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Vicki Tracy

Friday, June 30, 2000

Chicken Run Success Spilling Over
According to ITN Online:

"Shares in two companies linked to the surprise Hollywood blockbuster Chicken Run enjoyed a run of their own on expectations they are set to benefit from the film's success.

Licensed toys specialist Character Group, which is distributing a range of toys linked to the animated film, rose 28½p to 136p.

And shares in designer and manufacturer International Greetings, which holds the exclusive European licence to manufacture products linked to the film, were up 44½p to 297½p..."

Click here for the full story.

Dreamspan Looking for Voices
Dreamspan, a new multimedia company, has partnered with the famed Short Attention Span Festival to create, an online forum for short films, animated movies, and original series.

Dreamspan is currently putting its first serial into production, tentatively titled "Rock Star." The series is a choose-your-own-adventure flash animation series and the company is now seeking talent to voice the characters. These include (but are not limited to):
   - The four members of the rock band
   - Their female twenty-something groupie
   - The lead singer's family: mom, dad and little sister
   - Various others: a nurse, doctor, newscaster, etc.

At this time, Dreamspan cannot pay for voice talent, but it will heavily promote the series and when it becomes "popular," will renegotiate the terms. Dreamspan is hoping to eventually develop the series for television.

Voice artists will receive credit for their work. Talent must be in the Los Angeles area and willing to go to the Dreamspan Santa Monica office and read. Dreamspan is especially in need of female voices and adults who can make themselves sound younger.

To discuss content and/or voice your interest, please call Andrea at 310-260-1551 or email at [email protected].

Thursday, June 29, 2000

Princess Mononoke Coming to Video
Buena Vista is releasing Princess Mononoke to video and DVD on August 29, 2000.  Both are the English-dubbed versions, however the DVD also includes a French track. Fans wondering about the original Japanese version will be disappointed to learn that it is not included on the DVD because Buena Vista doesn't want it to effect sales of the Japanese Princess Mononoke DVD release (which will be later than the August 29 USA release).

Furthermore, Buena Vista is initially pricing the Princess Mononoke DVD at $103. This is to maximize profits from rental outlets (such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video). Several months after the release (possibly just before Christmas), the price of the VHS will be lowered to a more attractive general consumer price. Meanwhile, the DVD will cost $34.99 (list price). You can, however, order the DVD here for $20.99.

Arizona Newspaper Reacts to Fox Closing
According to The Arizona Republic:

"The 'toon wars between the Fox and the Mouse claimed another casualty Tuesday as Phoenix was caught in the crossfire.

Twentieth Century Fox pulled the curtain on its struggling animation studio here, putting 70 people out of work and further dimming Hollywood's spotlight on Arizona.

The studio had been Fox's attempt to share the cartoon throne with Disney. But the contender turned into pretender when Titan A.E., the Phoenix studio's second feature film, plummeted to Earth with measly box-office earnings.

The sci-fi adventure, combining two-dimensional animation with 3-D computer graphics, took in just $16.9 million over two weekends, a huge disappointment considering its $80 million production costs.

'It's tough to take on Disney,' said animator Edison Goncalves, one of the employees given a few hours to pack their things..."

Click here for the full story .

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Fox Closes Arizona Studio!
According to the Washington Post:

"In the wake of the disappointing box office results for the space cartoon Titan A.E., 20th Century Fox said Monday it will close its 6-year-old animation facility in Phoenix, Ariz.

In February, Fox laid off about two-thirds of the 320 employees at the Phoenix unit, but now the studio is shuttering the outpost entirely.

The move is a further sign that the animated world, while full of cuddly creatures, is also highly treacherous for pretenders to the Disney throne.

'It clearly is a tough marketplace,' said Fox Animation president Chris Meledandri..."

Click here for the full story .

Note: Fox will continue doing computer animation and some stop-motion animation. The Arizona studio what its traditional animation facility.

Chicken Run Weekday Showings Strong
Chicken Run made $2.6 million at the Box Office on Monday, a very strong weekday showing for an animated film. Meanwhile, Titan A.E. made $530,000 and Dinosaur made $450,000.

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Box Office Results
Here are the Box Office results for last weekend's animated films:

Chicken Run
$17.5 Million ($7,028 per screen average)
2nd at the Box Office (opening weekend)
Total to Date: $17.6 Million

Titan A.E.
$3.7 Million ($1,346 per screen average - huge 60% drop)
8th at the Box Office (down from #5 last weekend)
Total to Date: $16.9 Million

$3.2 Million ($1,449 per screen average - 44% decrease)
9th at the Box Office (down from #7 last weekend)
Total to Date: $126.8 Million

Fantasia 2000
$1.5 Million ($1,126 per screen average)
13th at the Box Office (down from #11 last weekend)
Total to Date: $55.6 Million

The Road to El Dorado
$103,069 ($458 per screen average - 30% increase)
37th at the Box Office (up from #42 last weekend)
Total to Date: $50.8 Million

The Tigger Movie
$74,603 ($359 per screen average - 27% increase)
42nd at the Box Office (down from number #36 last weekend)
Total to Date: $45.3 Million

Toy Story 2
$35,716 ($430 per screen average - 41% decrease)
58th at the Box Office (down from #49 last weekend)
Total to Date: $245.6 Million

Nobody Here But us Chickens
According to The Irish Times:

"Do you remember a Fast Show sketch in which reporter Paul Whitehouse, covering the making of a Plasticine-animation movie, gradually loses the will to live, as an earnest young model-maker painstakingly shows him how he moves the dog's eyebrow a millionth of a millimetre before taking a shot, then moves it another millionth of a millimetre before taking another shot, thereby producing about one frame of film every six months?

This reporter can't help recalling it while standing on the set of Aardman Animation's first full-length claymation feature, the £30 million Chicken Run, while an earnest young animator named Merlin patiently explains how it took him two weeks to shoot a 30-second scene in which a motorbike and sidecar crashes to the ground..."

Click here for the full story .

Monday, June 26, 2000

Chicken Run Showings to Expand
Chicken Run will be playing on 300-400 more screens beginning this Friday, after a very successful opening weekend. It is estimated that Chicken Run made $17.5 million for the weekend and is garnishing strong word of mouth. Final numbers will be posted tomorrow.

Titan A.E. Suffers 61% Drop
Titan A.E. suffered a huge 61% drop at the Box Office when compared to last weekend. Weekend estimates showed Titan A.E. bringing in only $3.7 million in its second weekend to bring its total to $16.9 million, a number topped in three days by Chicken Run. Analysts are predicting that Titan A.E. will finish its Box Office run at between $25 to $30 million. Last week the CEO of Fox Film, William Mechanic, quit when Titan A.E. failed to meet expectations.

Sunday, June 25, 2000

Chicken Run has Strong Friday Opening
Chicken Run made $5.67 million on Friday to place second place (just behind Me, Myself, and Irene). The numbers guarantee that Chiken Run will make at least $16 million when the weekend is over and possibly close to $20 million. On Friday, Chicken Run averaged $2,277 per screen, playing on just 2,491 screens. The $5.67 million opening is the best ever for any DreamWorks distributed animated film.

