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Vinton Studios To Enter Feature Production

(September 07, 2001)
Vinton Studios announced the official appointment of Jeff Farnath as president and CEO of the company, and simultaneously detailed new entertainment and business strategies for aggressive growth and development.

Replacing former CEO Tom Turpin, Farnath spent the past year as CFO of the Portland- and L.A.-based studio, following his decade-long stint at Disney, where he served as senior VP and CFO for Walt Disney Feature Animation and Theatrical Productions.

Said Farnath, "We've pretty much hit the ground running, since I've had the past 12 months here at Vinton Studios to formulate long-term strategies for expanding our entertainment and commercial production businesses."

The award-winning Vinton Studios, best known for its trademarked Claymation and Foamation stop-motion animation processes, as well as being a leader in CG character animation, has recently produced some of the most innovative animated television series on primetime with "The PJ's" and "Gary & Mike" and produced memorable commercial campaigns for the California Raisins, M&M's and Nissan.

The studio has garnered an Academy Award, 11 primetime Emmys and numerous Clio awards, including three Emmys just announced for its work this season on "Gary & Mike," which aired on UPN and "The P.J.'s," inspired by and voiced by Eddie Murphy, which ran on The WB.

Said Farnath, "In addition to being the first studio to produce two stop-motion animation series in primetime on a weekly basis, we actually produced (in total minutes) the equivalent of eight animated feature films in one calendar year."

While the company will continue developing and producing prime time television series, television specials, and made for television movies and mini-series for both networks and cable outlets Farnath said the studio now plans to make a major move into feature animation.

"There is a real sweet spot for filling the non-holiday time periods with low and moderately budgeted animated features," Farnath added. "Vinton Studios have made incredible advances in production techniques over the last decade in the areas of stop-motion and CG animation, and our workflow between the two dimensional techniques is typically 50/50."

Said Farnath, "We are ready to fully leverage our creative and production talents to satisfying an unmet demand for high quality, mid-level budgeted animation in the theatrical marketplace. For family-oriented animation, the domestic box office breakeven point for our films can be as low as 25 million because of ancillary revenue from home video and consumer products."

Farnath announced that spearheading this drive, will be Entertainment Division President Jeffrey Auerbach.

Said Auerbach, "Over the years, the studio has nurtured a group of highly talented directors, animators and artists who are ready to take their work to the next level."

Auerbach added, "Plus, the scope of experience and vision that Farnath brings to the table is an immense resource for the launching of our strategies."

Another area of the company Farnath is positioning for major revenue growth is the new subsidiary of Vinton Studios, the Character Development Lab, helmed by its division President David Altschul, who has been with the studio since 1982.

Farnath expounded, "Here, Altschul is leading some of the most creative minds in the advertising industry to develop characters for brand-building; providing corporate clients and their campaigns a concentration of director and writer talent and experience not available anywhere else in the advertising world."

Altshul added, "In this field Vinton Studios stands alone in creating a process for building brand equity through characterization and storytelling. Not only is the product brought to through extensive television and theatrical campaigns, but by giving a personality to the product, Vinton Studios cements an actual bond with the brand."

Farnath worked in many different areas of the Disney Studios from 1990 to 2000. While at Disney Feature Animation, Farnath oversaw the completion of The Secret Lab, Disney's new digital animation studio, which last year produced the groundbreaking film, Dinosaur. Farnath also held the position of vice president of business development and finance for Buena Vista International and Buena Vista Home Entertainment in Latin America.

During this time, he spearheaded the creation of eight direct-distribution companies and was instrumental in establishing Disney as a major player in local film production in Latin America. Prior, he served as manager of finance and planning for Touchstone and Disney Television, overseeing live-action and animation production.

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