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15 items from 2003


'Ice' makers 'Weasel' in on kids book

21 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- 20th Century Fox Studios Animation, Blue Sky Studios and director Chris Wedge -- the trio behind the computer-animated hit Ice Age -- are looking to add a heroic weasel to their menagerie of quirky 3-D characters. Fox Animation has optioned rights to Wainscott Weasel, a children's book penned by young-adult author Tor Seidler, illustrated by Fred Marcellino and published by HarperCollins. Blue Sky, the computer animation facility behind Ice Age, would produce the 3-D animated project, with director Wedge expected to helm. Seidler is likely to serve as one of the screenwriters, though writers have not yet been lined up for the project. Before handling Weasel, Wedge must first complete Robots (in production and slated for spring 2005) and Ice Age 2. The purchase price for Weasel is in the low-six-figure range. »

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Brother Bear

10 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens

October 24

Brother Bear will be the last 2-D or cel animated feature cartoon to come out of Disney for a long time. Whether Disney, enthralled with the creative (and boxoffice) potential of 3-D computer animation, will ever return to traditional animation is an open question. But at least Disney bids farewell to 2-D in fine style. For Brother Bear is a playful movie that celebrates nature and the spirit world with striking imagery and a smooth blend of drama and comedy. The film should attract solid family business at the boxoffice.

Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker along with producer Chuck Williams also have fun with the layout and design: The film starts off in an earthen color palette and the standard 1.85:1 format. Then, at the moment the movie's central character, a native American youth named Kenai, is transformed into a grizzly bear, the screen shifts to more saturated colors and Cinemascope or a 2.35:1 format, thus opening up the rich vistas of the Pacific Northwest of 10,000 years ago to our startled eyes. It's a grand moment.

The movie begins as an old man relates a story to a group of young people in a cave, a story about himself and his two brothers. Years before, Tanana (Joan Copeland), the village shaman, gave the youngest brother, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), a totem to guide him through life. The totem, a carved bear, the symbol of love, disappoints him. This red-blooded brave would have preferred an eagle, such as the one given to his eldest brother, Sitka (D.B. Sweeny), or even the wolf that belongs to his brother Denahi (Jason Raize).

Later that day, when he discovers a bear has made off with his basket of fish, he hunts the grizzly down only to become trapped in the confrontation. His older brothers race to the rescue, with Sitka sacrificing his life to save Kenai. Heartbroken, Kenai vows revenge against the grizzly. Despite warnings from Denahi and Tanana, Kenai tracks the grizzly down and kills the animal. At that moment, the Great Spirits in the sky transform Kenai into a bear himself. So when Denahi comes upon the scene, he assumes this bear has now killed a second brother and moves to attack the bear, forcing Kenai to flee.

Tanana appears to the young man in a bear's body to explain that he was transformed by Sitka and that Kenai can find Sitka on the "mountain where the light touches the earth." While pondering this, Kenai encounters two dumber-than-dirt Canadian-accented moose (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas hilariously reprising their MacKenzie brothers routine as dimwitted moose). Neither Rutt nor Tuke has any idea where to find this mountain, but they do reappear occasionally for comic relief.

Becoming ensnared in a hunter's trap, Kenai is rescued by a chatterbox bear cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez) who not only frees him but claims to know where the mountain is. Reluctantly, Kenai takes on the cub as his companion for an adventurous trek through lively forests, glacial caverns and a volcanic field, all the while being tracked by revenge-minded Denahi.

The relationship between the put-upon Kenai and the gabby Koda is more than a little reminiscent of other recent cartoon "road" movies, say, the laconic mammoth Manfred and Sid the chattering sloth in Ice Age or even the loquacious donkey and the cranky ogre in Shrek. But this odd-couple pairing does lead to solid laughs, fueled in no small part by the wonderful comic patter of Suarez as Koda.

All the voice actors in fact are terrific, especially Moranis and Thomas and later Michael Clarke Duncan as Tug, a jovial bear who welcomes fellow bears at the annual salmon run. The mix of 2-D and 3-D effects gives this post-Ice Age wilderness startling, painterly beauty. Disney animators fill the landscapes with spectacular water effects, billowing clouds, drifting snow, volcanic mud pots and the brilliant hues of the Northern Lights aurora. The Cinemascope format gives a vastness to the scenery as if this wilderness goes on forever. The film also benefits from melodic songs written by Phil Collins in his second Disney cartoon outing and his first collaboration (with Mark Mancina) on a film score.