Meanwhile, Titan A.E. only brought in $1 million, which is a greater than 60% drop from last Friday. Titan A.E. is averaging only $366 per screen (the lowest per screen average of the top 10 on Friday).

BBC: "Chicken Run Sets U.S. Flapping"
According to the BBC News:

"Cinema box offices across the US are gearing up for an extra busy weekend with the much-anticipated opening of Chicken Run - the first feature-length movie from the makers of Wallace and Gromit.

Nick Park and Peter Lord are the brains and talent behind the award-winning British clay animation company Aardman.

After the huge global success of their three Wallace and Gromit shorts, Chicken Run has already won a string of rave reviews in the week leading up to its US release...Some Hollywood producers say the film should be given an American voiceover. However, Aardman has resisted..."

Click here for the full story.

Saturday, June 24, 2000

Pixar Technician Joins Pulse Entertainment
Pulse Entertainment announced today that Leo Hourvitz, a computer graphics and animation pioneer, has been appointed Vice President of Creative Content Technology. The announcement was made by Pulse Entertainment's President Mark Yahiro, to whom Hourvitz will report.

"Leo's extensive experience as an interactive entertainment engineer and artist will be of immense value as Pulse expands and amplifies the execution and implementation of streaming media on the Web," said Pulse Entertainment's CEO Fred Angelopoulos. "His innovative approach to driving our technology to its creative limits inspires 3D developers and animators alike."

Hourvitz will be responsible for driving Pulse Entertainment's initiatives to integrate its proprietary technology in the production of creative content for the Web, evangelizing the opportunities for 3D developers to enliven streaming rich media and 3D animation using Pulse's suite of products. Mr. Hourvitz will also oversee the validation of new technology, ensuring application functionality in real-life production environments, bringing to bear his vast experience and creative brilliance in computer graphics production.

"Pulse Entertainment's pioneering technology enables 3D content to stream on the Web like never before," explained Hourvitz. "I'm highly motivated by the possibilities Pulse offers 3D developers and animators in achieving their creative goals through the marriage of content and technology."

Hourvitz has a distinguished background in computer graphics production, research, and development. He joins Pulse Entertainment after six years with Pixar Animation Studios, where he worked on Pixar's award-winning films and interactive products. Hourvitz was Supervising Technical Director on Geri's Game, Pixar's Oscar(TM)-winning 1997 short film, Producer of the Toy Story Animated StoryBook CD-ROM, and a technical director on Pixar's film projects including A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2.

Chicken Run CD Fun Pack Ships
In conjunction with the release of Aardman Studios feature film Chicken Run, Activision, Inc. will bring the fun of the movie home with the
Chicken Run CD-ROM Fun Pack. The title began shipping yesterday and is available in retail outlets across North America. The Chicken Run Fun Pack has been rated "E" ("Everyone" -- content suitable for persons ages six and older) by the ESRB and carries a suggested retail price of $19.99.

The Chicken Run Fun Pack allows children and families to become immersed in the Chicken Run world. Providing high-resolution graphics and animation, addictive gameplay and fun-filled activities, the title brings home the film's hilarity and excitement to show that bravery comes in all forms, even feathered.

"The Chicken Run CD-ROM Fun Pack offers a unique opportunity for fans of the film to continue their Chicken Run experience on their PC's," states Michael Pole, executive vice president of worldwide studios, Activision, Inc. "Players can enjoy clips from the movie, play awesome mini-games and customize their computer screen with cool film images."

The story of Chicken Run follows the antics of a loveable group of chickens trying to escape from their mundane battery farm existence. The chickens, led by the rough and ready newcomer Rocky (voiced by Mel Gibson) hatch a cunning plan to escape from the clutches of the menacing Mrs. Tweedy (voiced by Miranda Richardson) and her dreaded pie-making machine.

The Chicken Run Fun Pack includes such mini-games as "Spring Chicken," which allows players to guide the farmyard rats, Nick and Fletcher, as they stage a daring escape attempt, and "Run Chicken Run," in which players fly the coop as they guide the fleeing chickens to freedom. Fans of the film will get caught up in the farm-fresh thrills all over again as they watch a series of fantastic clips from the movie.

Additionally, the Fun Pack allows PC users to transform their computer desktops with clever Chicken Run-themed screen savers, customized Windows(R) icons and more. The pack also allows fans to use quirky accessories like an animated desk clock, or to play their own CDs using "Rocky's Radio." The Chicken Run Fun Pack was developed for Activision by the UK-based Absolute Studios.

Fox Film CEO Quits (will Fox Animation Die?)
William Mechanic, the CEO of Fox Film Studios unexpectedly quit on Thursday. Some analysts say it is a result of the poor performance of films like Anna and the King and Titan A.E.

According to Powerful Media, "...the pressure on Mechanic increased with the lackluster performance this year of Anna and the King and boiled over with the release of Titan, A.E., which opened last weekend to a disappointing $9.4 million. The film, which has been in the works for several years and is estimated to have cost at least $100 million to make, is expected to gross about $25 million domestically, and could kill Fox's feature animation endeavors for good."

Friday, June 23, 2000

Animation Artist Opens Titan A.E. Movie Site
Animation Artist Magazine today opened its Titan A.E. movie site, covering the animated sci-fi adventure from Fox Animation Studios. To visit the Animation Artist Titan A.E. Movie Site, click here .

Fantasia 2000 Headed Back to IMAX Screens
According to Variety:

"Disney's Fantasia 2000, which grossed a healthy $64 million worldwide during an exclusive four-month IMAX run earlier this year, will return to the giant screen in August.

Chuck Viane, president of Disney's Buena Vista distribution unit, said the re-release would go until the end of the year in all, or nearly all, of the 54 IMAX venues that have already played the updated animated classic. Exact dates for each venue have not been set.

'It was always an open question where we would go back, but we had such a successful run at the theaters that it was an easy decision,' Viane added..."

Click here for the full story and click here to comment on the story.

Animation Artist Introduces Two Chicken Run Contests
To compliment the opening of Chicken Run in theaters today, Animation Artist Magazine is offering two new contests. For full details on these new contests, visit the Animation Artist Contests pages at .

"The Project" Enters Next Phase
As announced in Wednesday's Animation Artist Newsletter, "The Project" by several Animation Artist readers has entered its next phased with a animatic being completed earlier this week. You can now view the 26-second animatic on our new "The Project" page at . Be warned that the animatic is 16mb large (QuickTime format).

Chicken Run has Strong Showing!
Chicken Run opened on only six screens Wednesday in Los Angeles and New York. If the early openings are any indication, Chicken Run is in for a big haul. For its six screen opening, Chicken Run garnished a 17th place ranking at the Box Office with an impressive $7,888 per screen average. It opens throughout the nation today in 2,600 theaters (in contrast, Titan A.E. last weekend opened on 2,734 screens).

