Good morning. It’s Monday, April 30, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few questions this week is Jim Ballantine, Managing Director, Flying Bark Productions. A 25-year animation industry veteran, Ballantine has worked in feature animation development at Disney, as well as a producer for Nickelodeon’s cult classic animated series The Ren & Stimpy Show. He also produced Brother Bear 2 and Bambi II for and later for DisneyToon Studios, and later served as Head of Production at Acme Filmworks. In 2010, Ballantine became Director of ASE Studios (f/k/a Avrill Stark Entertainment) and Managing Director of Flying Bark in Australia. Flying Bark Productions. The company was founded in 1968 by Yoram and Sandra Gross as Yoram Gross Film Studios, a family-based animation studio that has since developed into a worldwide producer of live-action and mixed media TV and movie properties for kids and families. Yoram Gross made headlines with its feature film Dot and the Kangaroo (1977) and its series Blinky Bill (1992), the latter based on a kid’s book by Dorothy Wall. In 2006, EM Entertainment purchased the remaining 50% share of Yoram Gross-EM TV and the production house was re-named Flying Bark Productions. In 2008, EM Entertainment was acquired by Belgium-based Studio 100.
You worked on Disney’s animated feature film The Little Mermaid (1989). What did you do on the movie?
I was the Production Administrator on The Little Mermaid. Back in those days, there were only a handful of people in production, so I did everything from liaising with the directors, producers, actors and musicians to managing all of the video reference footage. We had over 250 artists working with pencil and paper. It was the last movie that Disney did that used acetate cels and huge multiplane cameras.
At the time, did you and the others working on the movie have a sense that the movie was going to reinvigorate Disney’s animated feature film business? (Were there specific things about the production that led you think this way?)
It was an exciting time to be at Disney. A new generation of artists was coming into their own. Howard Ashman came from Broadway with the script and the songs. Ron Clements and John Musker had done The Great Mouse Detective and this was their first classic fairy tale. Jeffrey Katzenberg had just started at Disney and he was pushing the story team to be more contemporary. There were also some great projects in the pipeline, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, etc. I think we knew the movie would be entertaining in the way that classic children’s fairy tales always strike a chord with audiences… but I’m not sure we anticipated how The Little Mermaid would become such a classic.
You also worked on Nickelodeon’s The Ren & Stimpy Show, eventually as a producer. Why do you think those characters found such a loyal audience?
Funnily enough, 35% of our audience was adults. We tore the envelope apart for a kid’s show. Nickelodeon’s Standards and Practices department had a real tough time with us. There was nothing like Ren and Stimpy, the way it was drawn, the intensity of the acting, the sheer entertainment. We had amazing painters and animators (3 episodes were done here in Sydney, directed by Deane Taylor). We had 45 different fart sounds, high pitched, wet, you name it. Even 20 years later, there still isn’t anything like it. I was watching an episode the other day where Ren and Stimpy take off their ‘suits’ to go skinny dipping. I mean, it’s so outrageous, so peculiar, so delightfully anarchic.
What is your best advice about dealing with creative talent? (Either the best advice you’ve been given or now give to others…)
Respect. It takes a lot of courage to approach a blank page and draw or write or paint something original. Talented artists that can invent something fresh, something new, they need to be supported and nurtured. The best shows come from people with a singular vision. Committees make boring shows.
Can you give us an update on the Blinky Bill 3D feature film announced in fall 2011?
I’m excited to report that Blinky Bill is in great shape. The absolute cream of Australia’s animation talent is on board. There are some truly amazing artists working on the project and we are continuing to sharpen the story and the look. We are purpose building a new pipeline and sharpening the story. We are now heavily into casting and building the characters and environments.
What Flying Bark Productions now in the works are you most excited about? (Why?)
I’m very excited about The Woodlies, a great new 3D series based on Cornelia Funke’s (of the Inkheart series fame) novel, No Cookies For Trolls. The show premieres on May 5, 2012 on Seven Network, and in Germany it’s been number one in the ratings for Ki.Ka, the biggest kid’s channel in Germany. The Woodlies has also been nominated for best series in this year’s Stuttgart Animation festival.
