Toon house founder hangs out new shingle

Animator Phil Roman has formed a new company in the wake of his exit last month from Film Roman, the animation shop he founded in 1984.

Roman said Friday the creation of Studio City-based Phil Roman Entertainment was spurred by his desire to return to a more "hands-on, bare-bones approach" to the animation biz. Roman, an industry vet who started out at Disney in 1955, still owns 36% of Film Roman through his stock holdings.

Sources close to the situation indicated that Roman left after clashes with Film Roman prexy and CEO David Pritchard, who was recruited in August 1997 to spearhead a turnaround at the company known for producing the animation for “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill” and other top cartoon series.

Film Roman has struggled ever since the company went public in October 1996. The firm is one of the industry’s top animation producers, but because Film Roman does not have an ownership interest in most of the shows it producers, it does not share in the back-end profits of megahits like “The Simpsons.”

Pritchard, whose mandate has been to broaden the company’s base and develop original projects, could not be reached for comment Friday.

At the time of Roman’s departure last month, Pritchard said in a statement: “Phil is a unique talent, and the impact he has made on the world of animated entertainment speaks for itself. We have every intention to continue with the creative passion he instilled in everyone who worked with him.”

Roman’s departure appears to have attracted the interest of at least one Wall Street takeover speculation fund, whose recent purchases of Film Roman shares drove the company’s stock price up to nearly $3.50 in mid-February before it settled back to the $2.50 range this month.

In other Film Roman news, former Universal TV prexy James McNamara has joined the company’s board of directors. McNamara, now prexy of JMM Management, aims to use his expertise in the international TV marketplace to advise Film Roman on co-productions and other deals.

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