What would be considered a great opening for Chicken Run? Over $14 million would be considered a successful opening weekend. Click here to visit the Animation Artist Chicken Run Website.

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Aardman Looks to Future Feature Films
With Chicken Run now playing in select cities, Aardman Studios is now setting its sight on its next two claymation films. Aardman has already been working on its 2002 feature, The Tortoise and the Hare and will follow that up with a feature-length version of "Wallace & Gromit."

In other Chicken Run news, the soundtrack for the movie has been released.

Disney Destroyed Pooh Documents
A judge has ruled that Disney destroyed documents related to a lawsuit that Stephen Slesinger, Inc. filed against the company over royalties. The lawsuit has been in the court for years.

According to a 1999 article by The American Reporter, "At the heart of the underlying case is a 1983 license renewal agreement between Disney and literary agent Stephen Slesinger, the creator of the Red Ryder comics and movies. Slesinger acquired subsidiary rights to the Winnie the Pooh books from Milne in 1929, and licensed them to Disney in 1961. The agreement requires Disney to pay royalties on all but book sales of Winnie the Pooh characters to Slesinger and his heirs. Stephen Slesinger, Inc., brought the case in Los Angeles Superior Court in 1991."

This week an LA judge found that Disney willfully destroyed documents related to the case in order to keep the documents from being presented in the trial. Disney will be required to pay monetary sanctions as a result of the findings.

According to a March 20, 2000 Forbes article, "While Disney and Pooh Properties declined to comment on any aspect of their royalty agreements, Thwaite [Milne's biographer] figures the licensing rights that were sold to Disney in 1961 encompassed a renegotiation between the Milne estate and Slesinger. Five years later Disney released the animated short film Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The company has been working its magic on the Pooh franchise ever since. So much so that, according to the NPD Group, an agency that tracks licensed products, Pooh is now Disney's most popular character, eclipsing even Mickey Mouse in licensing income."

Chicken Run Chat Today
The producers and directors of Chicken Run, Nick Park and Peter Lord, will be conducting a live online chat today on Yahoo!. At 2:30PM EST (11:30AM PST) log onto in order to access the event.

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Animators Put the "Go" in Stop Motion
According to the San Jose Mercury News:

"Why did the Chicken Run animator cross the road? To get to the other side. Then again, maybe it was to avoid the mind-numbing repetition, the excruciating attention to detail or the delirium-inducing tedium of taking nearly two years to get to the other side. That's how long it took to create 85 minutes of stop-motion animation for the film (and Aardman Animations managed that only by boosting its staff to 385, more than double its normal size). Chicken Run, which opens Wednesday, is the first feature-length effort from Aardman, British creators of the Oscar-winning 'Wallace & Gromit' shorts.

Stop-motion remains so endearingly low-tech that its 'digital' elements consist almost entirely of people's fingers. Using latex and silicone, the animators create regiments of cluckless, pluckless Plasticine poultry, then use their fingers to breathe life into the chickens.

Click here for the full story.

Chicken Run Characters Promote Reading
Rocky and Ginger, the claymation stars from Aardman Studios' new film Chicken Run, are the latest movie tie ins to be featured in an ad from the Newspaper Association of America that promotes reading among young people.

The quarter-page black-and-white ad features Rocky and Ginger reading a newspaper, with the headline, "Encourage your children to read a newspaper every day. Don't be CHICKEN!" The body copy reads, "When you want to learn what is going on outside the fence, read a newspaper as soon as the sun comes up! Read everyday ... newspapers are eggsciting!" The ad closes with the familiar, "It all starts with newspapers" tagline.

Click here to view the ads in pdf format.

"We're excited at the opportunity to promote reading among young people in such a delightful and unique way," said NAA Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer John E. Kimball. "Featuring these characters in ads promoting newspaper reading is a great way to make the connection that reading not only is important, but can be fun and surprising as well."

Slated to open June 23, Chicken Run is the first full-length film from Aardman Studios, home of the award-winning Wallace and Gromit, which is known for its distinctive clay animation technique.

In December 1999, NAA featured the animated mouse Stuart Little in a similar ad that tied in with the opening of that hit film.

NAA launched the "It all starts with newspapers" campaign in September 1997, followed by flights that began in April and October 1998, and April 1999. In addition, an ad featuring Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway was included in a special print and broadcast release during and around the 1999 Super Bowl.

Della Femina/Jeary & Partners in New York City created the original ad campaign.

NAA is a nonprofit organization representing the $57 billion newspaper industry and more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

New Animation Newsletter Tonight
A new edition of the Animation Artist Newsletter will be sent to subscribers tonight. Besides containing a "sneak peek" at a new section, tonight's newsletter also tells readers how to win a signed copy of the book "Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie." If you are not yet subscribed to the free newsletter,
click here to subscribe.

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Box Office Results
Here are the Box Office results for last weekend's animated films:

Titan A.E.
$9.4 Million ($3,430 per screen average)
5th at the Box Office (opening weekend)
Total to Date: $9.4 Million

$5.9 Million ($1,996 per screen average - 34% decrease)
7th at the Box Office (down from #4 last weekend)
Total to Date: $120.5 Million

Fantasia 2000
$2.9 Million ($2,217 per screen average)
11th at the Box Office (opening widescreen weekend)
Total to Date: $52.4 Million

The Tigger Movie
$90,551 ($401 per screen average - 27% increase)
36th at the Box Office (down from number 33 last weekend)
Total to Date: $45.1 Million 

The Road to El Dorado
$79,013 ($646 per screen average - 46% decrease)
42nd at the Box Office (down from #29 last weekend)
Total to Date: $50.6 Million

Toy Story 2
$60,433 ($623 per screen average - 17% decrease)
49th at the Box Office (down from #43 last weekend)
Total to Date: $245.6 Million

Monday, June 19, 2000

Threshold Preparing New Animated Film
Threshold Digital Research Labs (TDRL), a subsidiary of Threshold Entertainment, today announced start of production of its first digitally animated feature film, FOODFIGHT! Threshold has raised equity financing for the $50 million film with an infusion of investment capital from Korean animation company Natural Image. Both companies will share animation responsibilities, with TDRL heading up the 3D digital effort using its global network of animators working from its Santa Monica headquarters.

FOODFIGHT! reveals the real deal of what happens in the supermarket at night when all the people leave. Product icons come alive in a "wild city" and head towards the hottest club in town, the Copabanana. All's well until Brand X moves into town. The film follows the epic adventures of hundreds of branded characters from the familiar packages of products including Dex Detective, Daredevil Dan, Mr. Clean, Twinkie the Kid and others as they battle for control of the store.

"This is the most complex digitally animated film ever undertaken, with thousands of different characters and hundreds of sets," says Threshold chairman and CEO, Larry Kasanoff. "We've searched the world for the best talent and have found extraordinary 3-D animation talent in Korea. We are proud to be working with Natural Image to make FOODFIGHT!"

