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ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.4 - JULY 1999

Film

Jedi knights Yoda and Mace Windu in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. © Lucasfilm, Ltd.

AWN Animated Box Office Report.
May 21-23:
Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox's visual effects-driven Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace took in $64,810,970 gross over the three-day weekend. Its five-day total of $105,661,237 since its Wednesday debut broke the previous five-day record of $92.7 million set in 1997 by The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but its three-day weekend gross failed to challenge the $72.1 million record still held by The Lost World. Phantom Menace also set a record for single day gross last Wednesday with $28.5 million, breaking the previous record of $26.1 million set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997 on the Sunday during the three day Memorial Day weekend. Despite breaking these records, the gross failed to reach the levels that many predicted, and some speculate that many people were scared away by the Star Wars fever as it was being presented by the media. Many expect that those who were scared away by opening week crowds will emerge shortly, and that the film will eventually gross in excess of $400 million in North America alone. The record for North American gross is $600.7 million, set by Titanic. Two other CGI-laced action films finished in the top ten. The Mummy finished in second place, after two weeks at No. 1, taking in $13,791,960 gross, for a total of $100,210,165. The Matrix finished fourth, taking in $2,875,521 to bring its total to $149,507,510. The other animated films among the top fifty at the weekend box-office were The King And I which finished 27th and grossed $164,470 for a total of $11,758,850, and Doug's 1st Movie which finished 36th and grossed $123,014 for a total of $18,317,237. . . May 28-May 30: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace finished first in last week's Memorial Day weekend US box-office race, taking in an estimated $64.8 million to bring its total to $204.8 million. Based on this, experts are now predicting that the film will eventually pass $400 million in North American receipts. The Mummy finished in third place, taking in $12.7 million, for a total of $117.1 million. Newcomer The Thirteenth Floor, a virtual reality pulp mystery with digital effects by Centropolis Effects, finished fifth, taking in $4.3 million. The Matrix finished sixth, taking in $3.1 million to bring its total to $154.1 million. . . June 4-June 6: Four effects driven action films finished in the top ten this week, led by Lucasfilm's Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace which grossed $32,891,653 to bring its total to $255,758,124. Universal's The Mummy, with digital effects by ILM, finished fourth, grossing $7,418,925 for a total of $127,523,525; The Matrix, directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, finished sixth, grossing $2,453,642 for a total of $158,260,745; The Thirteenth Floor, with digital effects by Centropolis Effects, finished seventh, grossing $2,004,461 for a total of $7,445,364. Doug's 1st Movie finished forty-eighth, grossing $53,244 for a total of $18,550,936...

The Mummy. Courtesy of and © 1999 Universal Studios.

June 11-June 13: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, the digital effects driven action film from Lucasfilm, grossed $25,632,861 to bring its total to $296,964,911 while finishing second to newly released Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in the US weekend boxoffice race for the week ending Sunday, June 13. Universal's The Mummy, with digital effects by ILM, finished fifth while grossing $5,483,460 to bring its total to $136.213.325; The Matrix, directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, finished seventh, grossing $1,869,930 to bring its total to $161,367,865; The Thirteenth Floor, with digital effects by Centropolis Effects, finished eighth, grossing $1,232,555 for a total of $9,653,058; Doug's 1st Movie finished 30th, grossing $136,898 for a total of $18,722,922. . . June 18 - June 20: Tarzan, the new Disney animated feature that is based on Tarzan Of The Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished first in the weekend US boxoffice race, taking in $34,361,342. This is the second highest opening for an animated film after The Lion King which opened with $40.9 million in June 1994. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, the digital effects driven action film from Lucasfilm, finished fourth, grossing $18,859,021 to bring its total to $328,072,869; Universal's The Mummy, with digital effects by ILM, finished seventh while grossing $3,206,500 for a total of $142,006,580; Warner Bros.' The Matrix, directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, finished ninth, grossing $1,315,856 for a total of $163,869,151; Sony Pictures' The Thirteenth Floor, with digital effects by Centropolis Effects, finished eleventh, grossing $380,181 for a total of $10,665,506; and finally Buena Vista's Doug's 1st Movie finished 35th, grossing $109,824 for a total of $18,932,847.

Tarzan. © Burroughs and Disney, Tarzan® Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All rights reserved.

Episode II Is In Pre-Production. Pre-production on Star Wars Episode II (Lucas reportedly has a title in mind, but it has not been released, although many believe it will be called The Clone Wars) has already begun. Shooting is set to start in June 2000 with locations at Fox Studios Australia, Tunisia, and Italy, and the release is scheduled for summer 2002. The story will focus on the romance and marriage between Anakin Skywalker (the future Darth Vader) and Queen Amidala, and the Siths' attempt to gain control of the galaxy. Whereas the budget for Episode 1 was $115 million, Lucas says he wants to keep the next film's budget under $100 million. Expected to return are Natalie Portman as Queen Amadala, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ian McDermott as Senator Palpatine, and Samuel Jackson as Jedi Master Mace Windu. Jake Lloyd is expected to be replaced by an older actor as Anakin Skywalker. Although there has been speculation about Steven Spielberg directing Episode II, Lucas is expected to return as director. The film will be shot using digital cameras, and an electronic camera system is being developed specifically for LucasFilm by Panavision and Sony. Sony is supplying the camera body for a 24 frames per second digital camera, and Panavision is making the lenses and supervising the integration of the systems. Episode III is scheduled for release in 2005.

