DIC taps Ellis

Exec to lead company's direct-to-video animated features effort

Disney-owned DIC Entertainment has tapped 20th Century Fox and Caravan Pictures production vet Riley Kathryn Ellis to spearhead its expansion into the direct-to-video animated features arena.

First project on the drawing board at DIC’s new “video premieres” division is a title based on the en-during “Madeline” children’s books. Also in the works is a feature-length installment of the continuing adventures of DIC’s popular “Inspector Gadget” cartoon sleuth.

The 80-minute “Madeline” vidpic is targeted for release in spring 1999. Disney’s Buena Vista Intl. and Buena Vista Television arms will handle worldwide TV and homevideo distribution.

Ellis, who reports to DIC prexy Andy Heyward, said it was the growth potential of the direct-to-video biz that attracted her to DIC after spending most of her career on the feature side.

Direct-to-video production “is a business that’s still in its infancy,” said Ellis. “It’s got no place to go but up, and at DIC we’ve got all of Buena Vista’s distribution strength and promotional backing. All of the studios are getting into this business, but Disney has really been the one that’s been successful with video premiere titles.”

DIC’s vidpic titles will generally be aimed at children and young teens, but because kids tend to watch their favorite homevideos ad infinitum, Ellis aims to make DIC’s titles stand out with storylines and characters that are engaging for moms and dads, too.

Ellis comes to DIC after stints as a senior veepee of production for 20th Century Fox, where she was involved with such films as “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”

As a producer for Caravan Pictures, she exec produced Eddie Murphy’s “Metro” and the Sinbad vehicles “Houseguest” and “First Kids,” among other projects. Most recently, Ellis produced the made-for “Flash” for ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” showcase.

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