BROTHER BEAR

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker

Producer: Chuck Williams

Screenwriters: Tab Murphy, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman

Songs: Phil Collins

Music: Mark Mancina, Phil Collins

Associate producer: Igor Khait

Editor: Tim Mertens

Art director: Robh Ruppel

Background stylist: Xiangyuan Jie

Voices:

Kenai/Bear: Joaquin Phoenix

Koda: Jeremy Suarez

Rutt: Rick Moranis

Tuke: Dave Thomas

Sitka: D.B. Sweeny

Denahi: Jason Raize

Tug: Michael Clarke Duncan

Tanana: Joan Copeland

Mabel: Estelle Harris

Running time -- 81 minutes

MPAA rating: G »

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Pixar finds 87% profit gain

8 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The record-breaking success of Pixar Animation Studio's fifth animated feature, Finding Nemo, which has grossed more than $322 million domestically, boosted the Northern California studio's profit 87% for the second quarter, the company said Thursday. In his remarks, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs addressed the ongoing negotiations with Walt Disney Studios to continue the companies' distribution pact that expires in 2005. "We prefer to continue our deal with Disney if we can strike such a deal," Jobs said. "If not, there are several other studios interested." The companies' 1997 pact involves the companies co-financing and co-owning each Pixar feature, with Disney holding exclusive distribution rights. While Jobs would not elaborate on what a new deal with Disney would look like, analysts often point to the Fox-Lucasfilm deal, whereby Pixar would solely fund each of its films like Lucasfilm does and rely on Disney to distribute the films, paying the studio a fee similar to what Lucasfilm pays Fox. "Look at Warner Bros.' success with Harry Potter, look at Fox's success with Star Wars and Ice Age and look at Sony's success with Spider-Man," Jobs said. "There are several other viable options if we can't reach an agreement with Disney." »

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Drop in German first-half b.o.

11 July 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

COLOGNE -- Despite the success of local hit Good bye, Lenin! Germany's boxoffice receipts slid 12.2% in the first half of this year to just €399 million ($453 million), according to figures released Thursday by Nielsen EDI. This compares to a €476 million take over the same period in 2002, when The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ice Age and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone drove ticket sales skyward. Ticket sales were down 10.9% to 67.5 million compared with 80.7 million in the first half of 2002. Exhibitors blamed the drop on the unseasonably warm weather keeping people out of theaters and the paucity of blockbuster movies in the first half. »

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Boxoffice springs to second best

27 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Thanks to the powerhouse one-two punch of two sci-fi actioners, 20th Century Fox's X2: X-Men United and Warner Bros. Pictures' The Matrix Reloaded, the spring boxoffice season raked in the second-highest boxoffice and admission counts in history. The national boxoffice for the spring season was $1.42 billion -- down nearly 10% from last year's record $1.57 billion. And while second place is usually nothing to crow about, this year -- relatively speaking -- it is. The reason is that spring 2002 turned in a phenomenal performance at the boxoffice and the turnstiles, as receipts were an unheard of 40% higher than any spring season that had come before -- a staggering percentage jump in any comparative analysis, representing nearly a half billion-dollar increase from a year earlier. The film largely responsible for driving spring 2002 to its record heights was Sony's Spider-Man, which took in nearly $300 million by the end of the season. Fox's Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones chipped in a helpful $141.3 million in eight days, and the distributor's Ice Age added $115.4 million during the season. »

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FX houses seek to reinvent themselves as filmmakers

1 April 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

At the July 1998 Siggraph convention in Orlando, six top guns from the visual effects community took the stage and bemoaned the economics of their business, stating flatly that the only way VFX houses can remain viable is to get a piece of the gross or produce films of their own. Cut to five years later: ILM has had a few false starts, teaming briefly with Universal on an animated Frankenstein feature and a film version of Curious George -- neither of which has come to fruition -- and Tippett has had projects in development with the Walt Disney Co. But only one of the six effects houses has succeeded in producing its own movie: Blue Sky Studios' digitally animated Ice Age last year. That is not a tremendous amount of forward momentum given the passage of five years and an industry trying desperately to reinvent itself. But now, Digital Domain is set to give it a try. Two weeks shy of its 10th anniversary, DD is in postproduction on New Line's Secondhand Lions, starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osment and scheduled tentatively for a Sept. 26 release. Although it remains to be determined if Lions will succeed commercially, getting it made is one measure of success -- one the odds would seem to be against. As anyone remotely involved in the game can attest, there is a world of difference between creating giant dinosaurs and sleek alien spacecraft as a vendor company and developing scripts from scratch. Even the most accomplished visual effects supervisor might never have worn a producer's hat. But that hasn't stopped them from trying. »