Dr. Doolittle TV Animated Series Being Discussed
Nelvana Limited announced last week that it has acquired the development, production, distribution and associated merchandise licensing rights for animated television programming, based on the celebrated 13-book series, Doctor Dolittle, written and illustrated by Hugh Lofting.

As part of the Agreement, Nelvana has also acquired the production publishing tie-in rights to animated television programming, which the Company will develop and produce from its adaptation of such book titles as The Story of Doctor Dolittle, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Doctor Dolittle's Circus, Doctor Dolittle's Zoo and Doctor Dolittle's Caravan, among others.

Nelvana will also develop and produce original stories based on the classic character, who made his book debut in 1920. Written by world-renowned and Newbery Medal Award-winning author and illustrator Hugh Lofting, Doctor Dolittle follows the adventures of a fictional 19th Century medical doctor as he works and talks with the animals in the English town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.

Since The Story of Doctor Dolittle was first published 80 years ago, million of books have been sold worldwide. The book series, available in every major language, has spawned two major motion pictures, including the memorable Doctor Dolittle, starring Rex Harrison and Dolittle, starring Eddie Murphy. Michael Hirsh, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Nelvana, says:

"For two generations, Doctor Dolittle's larger-than-life persona has captured the imagination of millions of children. Today, a new generation of youngsters around the world will be introduced to the wonderful stories of this mythical character who talks with the animals. We believe this property is a promising addition to our classic and contemporary book-based portfolio, with great potential as an animated children's TV series and a merchandising brand."

Sunday, June 18, 2000

Titan A.E. Suffers Low Opening
Titan A.E. opened to a disappointing $2.99 million on Friday, unable to beat Fox's 1997 animated Anastasia Friday opening of $3.4 million. It is expected that Titan A.E. will bring in around $10 million when the weekend is over, much lower than some earlier analyst predictions of an $18 million weekend. The opening is also lower than DreamWorks animated The Road to El Dorado, released in March of this year, which went on to make nearly $51 million at the Box Office. Fox had a massive advertising budget for the film, which treaded into new territory by aiming at male teenagers. Opening to mixed reviews, critics are calling Titan A.E. a visually sensational and entertaining film, but with numerous story holes.

Titan A.E. Takes Directors in New Direction
According to The Salt Lake City Tribune:

"Animation directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman are trying to make new friends while keeping the old with Fox Animation Studio's release, Titan A.E.

The duo left Disney Studios in the late '70s, forming their own animation studio — based for 8 years in Ireland — then signing on with Fox.

'You are always at the mercy of a distributor. We decided after 15 years as an independent company we needed a partner and we were excited to join with the group at Fox,' Goldman said in a phone interview..."

Click here for the full story.

Saturday, June 17, 2000

Hundreds Attend Chicken Run Book Signing
Hundreds of people attended a book signing by Peter Lord and Nick Park yesterday evening at Storyopolis in Hollywood. Animation Artist Magazine was in attendance at the event, held from 6PM to 8PM, where the Aardman visionaries signed hundreds of books. The two are in the U.S. to celebrate the premiere of Chicken Run, which hits U.S. theaters next Friday.

Peter Lord and Nick Park sign books at Storyopolis.
(picture by Animation Artist Magazine)

At Storyopolis, Lord and Park signed copies of "Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie" and "Creating 3D Animation: The Aardman Book of Filmmaking." Animation Artist Magazine had one copy of each book signed by the filmmakers to give away as a prize to two lucky Animation Artist Magazine readers. Two new contests, one for each book, are currently in development and will be announced next week in the Animation Artist Newsletter.

Demands of Animation Awe Oregon Students
According to The Oregonian:

"Allen Grush remembers sitting in algebra class and doodling in the margins of his math book, drawing a stick figure on each page so it seemed to move around when he fanned the pages.

Of course, he was supposed to be paying attention to the teacher. But his daydreaming may have served him well as Grush wraps up work on a University of Oregon art degree with an emphasis in animation.

The animation program is the largest and longest-running in the Northwest, said Ken O'Connell, professor of visual design at the UO. It was established in the 1950s by David Foster, who later introduced film, video and computers to the UO's department of fine and applied arts.

Grush, one of more than 50 animation and visual design students who showed their work recently at Animation Explosion, returned to school after many years as a contractor..."

Click here for the full story .

Friday, June 16, 2000

DreamWorks has a Winner with Chicken Run!
The staff of Animation Artist Magazine attended a special screening of Chicken Run on Thursday night and the verdict is in: Based on the film and audience reaction, Chicken Run (created by Aardman Pictures) will be to DreamWorks what Toy Story 2 (created by Pixar) was to Disney.  Easily the most enjoyable film of the year, Chicken Run entertains in an original and creative way that has been lacking from other recent animated films. Like Toy Story 2, a person will need to see Chicken Run numerous times to catch the vast number of jokes, gags, and humorous dialogue. Look for a full Animation Artist review of Chicken Run (5 out of 5 stars) next week on the Animation Artist Chicken Run Website and look for the "G"-rated Chicken Run to be a runaway success at the Box Office for families nationwide when it opens next Friday.

Britney Spears to be Animated
According to MTV:

"Britney Spears will soon be chasing after England's Prince William -- if only in the world of animation.

A cartoon version of the 'Oops!… I Did It Again' singer is featured racing after William, the oldest son of Prince Charles, and even pulling down his trousers as part of an animated special, "Will's World," slated to air on Britain's Channel Four on June 21, the day the young prince turns 18.

Spears, who is also 18, has been linked with Prince William by British tabloids over the past year, although Spears has told American media that she has only sent William signed copies of her CDs after getting a formal request from Buckingham Palace..."

Click here for the full story.

Thursday, June 15, 2000

Daring Titan A.E. Opens Tomorrow
Fox's bold new animated film, Titan A.E., opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow. Despite many Fox publicity blunders, like the inability to provide many media (including Animation Artist Magazine) press kits before the movie opens, the film is still garnishing mixed, but mostly positive reviews.

Daily Variety says that some of the voice talent needed work, but that Titan A.E. is still "a fresh direction for science fiction moviemaking." The Daily Variety review also states that the film marks a huge improvement over Fox's Anastasia.

The Sacramento News and Review calls Titan A.E. "a sleek, shiny, space opera for boys of all ages." The same review, however, states that "Titan A.E. sets up expectations for dramatic payoffs that never come."

Another reviewer claims that Titan A.E . liberally borrows from Independence Day 4 and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. In a review of Titan A.E. being posted this Saturday by Animation Artist Magazine, that concept is rejected. Animation Artist Magazine, which gives a mixed review of Titan A.E., found the movie to be entertaining with many original elements, even with its many plot holes and annoying music.