Flying Bark Productions has a tremendous history, previously known as Yoram Gross. What is the origin of that name and what did it mean to those of you who worked there?
Yoram and Sandra Gross are pivotal figures in the history of Australian animation and we’re incredibly proud to carry on their legacy. As for the name Flying Bark, its origins lie in some particularly, er, colourful Aussie slang!
You’re a 4th generation Hawaiian and now live in sunny, beautiful Sydney. Do you think that living in those places have an impact on your approach to your work?
The quality of life in Sydney is phenomenal it’s a truly fabulous place to live. Australian artists value their life/work balance. I work hard, but when I’m at the beach, I remember that it’s only cartoons. The animation community in Sydney is vibrant and very welcoming. And on a recent visit to Hawaii, I found out from my 105-year-old aunt that my great great grandfather was a missionary from Tasmania! So maybe part of this is destiny for me.
Author Neil Gaiman‘s (Coraline, The Sandman, Stardust, and so many others) novel The Graveyard Book has been acquired by Disney for a feature film adaptation of the title, per THR. Gil Netter (Marley & Me, Life of Pi) and Ben Browning will produce the movie. Director Henry Selick, who co-wrote and directed the stop motion animated version of Gaiman’s Coraline for Laika, as well as James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas) may helm The Graveyard Book feature film. Disney is not the first to try its hand at bringing The Graveyard Book to the big screen, with Miramax giving it a go in 2008, others who tried to develop the project include Neil Jordan, Chris Columbus and his 1492 Productions, and a CGI animation studio Framestore.
Steve Kloves, screenwriter for almost all of the Harry Potter movies, is reportedly in talks to pen and direct a live-action feature film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book, for Warner Bros., per Variety. Kloves also wrote the screenplay of Warner Bros. Akira, and Sony’s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012), The Wonder Boys and wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys, among others. Disney released its well known animated musical movie Jungle Book in 1967 (and The Jungle Book 2 in 2003), as well as a live-action version in 1994.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
What are you waiting for?
We’ve announced the Cynopsis Kids !magination Award finalists, now join us in saluting them at the Awards breakfast!
Date: June 7, 2012
Time: 8:00-10:30 a.m.
Location: Le Parker Meridien, NYC
LICENSING Plus Licens’ Plus Licens & Design Tokyo is appointed as licensing agent for Paws, Inc.‘s Garfield in Japan. Under the agreement, Plus Licens & Design Tokyo will represent all Japanese merchandising, promotional and publishing rights for Jim Davis’ Garfield brand. Davis’ classic Garfield comic strip character is now licensed and/or syndicated in 111 countries. Plus Licens has worked with Garfield for more than two decades, including successful licensing programs in the Nordic region and Eastern Europe.
CBS Consumer Products expands its CSI franchise, based on the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, to reach kids with the launch of its kid-targeted CSI: Live! stage show in Europe for the first time, beginning in Spain and Portugal. Lemon, a producer of kid’s shows in the Iberian Peninsula, will produce the interactive live show. Launching this May in Portugal, The CSI: Live! tour coincides with Imagine Words’ debut of the middle grade-targeted Club CSI: Book Series in Portugal. The show, aimed at kids 8+, was created by Mad Science Productions and has toured the US and Canada since 2008.
Casio America is partnering with actress, bestselling author and noted mathematician Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) in support of its new Prizm calculator. Under the deal, McKellar will serve as a spokesperson for Casio’s Prizm, and will be featured in a photo and video shoot for the calculator as well as providing content for use through various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. The Prizm graphing calculator includes a color display and strong graphing features, and Casio’s proprietary Picture Plot technology, enabling users “to perform meaningful mathematical equations on top of real-life images… ” McKellar’s three books focus on helping young girls gain confidence in math, specifically pre-algebra and algebra.
MORE KIDS STUFF
Nick at Nite welcomes the live-action family comedy Year, Dear (122×30) to its lineup on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Year, Dear, which stars Nickelodeon alum Mike O’Malley (Glee, GUTS), can be seen Monday-Friday at 11p on Nick at Nite. The series originally aired on CBE (2000-6).
