For more information contact Karl Cohen at: (415) 386-1044.
planetLingo, an Internet-based language learning company, has hired three former Disney executives John Feenie as president and CEO; Cedric Astor as executive VP and CFO; and Greg Probert as executive VP and head of content and curriculum. Previously, Feenie served as executive VP, China Affairs for Disney, in which he was responsible for all of the companys activities in China. For planetLingo, Feenie will help establish markets around the globe. Most recently, Astor served as senior VP for Disney consumer products in Europe/Middle East/Africa.
How would the world of animation be different if instead of being a new tool the Web was an old one? Get ready for some pretty wild "classics." Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman takes us theorizing...
New York-based New Tinkerbell, Inc. has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. in regards to the Tinkerbell trademark. As reported in the on-line magazine, INSIDE, New Tinkerbell and its several affiliates claim they purchased the rights to the character from the then rights holder, the Hospital for Sick Children of London, in 1952 a year before Disneys PETER PAN was released. For 13 years, New Tinkerbell has been producing various products with the image of Tinkerbell on them.
Late swing-jazz singer Louis Primas widow, Gia Prima, has filed suit against the Walt Disney Company for unpaid royalties from video and DVD sales of THE JUNGLE BOOK, in which her husband voiced the character King Louie of the Apes. The Prima estate has received royalties on audio recordings of the soundtrack, however Disney contends the contract Prima signed was for audio recordings only and that Disney has "met all contractual obligations to Mr. Prima's estate." However, new technologies, like videocassettes and DVDS, were not invented when Prima signed the contract.
Best known for his work on SLEEPLING BEAUTY and LADY AND THE TRAMP, Eyvind Earle, creator of eclectic backgrounds for Disney cartoons, has passed away. He was 84 years old. Earle succumbed to esophageal cancer on Thursday, July 20, 2000. The 1953 Academy Award and Cannes Film Festival winning short film, TOOT, WHISTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM, is the film that made people truly notice Earles artwork. His other toon credits include PETER PAN, FOR WHOM THE BULLS TOIL, WORKING FOR PEANUTS, PIGS IS PIGS and PAUL BUNYAN.
When everyone was making toons in New York, Walt Disney was in Kansas City. Now the KANSAS CITY STAR reports that the Walt Disney heirs have pledged funds to refurbish the original animation studio of Walt Disney. For nearly a decade, the Thank You, Walt Disney organization has been fighting to set up a Disney Museum in Kansas City, the birthplace of Mickey Mouse and other early Disney characters. The US$450,000 pledge by the Walt and Lily Disney Foundation is contingent on whether the Thank You organization can match the amount.
Disney Interactive has enlisted Into Networks PlayNow.com to create the Disney Interactive Channel for Disney-themed games on the Net. The new channel will be like Sonys Station, which features on-line versions of JEOPARDY and WHEEL OF FORTUNE. Into Networks will produce 12 titles for Disney that will be available on a pay-for-play basis through high-speed Internet services available from cable set-top box providers. Games will be based on Disneys feature films THE LION KING, TOY STORY and TARZAN.
In a 22-page decision filed Friday, June 23, 2000, L.A. Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige ruled that the Walt Disney Co. willfully destroyed documents regarding the long-running litigation over royalties on WINNIE THE POOH. The judge ruled that plaintiff Stephen Slesinger Inc., owner of the rights to late author A.A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH characters, is entitled to monetary sanctions and that the jury in the upcoming trial be instructed that Disney willfully suppressed evidence to prevent it being presented.
Five Disney On-line producers, programmers and Flash engineers, and four veterans from Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Imagineering, have jumped ship to join Stan Lee Media (SLM). The team includes Jamie Wilkinson and Gary Manfredi, who will lead the company's new in-house research and development studio, focusing on new digital productions and technologies. The new division Squnkwurx was named as a tribute to the once-secret Lockheed division (the Skunk Works) which developed the first experimental production jet aircraft during World War II.
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.
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.
On Monday, May 22, 2000, The Walt Disney Co. announced that its majority-owned Toysmart.com has gone off-line. Disney purchased 60% of the e-commerce site for educational toys in August for an estimated US$50 million. Disney execs, which made up 3/5s of the board, decided to shut down operations after a new round of financing was denied. One hundred-ten of the remaining employees were laid off. In April, 205,000 Web surfers visited the site compared to 1.3 million for Toysrus.com and 1 million for EToys said Media Metrix.
Riding the hopes that fantasy will be hot after LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER, Disney has reportedly signed a multi-million dollar deal to produce the film versions of horror-film-writer-director Clive Barker's new fantasy series THE ARABAT QUARTET. Britain's EMPIRE magazine quotes a Disney spokeswoman as saying, "The work is a combination of HARRY POTTER and a contemporary WIZARD OF OZ." The first in the series is scheduled to hit bookstores next year. Barker's lawyer said that Disney inked the agreement "without reading any written words of the novels."
DISNEY CHANNEL has promoted GARY MARSH to executive VP, original programming. In his new role, Marsh will be responsible for the development and production of Disney Channel's entire slate of original programming, including Disney Channel original movies, narrative and reality series for both pre-school and older kids and music and documentary series and specials. In addition, he will oversee the network's newly created talent and alternative programming department. Marsh joined Disney Channel from Columbia Pictures Television in July 1988 as executive director, programming.