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Boxoffice preview: Films must face full fun plate

28 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Military suspense, political comedy and end-of-the-world disaster scenarios will dominate the weekend. That's not a reference to what will be airing on TV news stations but a description of the three wide releases opening today. With the war in Iraq expected to escalate further in the next few days and the NCAA basketball tournament whittling down to the Final Four, there are a lot of distractions competing for the attention of moviegoers. It's a tough call as to whether Sony Pictures' Basic, DreamWorks' Head of State or Paramount Pictures' The Core will take the boxoffice trophy this weekend. Throw in the phenomenal performance of Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House, which is looking to cross the $100 million mark in its fourth week of release, and the weekend is up for grabs. Few expect this Friday-Sunday period to reach the staggering $130 million mark of last year's comparable frame, when Sony's Panic Room opened to $30 million and 20th Century Fox's Ice Age grossed $18 million in its second weekend. Rather, most are betting on all three wide releases each grossing in the low-to-mid-teens. »

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War, basketball, Oscars pose little b.o. competition

25 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Despite the lure of television coverage of the war in Iraq, the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the 75th annual Academy Awards, the boxoffice in North America was relatively strong for this time of the year. Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House racked up $16.2 million on its third consecutive weekend in the top spot, fending off four new wide releases in the process while slipping a slim 27%. The Steve Martin-Queen Latifah starrer has generated an admirable $83.3 million in 17 days and should be cruising past the $100 million mark in the near future. Altogether, the total boxoffice for the 109 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter was $97.5 million -- down 28% from the comparable frame last year. But it bears mentioning that last year's comparable weekend boxoffice was uncharacteristically high due to the $32.5 million debut of New Line's Blade 2 as well as the dazzling $30.1 million second weekend of 20th Century Fox's Ice Age. With the 2002 weekend taken out of the equation, this year's boxoffice is easily the biggest ever on this date. »

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'House' stays open at No. 1; 'Cody' spies $14.1 mil bow

18 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Amidst three new wide releases hitting the silver screen in theaters across North America this weekend, Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House brought down the top spot for the second consecutive session as the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah starrer pulled in a solid $22.1 million. The Adam Shankman-helmed comedy was off a better-than-expected 29% on its sophomore frame, moving its 10-day cume to $61.3 million. Altogether it was a relatively robust weekend at the boxoffice as the total for the 110 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter racked up $105.9 million. Not counting the comparable weekend last year, which pulled in $138.9 million but was somewhat of an anomaly because of the sensational $46.3 million debut of 20th Century Fox's Ice Age, this weekend's total was the second-highest on record and was 15% better than the next best gross for this date, which was $92 million reported in 2000. »

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Fox's German video distribution chief resigns

14 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

COLOGNE -- Bernd Lueckel will resign as head of distribution at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Germany at the end of this month, TCFHE said Thursday. Although the decision was expected, Fox and Lueckel declined to comment on the reasons for his departure. No replacement has yet been named. Since joining Fox's German video operations from German music label bellaphon in 1999, Lueckel has overseen the local release of such top titles as Dr. Dolittle, Ice Age, There's Something About Mary, Fight Club and the last two Star Wars films. He was also responsible for the VHS/DVD release of product from Fox's television library including The Simpsons, Ally McBeal and X Files, all of which have been major home entertainment hits here. Fox has got off to a strong start so far this year with the successful video release of Road to Perdition, Windtalkers and "Ali" in the German market. Lueckel's last release for Fox will be Minority Report, which goes to stores March 22. »

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$31.7 mil tab for BV 'House' party