Concept art for Osmosis Jones.
© Warner Bros.

Warner Greenlights Osmosis Jones. Warner Bros. has greenlit Osmosis Jones for a Thanksgiving 2000 release. The film is a comedy/adventure about a street smart white blood-cell called Osmosis Jones who teams up with a rookie cold tablet to fight a virus that is attacking their host body, a construction worker named Frank Detomello. The film is written by Marc Hyman, with Tom Sito and Piet Kroon directing. The film will be Warner Bros. Feature Animation's third completely animated release after Quest For Camelot, and the upcoming The Iron Giant. In addition, Kids' WB! has ordered 13 episodes of an animated "Osmosis Jones" television series to be produced by Warner Bros. Television Animation. The series will air following the theatrical release of the film, and was jointly announced by Susanne Daniels, president, Entertainment for The WB, and Jean MacCurdy, president, Warner Bros. Television Animation. Osmosis Jones is writer Marc Hyman's first greenlit film, although he previously partnered with producer Zak Penn on Fish Out Of Water, currently in development. Hyman has also written several other scripts being developed at various studios. Formerly at DreamWorks Feature Animation, Sito entered a one-year development deal with Warner Bros. Feature Animation in November 1998 where he joined Piet Kroon on development for Osmosis Jones. At DreamWorks Sito worked on story development for The Prince Of Egypt and Antz, and was head of story on Shrek and Spirit. In a landmark six-figure deal, Sito joined DreamWorks in 1995, after leaving Disney with Jeffrey Katzenberg who formed DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Sito is also president of the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist's Union (M.P.S.C.) Local 839 and vice president of ASIFA-Hollywood. Piet Kroon studied Film and Theater Studies at Utrecht University, specializing in animation. After his studies he worked as an animator, illustrator and cartoonist. In 1990 he helped animate Universal's An American Tail Ii/Feivel Goes West. After finishing DADA, a ten minute independent animated film that Kroon wrote and directed, he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a storyman for Warner Bros. Feature Animation on Quest For Camelot, and The Iron Giant. T.R.A.N.S.I.T., his award-winning second short film, was finished in 1997.

Read Tom Sito's "Disney's The Fox And The Hound: The Coming of the Next Generation" in the November 1998 issue of Animation World Magazine.

Learn more about T.R.A.N.S.I.T.'s unique story and visual look at the official T.R.A.N.S.I.T. website.

Piet Kroon also wrote about T.R.A.N.S.I.T.'s production in "Don't Quit Your Day Job, Work the Night Shift" in the February 1997 issue of Animation World Magazine.

Did Dinotopia Inspire Phantom Menace? A bit of controversy has arisen due to the striking similarity between some scenes in James Gurney's Dinotopia books and George Lucas' Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The questionable parallels include that between Phantom Menace's royal Naboo city of Theed and Dinotopia's Waterfall City; the trip through Phantom Menace's Naboo's core and a submarine ride in The World Beneath; the celebratory parade at the end of the film and several scenes from Dinotopia books; and between Jar Jar Binks and a character named Bix in Dinotopia . According to a statement posted by James Gurney on the Dinotopia website, "Many people are asking whether I had any role in designing the (Naboo) city of Theed in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I didn't. I'm in the process of trying to find out how it came to be that scenes in that movie seem to resemble scenes from Dinotopia. I am communicating with people from the Lucasfilm organization, and have spoken with George Lucas directly." George Lucas was involved in developing a Dinotopia film for Columbia in 1994, the same year he began writing The Phantom Menace script. ILM did do some development work for that film. Formal charges have not been made.

Film Roman Announces Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Feature. After several weeks of rumors, Film Roman has officially confirmed that they are developing an animated feature film based on The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, the underground comic book by Gilbert Shelton. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is about three hippie brothers: freewheeling cowboy-hatted Frank; mad-inventor Phineas, and Fat Freddy, as well as Fat Freddy's cat, who is described as meaner than Garfield, smarter than Felix, randier than Fritz, and a better mouser than Tom. Mike B. Anderson (The Simpsons) is slated to direct the script he has been developing with the Film Roman team. Commenting on the rapidly growing feature film development slate at Film Roman, David Pritchard, Film Roman's President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "This is another of numerous feature films we will put into development over the next several months that include both animated and live-action projects." Gilbert Shelton first wrote the Freak Bros. in 1967, and published it in various underground newspapers around the United States, including The Los Angeles Free Press. The first Freak Bros. comic book was published by Rip Off Press in 1970, and went on to become the best-selling underground comic book of all times selling more than 1 million copies in the first year. Film Roman is currently producing The Simpsons and King Of The Hill for 20th Century Fox Television, The Downtowners for Warner Bros. Network, and is in production on Johnny Tsunami, a live-action movie for The Disney Channel.

Thomas The Tank Is Headed For The Big Screen! Thomas And The Magic Railroad, a live-action/animated feature length film, is scheduled to begin shooting this month in England and Canada. Based on the TV series Thomas The Tank Engine, the film is a co-production between Destination Film, Britt Allcroft Co. and Gullane Pictures. Icon Film Distribution, the British releasing arm of Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey's Icon Productions, will distribute the film in the UK.Thomas The Tank Engine began as a series of children's books by the late Rev. Wilbert Awdry, and takes place in a land where trains have personalities. The producer of the TV series, Britt Allcroft, is writing and producing the film which is scheduled for a summer 2000 release.


Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.