Pixar’s troubled feature has taken a new turn, and is hopefully sailing on calmer waters. In late October, Pixar announced- via Twitter- that Pete Sohn has been promoted to the director’s chair. Previous, Sohn had manned the co-directors position under Bob Peterson, before he was removed from the project in 2013.
Walt Disney Animation Studios announced Thursday that it has tapped Jennifer Lee to join Chris Buck at the helm of its 53rd full-length animated feature, Frozen, which is slated for the big screen on November 27, 2013.
Lee, who has contributed to the film’s screenplay, is one of the screenplay writers of this year’s arcade-hopping adventure Wreck-It Ralph.
The comedy-adventure Frozen features the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel.
When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.
Frozen producer Peter Del Vecho says that the match-up is perfect: “Jenn has a real connection to the film and creates dynamic and relatable characters. Her sense of comedy, adventure and story structure, paired with Chris Buck’s vast experience and incredible instincts, create an ideal situation for this film.”
Lee’s screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is being produced by Troika Pictures. She has an original screenplay in development with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, and her original script Lucid Dreams was optioned by Wolfgang Peterson’s Radiant Productions. Lee holds an MFA in Film from Columbia University and a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire.
Buck directed (with Kevin Lima) Disney’s 1999 high-swinging feature Tarzan, which won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Music/Original Song (Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart“). He directed (with Ash Brannon) 2007’s Oscar-nominated Surf’s Up for Sony Pictures Animation. His credits within animation also include 1989’s The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and Pocahontas (1995).
With original songs by Tony Award winner Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (In Transit), Frozen appears in Disney Digital 3D in select theaters. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/DisneyFrozen.
Rainmaker Entertainment Inc. has appointed feature film and TV executive Michael Hefferon as president and executive producer, Craig Graham, newly appointed chairman and CEO of the Vancouver-based CGI animation production studio, announced.
The appointment of Hefferon reflects Rainmaker’s continuing expansion into both areas of client CGI animation services, as well as original production with entertainment partners worldwide, such as the studio’s partnership with the Weinstein Company on the upcoming feature film Escape From Planet Earth.
Hefferon joins a team of professional animation and creative talent at Rainmaker led by Kim Dent Wilder, senior vice-president of production and operations.
Hefferon brings to his leadership role at Rainmaker an extensive career in the TV and feature film industry, having produced more than 500 half-hours of programming for television and numerous theatrical motion pictures. Hefferon joins Rainmaker Entertainment from Bardel Entertainment, where he served as vice-president of business development and executive producer, and oversaw the Vancouver animation company’s numerous high-profile productions and associations with broadcasters worldwide.
He previously served as managing director of Australian CGI animation company Flying Bark Productions PTY Ltd, and as senior vice-president of production and development for German animation studio BFC Berliner Film Companie Productions GmbH, where he also was co-producer on the animated feature film Happily N’ever After.
Earlier in his career, Hefferon headed up animation co-productions for Gullane Entertainment/HIT Entertainment and served as vice-president of production and development for Toronto-based animation company Catalyst Entertainment. Hefferon also was founder and President of Phoenix Animation, his own studio, which quickly gained a reputation as a high-quality production studio with such credits as FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Thumbelina, A Goofy Movie and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2.
Hefferon will continue to serve as executive producer on his current series projects with Bardel Entertainment.
In addition to Hefferon’s appointment, Bardel Entertainment CEO Delna Bhesania was appointed to Rainmaker’s board of directors.
“We are extremely pleased to announce Michael Hefferon’s appointment to Rainmaker Entertainment. Michael ranks among the top echelon on television and film production and business executives whose extensive experience and impressive track record of success will prove to be of great benefit to our company as we continue our growth as a co-production partner and animation service provider,” said Graham.
“At the same time, we are delighted to welcome Delna Bhesania to Rainmaker’s board. A globally recognized animation executive, we look forward to Delna bringing her wealth of animation experience to our group.”
Nickelodeon has named Jill Sanford vice-president of animation development for the Nickelodeon Group.
Sanford will be responsible for all aspects of development from concept to pilot, including all creative and production. The announcement was made by Jenna Boyd, the Nickelodeon Group’s senior vice-president of animation development, to whom Sanford will report.
“Jill’s creative expertise and proven track record of overseeing animated hits makes her a terrific addition to the Nickelodeon animation team,” said Boyd. “Her keen eye for identifying unique ideas and talent will be a huge asset as we continue to grow our hit Nick animation brand.”
In her new role, Sanford will research and develop show ideas, and will oversee scripts, creative, legal, casting and staffing for pilots. Additionally, she will help oversee the comedy shorts program and partner with Nick’s short form development team to find and shepherd the next generation of animated hits.