Fox has spent millions of dollars in marketing Titan A.E. for several months to build up to its opening. Yet the marketing for the print and Internet medium fell apart near the end as Fox failed to deliver promised press kits to several media outlets before the film's opening, including Animation Artist Magazine. This failure led to the loss of much additional and vital publicity, easily picked up by Chicken Run whose team made sure all the proper outlets had press kits weeks ago. Chicken Run opens next week. Click here to visit the Animation Artist Chicken Run Website.

Buzz Lightyear Movie Coming to Video
Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear now stars in his own movie, called "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins." It is an all-new, full-length adventure, created in the traditional, hand-drawn style of animation, coming to VHS and DVD on August 8, 2000 from Walt Disney Home Video, Walt Disney Television Animation and Pixar Animation Studios.

Tim Allen (TV's "Home Improvement") returns as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, a role he made famous with the popular Disney and Pixar films Toy Story and Toy Story 2 .

As an added bonus, William Shatner (Captain Kirk of "Star Trek") performs "To Infinity and Beyond" on the final credits. The movie will be priced at $24.99 (SRP) for VHS and $29.99 (SRP) for DVD.

"Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins" invites audiences to follow Buzz in the role upon which his Toy Story action figure was based, as a defender of the universe in his own animated television series.

Buzz Lightyear's nefarious enemy, the Evil Emperor Zurg, has captured a group of Little Green Men, in order to uncover the secret to their Uni-mind, the mysterious force that lets the Little Green Men think as one.

As Zurg attacks the Little Green Meen's planet to steal the Uni-mind, he zaps the entire galaxy with a device that puts almost everyone under his evil control.

With Zurg's sinister plot underway, Buzz Lightyear and three intergalactic crimefighting rookies, Mira Nova, Booster and XR, race to stop him. When Zurg unleashes his most dastardly henchman, the wicked Agent Z, only the force of good in the greatest space hero ever, Buzz Lightyear, can possibly save the day and the entire galaxy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Roy Disney to do Online Audio Chat this Friday
With Walt Disney Pictures' animated Fantasia 2000 headed to a widescreen release in theaters nationwide, Roy Edward Disney, Vice Chairman of the Walt Disney Company and executive producer of the film, will be answering moviegoers' questions in a live online audio chat at the Fantasia 2000 Website ( on Friday, June 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 E.D.T.

It was Disney's personal quest to fulfill his Uncle Walt's vision of creating a "concert film" with a perpetually changing musical repertoire. In his chat, Roy will discuss everything that went into his lifelong dream to make this film, from choosing which pieces of music would make the final cut to determining the style and look of each piece.

At the Fantasia 2000 Website, online moviegoers can tour Roy Disney's office (inside the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat in the Animation Building in Burbank), as well as see what life is like in the animators' studio and on the scoring stage. Also available are study guides, photos from last year's Fantasia 2000 World Tour and Millennium Gala, and information about the eight animated segments, including "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a milestone piece of animation which was the genesis of the 1940 feature in addition to the seven spectacular new animated sequences set to the music of the masters.

Created over a nine-year period and utilizing the talents of a new generation of animation talents, Fantasia 2000 takes viewers on a journey into the imagination using incredible animated imagery, exquisite classical music and state-of-the-art technology.

A Walt Disney Pictures presentation, Fantasia 2000 was executive produced by Roy Edward Disney and supervising directed by Hendel Butoy. Donald Ernst served as producer and Don Hahn directed the film's live-action introductions. Supervising the direction of the film's other animated segments are Eric Goldberg, Pixote Hunt, Francis Glebas and Gaëtan & Paul Brizzi. David Bossert served as artistic coordinator and visual effects supervisor for the film's seven new animated pieces. The film, which is distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, opens June 16 for a limited four-week engagement.

The Secret Behind The Powerpuff Girls
According to USA Today:

"Everyone's college project should be so lucrative.

Trying to come up with characters for his sophomore animated student film at the California Institute of the Arts, Craig McCracken drew three young girls with big eyes. He turned them into genetically enhanced superheroes and sold his idea to the Cartoon Network, where The Powerpuff Girls has become the network's highest-rated original series, viewed by 1.9 million weekly.

The network says Powerpuff T-shirts, books, dolls and other accessories will sell $100 million in merchandise this year. A Powerpuff CD featuring rock groups like Devo and Bis comes out July 17. And on Monday, the network and Warner Bros. announced plans for a feature film, the first based on a Cartoon Network show and planned for release in summer 2002..."

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

LA Times: The Titan Animation Battle with Disney
According to the LA Times:

"For veteran animators Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, it must seem like an unpleasant sense of deja vu all over again.

In 1997, 20th Century Fox made its first foray into feature-length animation when the studio released their musical Anastasia, only to see the Walt Disney Co. step in and re-release its 1989 animated classic, The Little Mermaid, on the same day.

On Friday, Fox will roll out Bluth and Goldman's latest animated effort, the big-budget, galactic adventure Titan A.E. Lurking in the wings again with the power to dampen Fox's hopes is none other than Disney, which is releasing its G-rated Fantasia 2000 on the same day that the PG-rated Titan A.E. bows.

Goldman, who co-directed Titan A.E. with Bluth, said it comes down to Disney not wanting any other studio to gain a foothold in animation. 'It's their territory,' Goldman said. 'We're stepping on their turf.'

Bluth charges that 'Disney would like to monopolize the animation business, which I think is totally wrong. By monopolizing it, it won't grow. It needs to grow. I would hope that someway they'd grow up, mentally, and let it happen, but they don't seem to...'

Click here for the full story.

Box Office Results
Here are the Box Office results for last weekend's animated films:

$8.8 Million ($2,696 per screen average - 27% decrease)
4th at the Box Office (down from #3 last weekend)
Total to Date: $110.4 Million

The Road to El Dorado
$145,831 ($646 per screen average - 13% decrease)
29th at the Box Office (down from #26 last weekend)
Total to Date: $50.2 Million

The Tigger Movie
$124,694 ($431 per screen average - 2% increase)
33rd at the Box Office (down from number 32 last weekend)
Total to Date: $44.9 Million

Toy Story 2
$73,131 ($724 per screen average - 12% increase)
43rd at the Box Office (up from #51 last weekend)
Total to Date: $245.4 Million

Monday, June 12, 2000

Fox Counting on Titan A.E. to be a Giant Hit
According to the Philadelphia Daily News:

"Hoping to attract the elusive young male audience, 20th Century Fox is set to unleash Titan A.E. June 16. The dark, animated science-fiction feature has a rock 'n' roll attitude and a young, rebellious hero at its center.

Titan A.E. (which stands for Titan After Earth) was conceived as a live-action drama. But Fox executives determined the film might be more interesting and less expensive to produce in animated form. So Fox chairman Bill Mechanic turned to his animation people, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, who made the 1997 animated musical Anastasia. Their assignment: an animated film adolescent boys would want to see.

Acknowledging that the target demographic is generally turned off by animated films, Bluth and Goldman decided they had to create something different and darker. They eschewed the bright colors of kid-targeted animated fare for the moodier palette used in contemporary action comic books..."

