With Thursday’s announcement that MGM/UA has finally launched a new in-house TV/feature animation division and created a home entertainment prexy slot, it now looks like chairman/CEO Frank G. Mancuso’s overall exec team is in place.Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation will be piloted by recently upped exec VP Don Mirisch and staffed with an exec team responsible for the studio’s syndie strip”The Pink Panther,” which has been renewed for a second season. Meanwhile, Richard Cohen hasbeen tapped for the new position of MGM/UA Home Enter tainment prexy, where he is expected to beef up the studio’s presence in homevid and electronic publishing within growing new media. The key toon staffers are Paul Sabella, Mark Young, Kelly Ward and Jonathan Dern, who will all hold the title of MGM animation VP, reporting as a division to the just-hired John P. Symes, prexy of the studio’s newly re-constituted TV production arm. Among initial projects from the new cel arm are 20 half-hours of “The Pink Panther” for fall 1994 syndication, as well as the development of several series , longform and feature titles. Though Symes was unable to elaborate or name specific plans for his tenure, he did say titles should emerge “within the next two or three weeks.” “We will be challenging (our team) to come up with some programs on the firstrun side, realizing it’s a very crowded marketplace … We will also take the next step after ‘Panther’ using new opportunities on the feature side.” Symes added that “although Saturday morning is also very crowded, we hope to be competitive there.” His operation will also attempt to create several big-screen animation features that did not begin on TV. The new home entertainment team, Symes concluded, will be an integral part of the new creative structure at MGM. “MGM’s return to in-house animation production further underscores our intention to maximize the company’s position in a broad base of entertainment markets,” Mancuso said in a statement. “The ability to create and market animated properties is becoming increasingly significant with the growth of interactive media.” In home entertainment, MGM senior sales and marketing VP George Feltenstein and Ron Miele, senior VP of business affairs, will now both report to Cohen. Currently, MGM holds homevid distrib rights to more than 4,700 titles. This includes 2,950 classic films from the Turner/MGM library, approximately 1,100 in the UA library (including 100 more recent MGM/UA titles there) and 700 titles from the Cannon and Pathe libraries. Cohen was previously exec VP of Buena Vista worldwide homevid, where he handled product from the Disney, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures divisions. Mirisch, who has supervised for the series “James Bond, Jr.” and the “Panther” cel franchise, previously held slots at Hanna-Barbera, MCA, Fox and Polygram. Sabella, another Hanna-Barbera alum, was responsible for fare like “Fish Police,””Pirates of Dark Water” and “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Young also held a post at Hanna-Barbera and did work on the Fox feature “Once Upon a Forest.” Ward came to MGM/UA from MCA Family Entertainment, where he was part of developing “Back to the Future.” Dern comes to MGM/UA from DIC Enterprises, where he associate produced “Stunt Dawgs” and “Super Mario Bros.”
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