Prior to joining Nickelodeon, Sanford held several positions during her nine-year tenure at The Walt Disney Company, where she most recently served as the director of original series for Disney Television Animation. She was the lead current series executive for Disney Channel’s animation series Phineas and Ferb, Fish Hooks and other projects in development.
Prior to moving to Disney Television Animation in 2008, Sanford worked in both development and current series for live-action and animated series for Disney Channel. She also held positions at Fox Sports Net and commercial production company Hungry Man. Sanford earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American literature and culture from the University of California Los Angeles. She was also named to Multichannel News’ list of “40 under 40″ in 2011.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s annual base salary will increase 150% from $1 million a year to $2.5 million under a contract extension reached with the studio.
Katzenberg’s term as CEO will now run through 2017. His previous contract had run until the end of 2014.
He will also be eligible for $4 million a year in cash bonuses. According to United States Securities and Exchange Commission, he will also be eligible for long-term equity incentives of $4.5 million. These have been reduced from $8 million under his previous agreement.
In addition, Katzenberg will be compensated for such business expenses as private aircraft use for business-related travel and security personnel.
The new terms stipulate that if DWA changes owner, Katzenberg could collect his compensation for the rest of the current contract or for two years, whichever is longer.
Meanwhile, Ann Daly’s term as chief operating officer has been extended through 2017, too. Her annual base salary is being hiked from $1.012 million to $1.5 million.
Daly will be eligible for $750,000 in annual cash bonuses this year, which will be doubled in 2013. She also will be eligible for annual long-term equity incentives of $3.5 million, up from $2.5 million under her earlier agreement.
Under a new agreement, general counsel Andrew Chang’s annual salary increases from $460,000 to $550,000, starting next year. The agreement runs until January 1, 2016.
[Via The Hollywood Reporter – www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jeffrey-katzenberg-ann-daly-up-384615]
Roger Enrico has resigned as chairman of the board of directors for DreamWorks Animation, effective immediately, the company announced Thursday.
DreamWorks Animation’s board of directors has named fellow board member Mellody Hobson as his successor.
Enrico had served as chairman of DreamWorks Animation since its inception as a public company in 2004. He formerly served as chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, Inc., where he spent 31 years.
“Roger has been an invaluable leader to our board of directors, and his guidance helped put DreamWorks Animation on a path to success from day one,” commented studio CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “On behalf of the board of directors and our entire management team, I’d like to deeply thank Roger for his unfailing service over the past eight years and wish him the very best in the future.”
DreamWorks Animation has announced they have promoted Lincoln Wallen as their new CTO, replacing current CTO Ed Leonard. DreamWorks Animation has juts released Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and is releasing the highly anticipated Rise Of The Guardians next month.
Wallen joined DWA in 2008 as head of research and development, and has recently risen to head of animation technology. He has also served as CTO at the game company Electronic Arts Mobile where he was instrumental in shaping EA’s approach to the mobile business. Prior to joining EA, Lincoln was with Criterion Software and MathEngine. His early career involved 20 years of professional IT and mathematics research, including two years as BP Venture Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, and latterly as a Reader in Computer Science at the University of Oxford.
Former CTO Ed Leonard is now running a mobile app effort called Ptch which started at at DreamWorks. Leonard was instrumental in transitioning DreamWorks Animation to a LINUX as its core operating system for the production of animated films
Former Warner Bros. Entertainment president Alan Horn has been named chairman of the Walt Disney Studios effective June 11, Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced Thursday.
The move is an attempt to reverse the missteps that led to partly animated movie disaster John Carter. Horn begins slightly less than former chairman Rich Ross resigned — a move widely seen as serving as the fall guy for sci-fi bomb John Carter, a $200 million money-loser.
Horn, 69, will oversee worldwide operations for The Walt Disney Studios, including production, distribution and marketing for animated and live-action and films from Disney, Pixar and Marvel, as well as marketing and distribution for DreamWorks Studios films released under the Touchstone Pictures banner. As well, Disney’s music and theatrical divisions will report to Horn.
Horn has been a prominent figure in the film and TV industry, overseeing creative executive teams responsible for some of the world’s most successful entertainment properties, including the Harry Potter film franchise and the hit series Seinfeld.
“Alan not only has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in the business, he has a true appreciation of movie making as both an art and a business,” said Iger. “He’s earned the respect of the industry for driving tremendous, sustained creative and financial success, and is also known and admired for his impeccable taste and integrity. He brings all of this to his new role leading our studio group, and I truly look forward to working with him.”
“I’m incredibly excited about joining The Walt Disney Company, one of the most iconic and beloved entertainment companies in the world,” said Horn. “I love the motion picture business and look forward to making a contribution as part of Bob Iger’s team working closely with the dedicated and talented group at the studio.”