Kid’s science author Seymour Simon and StarWalk KidsMedia publish Simon’s latest Spanish-language photographic eBook, Los Planetas Alrededor del Sol (The Planets Around the Sun), for Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The title releases today, April 30, which in many Latino cultures is El Dia Del Nino (Children’s Day), while here in the use it is Children’s Book Day. Targeted to kids in kindergarten through second grade, the title is a newly updated version from the SeeMore Readers book series, and is the first in that series to be released as a digital book. The book, which also comes with free downloadable trading cards, will also be available in English.
Cynopsis Kids !magination Awards Finalists have been announced! For a full listing of all the finalists, and to register for the June 7 Awards Breakfast in NYC click here http://www.cynopsis.com/events/kids-awards.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; April 27-29, 2012:
Think Like A Man (Sony) PG-13 $18.0m-2 wk total $60.9m
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Sony) PG Opening Weekend $11.4m
The Lucky One (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $11.3m-3 wk total $39.9m
The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) PG-13 $11.3m-6 wk total $372.5m
Chimpanzee (Disney) G $5.5m-2 wk total 19.2m
The Three Stooges (Fox) PG $5.4m-3 wk total 37.1m
Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media) PG $2.2m-5 wk total $58.9m
Wrath of The Titans (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $1.9m-5 wk total $80.5m
Titanic 3D (Paramount) PG-13 $1.9m-4 wk total $56.3m
Lockout (FilmDistrict) PG-13 $944,323-3 wk total $13.3m
Source: Rentrak (www.rentrak.com)
Sprout is promotes Adrienne Byrd to SVP/Legal and Standards and Practices and Meredith Halpern-Ranzer to VP/Creative. Both have been with Sprout since its inception. Byrd, who had been VP/Legal and Standards and Practices, continues to report to Sprout’s President Sandy Wax. Byrd will maintain her oversight of the business and legal affairs department and standards and practices for the network, and as chief legal counsel, ensures that the network is in compliance with all FCC and FTC regulatory issues. Before joining Sprout, Byrd served as a member of Comcast Corporation’s legal in-house team. Halpern-Ranzer, who was most recently Sr. Creative Director, will continue to report to Andrew Beecham, SVP/Programming. In her new position she will oversee and provide strategic and creative direction for network branding and promotions, and is responsible for developing and overseeing production of original interstitials and programming blocks. Previously, Halpern-Ranzer toiled for Sesame Workshop for eight years as a producer and editor and prior to that she was an editor of independent and documentary films.
Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products bolsters its executive roster with the appointments of Nabil Kazi as VP/Global Promotions and Morgan Chess is promoted to VP/Digital Strategy and Commerce. Both Kazi and Chess will report directly to Fox Consumer Products President, Jeffrey Godsick. In his new position, Kazi will set the global licensed promotions strategy for Fox’s TV properties. An entertainment marketing veteran, Kazi served in several positions at Disney, including Disney Consumer Products and ABC Television Network, and most recently as VP/Global Marketing and Publicity Disney Animation and DisneyToon Studios. Chess will handle digital and e-commerce strategy planning for Fox Consumer Products’ portfolio. She had been Director/Digital Marketing, Fox Studios, where she oversaw the Digital Marketing campaigns, including programs such as the Angry Birds Rio app, as well as the Rise of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men First Class online campaigns. Chess previously held a position at Universal McCann for Sony Pictures Entertainment where she handled Digital Media campaigns for popular franchises, as well as toiling at AOL Media Networks and Initiative Media.
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 748; K6-11 448; TWEENS 9-14 357
NICKELODEON: K2-11 706; K6-11 262; TWEENS 9-14 213
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 443; K6-11 274; TWEENS 9-14 251
DISNEY XD: K2-11 169; K6-11 121; TWEENS 9-14 137
NICKTOONS: K2-11 93; K6-11 52; TWEENS 9-14 42
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data
Answer to Our Last Trivia Question: Mr. Twiddle is the zookeeper for what animal? Wally Gator. Kudos to: Pat Brady-CESD/LA; Jeph Loeb-Marvel Television, Inc/Glendale, CA; Brett Ashy-The Ashy Agency/LA.
Today’s Trivia Question: What famous cartoon character was influenced by a Red Skelton’s, Sheriff Deadeye? (Email John@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)
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