10 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Comedy was the clear choice of moviegoers this weekend in North America as Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House brought down an estimated $31.7 million on its debut to close on the top spot at the boxoffice. The opening for the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah starrer, helmed by Adam Shankman, was the third best ever in March, behind 20th Century Fox's Ice Age and New Line's Blade 2, which brought in $46.3 million and $32.5 million, respectively. The debut for House also proved a career best for Martin, topping the $18 million debut of Universal's Bowfinger. The weekend's only other wide release was Sony's Tears of the Sun, which shone in the second spot. The Bruce Willis starrer from Revolution Studios took in an estimated $17.2 million. DreamWorks' Old School was still in session as the broad comedy seated itself in the third slot with an estimated $9.2 million, down a moderate 34% in its third frame. Miramax's Chicago moved up a notch into the fourth spot as the multiple-Oscar-nominated film tuned in to an estimated $6.9 million, off a scant 12% from a week ago. Paramount's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days found an estimated $6.75 million. So far, the Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson starrer has generated an estimated $86.9 million. »

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$31.7 mil tab for BV 'House' party

10 March 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Comedy was the clear choice of moviegoers this weekend in North America as Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House brought down an estimated $31.7 million on its debut to close on the top spot at the boxoffice. The opening for the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah starrer, helmed by Adam Shankman, was the third best ever in March, behind 20th Century Fox's Ice Age and New Line's Blade 2, which brought in $46.3 million and $32.5 million, respectively. The debut for House also proved a career best for Martin, topping the $18 million debut of Universal's Bowfinger. The weekend's only other wide release was Sony's Tears of the Sun, which shone in the second spot. The Bruce Willis starrer from Revolution Studios took in an estimated $17.2 million. DreamWorks' Old School was still in session as the broad comedy seated itself in the third slot with an estimated $9.2 million, down a moderate 34% in its third frame. Miramax's Chicago moved up a notch into the fourth spot as the multiple-Oscar-nominated film tuned in to an estimated $6.9 million, off a scant 12% from a week ago. Paramount's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days found an estimated $6.75 million. So far, the Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson starrer has generated an estimated $86.9 million. »

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Wedge chilling at Fox in five-year deal

28 February 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Warmed by the success of the animated Ice Age, nominated for an Oscar as best animated feature film, 20th Century Fox has signed the film's director, Chris Wedge, to a five-year, multipicture exclusive deal. Ice Age, Wedge's feature debut following the 1998 Oscar-winning short film Bunny, has taken in more than $378 million worldwide and moved more than 25 million combined DVD/VHS units. Wedge and Blue Sky Studios -- the animation company behind Ice Age that Wedge co-founded in 1987 -- are at work on their second digitally animated film, Robots, for Fox. That project, penned by veteran comedy scribes Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, will be designed by illustrator William Joyce. Voice talent is expected to sign on to Robots in the coming weeks. In addition to Robots, Wedge will executive produce a sequel to Ice Age that writing duo Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow are penning. »

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Wedge chilling at Fox in five-year deal

28 February 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Warmed by the success of the animated Ice Age, nominated for an Oscar as best animated feature film, 20th Century Fox has signed the film's director, Chris Wedge, to a five-year, multipicture exclusive deal. Ice Age, Wedge's feature debut following the 1998 Oscar-winning short film Bunny, has taken in more than $378 million worldwide and moved more than 25 million combined DVD/VHS units. Wedge and Blue Sky Studios -- the animation company behind Ice Age that Wedge co-founded in 1987 -- are at work on their second digitally animated film, Robots, for Fox. That project, penned by veteran comedy scribes Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, will be designed by illustrator William Joyce. Voice talent is expected to sign on to Robots in the coming weeks. In addition to Robots, Wedge will executive produce a sequel to Ice Age that writing duo Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow are penning. »

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ShoWest nod to 'Ice' man Wedge

27 February 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Ice Age director Chris Wedge has been named ShoWest 2003's animation director of the year. Wedge will receive his award March 6 at the Las Vegas convention's closing-night banquet. Wedge is co-founder and vp creative development at Blue Sky Studios, the 20th Century Fox-owned animation studio that created Ice Age. Before directing the computer-animated Ice Age for 20th Century Fox, Wedge directed Bunny, which won an Academy Award for best animated short film. Ice Age was the highest-grossing animated movie of last year. This is the first year that ShoWest has awarded a prize for top animation director. Ice Age is nominated for an Oscar in the best animated film category this year, the second year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized animated film with a separate category. »

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15 items from 2003


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