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Columbia TriStar renders bugs and more to CGI life

Although Starship Troopers: Bug Wars, which makes its debut on BKN this fall, is the first all-3-D/CGI toon undertaken by Columbia TriStar, more computer-animated product is on the horizon, including another series. The new Sony Pictures Entertainment division, headed by president...
June 1, 1999

Although Starship Troopers: Bug Wars, which makes its debut on BKN this fall, is the first all-3-D/CGI toon undertaken by Columbia TriStar, more computer-animated product is on the horizon, including another series. The new Sony Pictures Entertainment division, headed by president Sander Schwartz, will also develop DTV and features product, in addition to TV for the underserved ‘post Barbie, pre-Dawson’s Creek’ demo of girls ages seven to 12, and may look to partner with international niche producers who can bring financing to the table. The unit will also look at live action.

Of course, traditional cel-animated series are also alive and well at the division, which will launch Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot (based on the Dark Horse comic book title) and Dragon Tales (a co-production with CTW) this fall on Fox Kids Networks and PBS respectively.

According to VP of creative affairs Bob Higgins, the studio leapt into the Starship Troopers project with some trepidation, due to producers’ lack of experience with the CGI medium and potential unforeseen problems that might impede production schedules and force the project over-budget. ‘We wanted to ensure that we were not just doing CGI for the sake of doing CGI,’ says Higgins. ‘But [show creator] Richard Raynis was bound and determined to do it in CGI, and found a way to make sure we were comfortable with the process.’ Former DreamWorks TV Animation whiz John Skeel was brought onboard as technical supervisor. An expert on cost-effective CGI production for TV, Skeel hired two California-based CGI shops-Flat Earth and Foundation Imaging-to produce the animation on the 40 x half-hour series.

Based on a Robert Heinlein novel and a recent Columbia TriStar feature film, Starship Troopers: Bug Wars pits teenage humans against monstrous insects in a classic tale of good versus evil. The toon lends itself especially well to computer animation due to its outer-space location-uncharted universes are easier settings to create than realistic earth and sky-plus its bug- and vehicle-intensive story lines. According to Higgins, the fact that central characters wear space suits is helpful. ‘If the characters are in big bulky space suits, it’s not necessary to create a high level of grace to their movements,’ he notes, adding that the primary limitation of CGI lies in creating realistic human body movements and facial features. Bugs and vehicles, however, are more compelling in CGI than in 2-D animation, he adds.

Skeel says that budget-wise, CGI animation is similar to cel. ‘CGI is very much like 2-D cel in that some shows come in at US$200,000 per half hour, and some at US$700,000. You get what you pay for, and production time [requirements] vary,’ he notes.

News in Brief

Grunge queen Courtney Love is jumping into the movie biz, partnering with music manager Janet Billig to form Epitome Productions. The new entity’s first project will be a romantic comedy feature for teens called I Think We’re Alone Now, which will be financed and distributed by Dimension Films.

Cisneros Television Group has launched Cl@se, the first multimedia educational channel for the Latin American TV market. Broadcasting directly to schools via Galaxy Latin America’s DIRECTV satellite service, Cisneros hopes to reach 10 million kids ages six to 18 by 2001, with edutainment programming such as Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus, Beakman’s World and Eyewitness, and on-line support materials and educational guides at www.clase.net.

Galavision, a U.S. Spanish-language cable net, is launching the first-ever cable block of edutainment for preschoolers en espanol. Starting June 7, Galamiguitos (translates into Gala’s Little Friends) will air weekdays from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The block contains three series-Humphrey (an original production starring a guy in a bear suit who teaches kids traditional Latin American songs), a Spanish-language version of Big Comfy Couch and Salsa (a puppet series that teaches kids Hispanic culture).

Nickelodeon UK has picked up a programming package from Cinar Europe that includes rights to The Adventures of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse, Arthur and Are you Afraid of the Dark?

U.K. cable supplier CWC has inked a carriage deal with Discovery Networks, Europe for all of Discovery’s European services, including Animal Planet.

Walt Disney International, Discovery Kids and Nick Australia have all acquired the first 26-ep run of Incredible Story Studio, a live action, half-hour series based on stories written by kids, from Regina, Canada-based prodcos Minds Eye Pictures and Verité Films.

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