Click here for the full story.

Sunday, June 11, 2000

DreamWorks Shrek to See IMAX Screens
DreamWorks SKG and Imax Corporation announced a that DreamWorks will release an animated film in 3D to IMAX theatres. In December 2001, Dreamworks' Shrek , the upcoming animated film featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow and Linda Hunt, will be presented in 3D at IMAX theatres. The film will be initially released in conventional 2D in 35mm on May 18, 2001, and will feature an enhanced ending filled with 3D effects and created just for the IMAX 3D release.

"Animation is a constantly evolving artform," said DreamWorks SKG principal Jeffrey Katzenberg, "and releasing Shrek in 3D form for IMAX theatres will hopefully mark the next step in how audiences experience these films. To tell a story in animation is always exciting ... but to know that this fractured fairy tale will be shown eight stories high and in IMAX 3D is thrilling for us at DreamWorks Animation. Luckily in Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow and Linda Hunt, we have a cast that is already big ... but it just got a whole lot bigger."

The IMAX 3D version of Shrek will be distributed by Imax Ltd. to the growing worldwide network of IMAX theatres, coincidental with DreamWorks' home video release of the film in December 2001. The home video and IMAX 3D launches will be cross-marketed to maximize the impact of both releases.

"We're delighted that DreamWorks has decided to extend the Shrek franchise by selecting IMAX 3D as a release window," said Imax co-CEOs Bradley J. Wechsler and Richard L. Gelfond. "We believe that the combination of The IMAX 3D Experience and the creative talents of DreamWorks SKG will revolutionize the way people experience animation. This film will continue our evolution as a unique family entertainment option, and firmly establish the IMAX theatre network as a release window for family-oriented Hollywood films."

Shrek is a cynical, no-nonsense ogre whose swamp has been overrun by annoying fairy tale creatures. He sets out to save his home and along the way, is befriended by a wise-cracking donkey, sent to slay a fire-breathing dragon and save a beautiful princess with a deep, dark secret. In the end, Shrek learns to love and be loved.

Saturday, June 10, 2000

ABC Kills "Clerks" After Two Episodes
It only took ABC only two episodes of "Clerks" to realize that the animated show was not a proper match for the network. On Friday, ABC announced that after two weeks of poor ratings "Clerks" was being placed on the chopping block. No more episodes will be aired, effective immediately. "Clerks" was the pet project of Kevin Smith who produced an animated movie by the same name in 1994. It is the second straight animated television series to be canned by a major network this year. "God, the Devil, and Bob" was the first to be canned by NBC.

Chicken Run Site Opens
Animation Artist Magazine opened its Chicken Run Website today for Animation Artist readers. The Website is located at . It includes a detailed behind the scenes look at the movie, news, a gallery, artist listing, reader feedback section, and more.

There have been some inquiries as to the Animation Artist Titan A.E. Movie Site since Titan A.E. opens before Chicken Run. FOX, who is distributing Titan A.E., has yet (despite requests) to provide Animation Artist Magazine with background material, which could delay or cancel the Titan A.E. site all together. Normally studios provide Animation Artist Magazine with detailed information three or more weeks in advance of the film's release.

Screening Room Publishes Movies
Recently, the number one visited area of Animation Artist Magazine, outside of the home page, has been the
Animation Artist Screening Room where aspiring animators can have images critiqued by other students or professionals. Now Animation Artist Magazine is publishing movie files along with images. Screening Room #1 now contains a movie file that readers can critique. Another movie file is being added on Monday.

Friday, June 9, 2000

Wild Brain Wraps Animation for Rocky & Bullwinkle
Wild Brain, Inc. has completed 11 minutes of animation for the Universal Pictures summer theatrical release, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, opening nationwide June 30. The 15,820 frames of 2D animation make up a four-minute opening sequence, a three-minute end and credit sequence, and several minutes of animation and animation effects interspersed throughout the film. Veteran animation director, and Wild Brain co-founder, Phil Robinson directed the 18-month project.

The film opens with a traditionally animated black and white flashback segment, which takes us back to the woeful time when our heroes' cartoon series was cancelled. We then catch up with them -- in color -- in the present. Rocky and Bullwinkle are now back in run-down Frostbite Falls, subsisting on ever-diminishing royalty checks, when an unexpected call from Hollywood beckons. They head to Hollywood to combine celebrity stardom with international intrigue, and morph into the live-action world to fight their old nemeses, the Evil Trio of Boris, Natasha and the Fearless Leader.

Robinson stayed true to the original style of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" while using contemporary touches and techniques to bring the characters to life on the big screen. A director of many classic series from the 1970s ("Yogi Bear," "Scooby Doo,"), Robinson was acutely familiar with the techniques of limited animation. "'Rocky and Bullwinkle' is a wonderful example of the strong, graphic style of the early '60s that used simple, stylized animation to complement the wit and commentary of the writing," said Robinson. "I had to find a style that echoed the original look but would please today's audiences who are more used to seeing fluid animation."

Robinson made the characters' movements more elastic and buoyant than in the original, which he accomplished by using more drawings per second. To stay true to the vintage look, however, certain poses were held static with just the mouth or arm animating as necessary. Major pose changes were more fully animated.

Wild Brain collaborated with Industrial Light & Magic to create several sequences which combine traditional animation with live-action. ILM provided Wild Brain with background plates of the live-action scenes which were then printed out, one frame at a time. The animators analyzed the still frames to establish where the main thrust of the movement occurred and how the humans were reacting to the 2D characters. Additionally, light sources were scrutinized to determine how highlights and shadows should be drawn into the scene.

Robinson also designed a new character, "Weasel," for the film. Drawn in a modern, snappy style that suits the hyperkinetic character's constant motion, Weasel was especially challenging to integrate into the live-action. One scene particularly highlights the demands of the extensive movement: the Evil Trio attempts to execute Weasel using CDI (Computer Degenerative Imagery) technology. Weasel literally bounces off the walls as he struggles with the Trio's henchmen as they pull him to the CDI device, where he is blasted with a series of highly charged, animated light beams.

Another challenging segment was a continuous shot that begins with the Fearless Leader's (played by Robert De Niro) live-action eye. The camera moves into an extreme close-up of the eyeball, which morphs into a rotating planet Earth. The camera zooms into the planet, through layers of clouds, into the mountains, down a country road following a car, and then dissolves back into a perfectly matched live-action shot.

"Our crew met a lot of tough challenges, but we thrived on the excitement of trying so many new things," said Robinson.

Thursday, June 8, 2000

Disney Characters, Including Mickey Mouse, to Endorse Frito Lay
Toon Disney, Disney/ABC Cable Network's 24-hour, all-animation channel, and Frito-Lay Inc. are teaming up this summer to bring the spirit of Disney animated characters to more than 80 million packages of Frito-Lay products.

In addition to significant media and on-package advertising, the campaign -- titled "Look for Magic in the Bag" -- will feature an instant-win game offering cash, Frito-Lay product and Toon Disney prizes.