“To me, he seems like the best of both worlds,” said UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter. “People who want successful franchises can say, ‘Look, we’ve got Alan Horn.’ People who want riskier productions can say, ‘Hey, we’ve got Alan Horn.'”
A day before the announcement, Iger told an analysts’ conference that he was looking for someone who could give consistency. “We’ve got a business that has done well on the animated front and on the Marvel front, but our results on the live-action front have been inconsistent this year in particular,” Iger said. “The goal is to find a management team that is capable of creating higher-quality films under the Disney live-action banner on a more consistent basis.”
Disney hopes to produce two animated movies per year under the Disney or Pixar banners.
Horn was most recently president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment, where he had oversight of the studios’ theatrical and home entertainment operations, including the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Premiere (direct-to-platform production), Warner Bros. Theatrical Ventures (live stage) and Warner Home Video. During his 12-year tenure, Warner Bros. Studios was the global box office leader seven times.
Among the numerous critically acclaimed films and box office hits released during his tenure is Happy Feet.
Before joining Warner Bros., Horn co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, where he served as chairman and CEO. He oversaw the creation of many critically acclaimed and beloved films, including Best Picture Oscar nominees A Few Good Men, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, as well as When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, In the Line of Fire and the most successful show in television history, Seinfeld. Horn has also served as president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and was chairman and CEO of Embassy Communications.
He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the Museum of Broadcasting. He serves on the board of directors of the American Film Institute, as a vice-chairman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a co-founder of the Environmental Media Association, is on the board of trustees for the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, and is on the board of Harvard-Westlake School.
Blame it all on an embarrassment of Rich’s.
After less than three years in the job, Rich Ross has quit as chairman of the Walt Disney Company’s movie studio.
Under his watch, the Mouse House released this spring’s partly animated John Carter, one of Hollywood’s biggest bombs in recent years. The big-budget science-fiction saga had been years in the development, with costs zooming to over $250 million.
In March, Disney announced that it anticipated about $200 million in losses for John Carter, causing the studio to have $80 million to $120 million in operating losses overall for the movie division.
Last year, another Mars-set movie, the animated Mars Needs Moms, lost $70 million.
Disney will not name a new studio head immediately, said a source familiar with the circumstances.
“The best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities,” Ross — named as chairman in October 2009 — told his staff in an e-mailed memo Friday. “I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”
“For more than a decade, Rich Ross’ creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney,” Bob Iger, CEO of the entertainment giant, said in a statement. “I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next.”
Ross, 50, “was a superstar at the Disney Channel, and the results at the studio have not been exceptional,” said Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould. Nonetheless, he expressed surprise that Ross was leaving. Gould noted his success when president of the Disney Channel, where he created such blockbuster franchises as High School Musical and Hannah Montana.
One analyst blamed his exit on his inability to forestall major writedowns.
“At some level, he takes responsibility for not fixing them or shutting them down,” said Needham & Co. equity analyst Laura Martin. “They need to lower the risk of entry and build franchise films from that base. Not go all-in, hoping it works out.”
Ross joined Disney in 1996 as Disney Channel’s senior vice-president for programming and production. He was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility before being named Disney Channel president in April 2004. Due to his success at the Disney Channel, Iger chose him to succeed longtime chairman Dick Cook, whom Iger forced out, as head of the Disney Company’s film division.
Prior to his tenure at Disney, Ross was a member of the executive team that launched FX Networks. Ross also held several senior positions from 1986 to 1993 at Nickelodeon, where he oversaw talent booking, casting and program development, and was involved in the launch of the channel’s first successful syndicated show and its first international network.
Ross is a member of the board of directors for Hollywood Radio Television Society and Cable in the Classroom — an organization that represents the cable telecommunication industry’s commitment to education. A native of New York and a 1983 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International and English, Ross received his J.D. degree from New York’s Fordham University in 1986.
Analyst Gould expects that investors will be affected little by Ross quitting, as Disney’s much-larger theme-park and cable network businesses are much bigger influences on the company’s financial results.
Disney shares rose 34 cents (0.8%) to $42.42 in Friday afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
David Stainton has suddenly resigned as head of Paramount Pictures’ fledgling animation unit, just four months after he was hired, the studio announced Wednesday.
Stainton left his job for “personal reasons,” said the studio. It would not give further details on why he and Paramount parted ways.
“We are grateful for the time David spent at the studio and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” Paramount Motion Picture Group president Adam Goodman said in a statement.
The studio said that Goodman will directly supervise the animation development team from now on.
Stainton was hired by Paramount last October. Earlier, he was a 17-year veteran at Walt Disney Studios.
He rose to president of feature animation at the Mouse House, staying in that job until early 2006, when Disney bought out Pixar Animation Studios.
Stainton became chief of Paramount’s animation unit after it was established last year following the release of Rango, which has been nominated for an Oscar for best animated film.