The multibrand, multiproduct campaign is set to run beginning today, June 5, through July 8, 2000. The agreement marks the first time Toon Disney, one of the fastest-growing emerging cable networks, has partnered with an outside party for a promotion of this type and size.

"This partnership with Frito-Lay represents a new landmark for us in that `Look for Magic in the Bag' is the single largest off-channel promotion yet created for Toon Disney," said Adam Sanderson, senior vice president, marketing, Disney/ABC Cable Networks.

The "Look for Magic in the Bag" promotion will run in Frito-Lay distribution channels nationwide. During the promotional period, more than 80 million packages of Frito-Lay supermarket-size products, including selected Lay's, Cheetos, Ruffles, Doritos and Fritos products, will feature a "Call your cable operator for Toon Disney" message.

Additionally, Toon Disney's logo will be featured on approximately 10 million collectible instant-win prize cards. One of six different Toon Disney characters will also be featured on the cards, which will include from $5 to $100 cash or a redeemable certificate for a Toon Disney premium item or Frito-Lay product.

Frito-Lay will support the promotion with a multimillion-dollar media campaign, which includes local television promotion, in-store POP and merchandising. Additionally, the promotion will receive on-air exposure in support of Toon Disney's "Fab Five Fourth" programming stunt.

Toon Disney lets Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto set off the fireworks on Independence Day, Tuesday, July 4, 2000. To celebrate the festivities, the network will spotlight Disney's "Fab Five" in a special July Fourth marathon. For 12 hours beginning at 11 a.m. ET/PT, Toon Disney will showcase more than a dozen animated specials, some of which are compilations of the characters' most treasured cartoons.

Newsletter Tonight
A new issue of the Animation Artist Newsletter will be emailed tonight to subscribers. Included in the newsletter will be Animation Artist Magazine's initial impressions of Titan A.E .. To sign up for the free Animation Artist Newsletter,
click here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Chicken Run Gets "G" Rating!
The Motion Picture Association of America has given Chicken Run a "G" rating, making it the first animated film distributed by DreamWorks not to have a "PG" attached to it. Chicken Run, by Aardman Productions and in association with Pathe, is 85 minutes long. It is being released in New York and Los Angeles on June 21 and throughout the U.S. on June 23. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can catch Chicken Run on June 21 at the AMC Century 14 in Century City.

Titan A.E. Screened Digitally Last Night
Cisco Systems Inc, the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, and Twentieth Century Fox, joined forces last night to make motion picture history when Cisco became the first company ever to digitally transmit a film over a coast-to-coast IP (Internet Protocol) network.

Fox's animated action adventure epic, Titan A.E . was transported across the nation and digitally premiered at the Supercomm trade show in Atlanta yesterday evening. Through a highly secure network based on the latest Cisco technology, the movie was transferred from Fox's studio in Los Angeles via Qwest Communications International Inc.'s CyberCenter in Burbank, Calif., to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta for an unprecedented all-digital theatrical experience. The network uses Internet technology from Cisco including Cisco 12000 Series Internet routers running over a high-speed fiber backbone and Cisco 7140 Virtual Private Network (VPN) and security routers with integrated firewall and hardware Triple DES encryption.

Titan A.E . features the vocal talent of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, Janeane Garofalo, Nathan Lane, and John Leguizamo. The film opens nationwide on June 16.

"Titan A.E. represents the next generation of filmed animation, with the most ambitious marriage ever of 3D and cel animation. We are especially pleased to play a part in this landmark event, where the film will be transported via Cisco's New World Internet technology and will be screened using cutting edge digital technology," said Chris Meledandri, president of Twentieth Century Fox Animation Studios.

"We are excited to work with Twentieth Century Fox to support the first-ever digital projection and distribution of a movie over a Cisco New World network," said Larry Lang, vice president of service provider marketing at Cisco. "Such cutting-edge applications using the Internet not only revolutionize movie creation and distribution, but will drive innovation in myriad other industries as well. Just as the Internet has enabled industries of all kinds to increase flexibility, decrease costs, and explore new opportunities, Digital Cinema has the potential to bring great benefits to the entertainment industry. We are pleased that Fox has given us the opportunity to demonstrate this revolutionary distribution and screening method through the premiere of Titan A.E."

Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Box Office Results
Here are the Box Office results for last weekend's animated films:

$12.0 Million ($3,626 per screen average - huge 52% decrease)
3rd at the Box Office (down from #2 last weekend)
Total to Date: $96.8 Million

The Road to El Dorado
$168,378 ($344 per screen average - big 46% increase)
26th at the Box Office (down from #22 last weekend)
Total to Date: $50.2 Million

The Tigger Movie - Rereleased/Expanded Screens
$122,897 ($349 per screen average - higher than El Dorado)
32nd at the Box Office
Total to Date: $44.7 Million

Toy Story 2
$65,280 ($544 per screen average - huge 56% decrease)
51st at the Box Office (down from #41 last weekend)
Total to Date: $245.4 Million

Pixar Debuts New Short Film
Pixar Animation Studios held the world premiere of its newest short film, "For the Birds", yesterday at the Annecy Film Festival in France. The film will premiere in the U.S. at the 27th annual Siggraph Conference in New Orleans on July 24, 2000.

"For the Birds" is directed by Ralph Eggleston and produced by Karen Dufilho. John Lasseter is executive producer. "For the Birds" is a story about a flock of small birds perched on a telephone wire and a larger bird that tries to join them. The unwelcome bird upsets the flock, and they decide to get rid of him.

"For the Birds" continues the Pixar tradition of creating short films that explore the creative and technical possibilities of animation. Ralph Eggleston makes his directorial debut at Pixar with "For the Birds". Ralph joined Pixar in 1992 as the Art Director of Toy Story , for which he won an Annie Award for Best Art Direction. He currently serves as Production Designer for one of Pixar's future feature length films.

"It's exciting that Pixar continues to actively produce and support short films," said Eggleston. "Making 'For the Birds' was hard work and a lot of fun, and our crew's amazing creative collaboration has resulted in a film we believe everyone will truly enjoy."

"Pixar sees immense value in preserving the short film as an art form and using it as a development tool for our creative and technical teams," said Dr. Edwin Catmull, Pixar's Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer. "The skills these professionals learn and polish are invaluable as we move toward our goal of creating one feature film a year."

Monday, June 5, 2000

Dinosaur Drops 52% at the Box Office
Weekend estimates are in and Dinosaur dropped 52% at the Box Office when compared to the Friday - Sunday results from the previous weekend (Memorial Day weekend). Dinosaur is slowing down a bit, on course to make less money than last year's Tarzan . Weekend estimates had Dinosaur making $12 million to bring its total to $96.8 million. In the same number of days last year, Tarzan was at $105 million. In just a few weeks, Dinosaur will face tough competition from Titan A.E., Fantasia 2000, and Chicken Run. Final Box Office numbers will be published in tomorrow's update.

The Matrix Wins MTV Awards
The Matrix ran away with the Best Picture award at the MTV Movie Awards over the weekend. In addition, Keane Reeves won Best Actor for The Matrix and Best Fight, shared with co-star Laurence Fishburne.

Sunday, June 4, 2000

New Animation Soundtracks Heading to Stores
Two new soundtracks for animated movies are heading to store shelves. This Tuesday, the soundtrack for Titan A.E. will be released and on June 20 the soundtrack for Chicken Run will hit stores. Don't expect any background scores on the Titan A.E. soundtrack, however. It's music consists mainly of songs from artists and groups like Wailing Souls.

Saturday, June 3, 2000

Virtual Actors Replacing Striking Hollywood Actors
According to USA Today:

"Actors striking against the advertising industry should look over their shoulders.

The ad industry is finding ways to replace these unhappy artists with their high-tech doppelgängers: virtual actors.

If this plot sounds like a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it's not science fiction.

Advertising executives say the strike by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) is spurring some advertisers and ad agencies to accelerate efforts to create ads with more computer animation and less human talent.

The ad business has always used computer wizardry to push products. Coca-Cola, for example, had hit ad campaigns with the computer-generated Max Headroom in the '80s and polar bears in the '90s. Nissan delighted TV viewers with its animated ad, Toys, a few years ago, and Anheuser-Busch's talking frogs and lizards have been going strong for five years.

But special-effects technology is now developing to the stage where advertisers are able to do more than make cute toys or animals..."

Click here for the full story.

Universal to Open Chicken Run Maze
Chickens are coming home to roost at Universal Studios Hollywood starting June 10 with the debut of Chicken Run Maze, a new attraction based on the DreamWorks Pictures and Aardman Studios' animated film, Chicken Run, featuring an interactive walk-through maze and a behind-the-scenes look at the wonders of clay animation.

Opening nationwide on June 23, Chicken Run is a production of Aardman Animations. The film is presented by DreamWorks Pictures in association with Pathe. Chicken Run tells the story of a flock of brave chickens who are determined to escape from the farm before they can be turned into chicken pot pies. Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park, from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, the film is produced by David Sproxton, Lord and Park. Aardman Animations' previous credits include the multiple Oscar-winning "Wallace & Gromit" animated series.

The exclusive Chicken Run Maze adventure begins in a re-created hen house where guests will be treated to a special behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, including actual models and video monitors illustrating the magical and detailed process of clay animation. Behind-the-scenes footage will feature the voices of some of the film's stars, including Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha and Miranda Richardson. The film also features the voice talents of Jane Horrocks, Lynn Ferguson, Imelda Staunton, Benjamin Whitrow, Tony Haygarth, Phil Daniels and Timothy Spall.

Guests will be transported through the great comedic escape, a plot hatched by the chickens to liberate themselves from the clutches of the sinister farmer, Mr. Tweedy. They'll retrace the chicken prints of the daring and spectacular escape plan, moving through a series of winding underground tunnels and finding themselves face to face with the farmer and his angry dog.

Other challenges include a giant chicken pot pie machine and the dreaded Chicken Shredder Machine, a rotating tunnel in which guests elude the peril of whirling blades. After guests elude these dangers, they finally reach freedom at the Chicken Sanctuary. Chicken Run Maze will be located adjacent to the Blues Brothers Stage at the entrance of the theme park.

Friday, June 2, 2000

Anime Convention Opens in Texas
Today marks the first day of the A-Kon Anime convention going on at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport Hyatt Regency - Terminal C. The three day anime event is being dubbed "The Southwest's Largest Anime Convention." Daily passes vary. Today the cost is $19 for the day. Tomorrow the cost is $23 for the day and on Sunday the cost is $17 for the day. Special guests include Takada Akemi, the character designer/illustrator for Kimagure Orange Road, Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura, Creamy Mami, Fancy Lala, and Mobile Police Patlabor, among others. Also Kugayama Rikako, Bijoki Junction, and Shawn the Touched are at the convention.

The Dallas Observer today published an article about the convention titled "Con Artists." The article begins:

"Is there such a thing as an armchair anime fan? It seems that Japanese animation has spawned an exclusive subculture. It's exclusive in that you can't crash it unless you really know your anime and unless your fondness for the medium defines you; it's a subculture because those not into it have no desire to be--those anime people are, you know, weird and stuff.

We don't intend to offend anyone. In fact, we'd hope that if any people would revel in being rather exclusive and a little different, it would be the sort who travel from all around to go to Project: A-Kon."

Click here for the full story.

Titan A.E. in Digital First on June 6
Twentieth Century Fox and Cisco Systems, Inc. will join forces to make motion picture history when Cisco becomes the first company ever to digitally transmit a movie over a coast-to-coast IP (Internet Protocol) network. TITAN A.E., a new animated action adventure epic by Twentieth Century Fox, will be delivered from Fox's CyberCenter in Los Angeles to Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta for its premiere showing at SUPERCOMM 2000. Titan A.E . will hit theaters on June 16, 2000.

Disney Limits Fantasia 2000 Run
Disney is limiting its widescreen theatrical release of Fantasia 2000 to only four weeks. Opening on June 16, opposite of Titan A.E., Disney is advertising that the theatrical release will be pulled after airing for four weeks in numerous select cities.

Thursday, June 1, 2000

"Clerks" Fails to Grab Large Numbers in Premiere
ABC's "Clerks" failed to grab large numbers according to overnight ratings. Despite appearing after a strong showing of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and "The Drew Carey Show," Kevin Smith's "Clerks" landed near last place of the four major networks. "Clerks" ratings were 6.3/19, easily beat by CBS ("Species") and NBC ("NBA Tipoff and game"). Only Fox's "An Evening with Santana" performed worse with a close 6.1/19 rating.

Softimage Ships Softimage/XSI System
Softimage Co., a subsidiary of Avid Technology, Inc, today announced the first shipment of its 3D animation Softimage/XSI system. The Softimage/XSI system is a significant breakthrough in the international digital media industry because it allows animators in the broadcast, feature films and games industries to take advantage of its non-linear animation system. Within the first few weeks of availability, Softimage anticipates delivering the new software to over 17,000 users worldwide.

"Softimage/XSI represents a tremendous amount of hard work, talent and energy from Softimage and we are extremely proud of it," said Marc Petit, vice president of 3D products for Softimage. "This project has been an amazing challenge from day one. The mandate was simple: completely re-invent a piece of software that had set the standard in the industry and redefine the benchmark."

Softimage offers digital artists, who create professional animation and visual effects, two varieties of the Softimage/XSI system: Essentials and Advanced. Softimage/XSI Essentials (Version 1.0) replaces the Softimage 3D system and is available for $7,995. For artists who push the limits of animation, the Softimage/XSI Advanced package includes: simulated Particles, Softbodies and an additional mental ray license and is available for $11,995. International prices may vary.


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