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Sydney-based Yoram Gross Film Studios, which made a green dragon named Tabaluga into a multimedia hero in Europe and Australia, is plunging onto the airwaves with an animated TV series based upon “Flipper.”

Production of the first 26 half-hour episodes of “Flipper & Lopaka,” about the famous dolphin and his friend, was completed late last year. An additional 26 segs are in production and slated for completion in June 2001. Series has been sold in most major international territories.

“Tabaluga,” a series of 26 TV episodes airing throughout Europe and Australia, follows a dragon and his battle with an evil snowman. Skein has aired in more than 90 territories worldwide, generating a twice-weekly magazine program in Germany.

Toon innovation

Producer-director Yoram Gross used Cambridge, England-based Cambridge Animation Systems’ Animo software for both series.

“We are able to keep the feel of traditional animation by scanning in hand-drawn images while speeding up the process considerably by using Animo to paint and composite,” said Simon Leadley, technical director at Yoram Gross Studios.

Led by Gross, the studio in Sydney has completed 15 feature films and six TV series, with three more in production. A producer of Australian animation for the international market, the studio in 1996 entered a joint venture agreement with Village Roadshow, whose 50% share in the studio was acquired by Germany’s EM.TV & Merchandising in March 1999.

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Argus Intl. of Moscow is giving animated life to E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” The 70-minute feature, which includes Tchaikovsky’s original score, is skedded for worldwide theatrical and small-screen release in 2001.

A two-minute excerpt for the feature was awarded the gold world medal for animation in the television programming and promotion competition at the 1999 New York Festivals and has been selected to compete in this year’s Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival in June in Annecy, France.

Moscow’s Argus Intl. is an independent film studio employing 150animators, painters and background artists. Studio was established in 1991 as a Russian-German joint venture and in 1992 began offering “Art Lyceum for Animation,” a two-year training program for animation artists and other professionals working in animation. Argus recently installed Animo software system for digital ink-and-paint and integration with Maya, a 3-D design program.

Argus is also using Animo to create animation for a children’s TV series, “The Detective Duo.” In each 15-minute episode, sleuths Ivan and Mitrophan pal around while investigating criminal activity. Six episodes are airing on Russian TV and a world showing is planned for next year.

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Filmmakers have been invited byEscambia County, Fla., to blow up its jail in Pensacola. Artisan Entertainment had previously planned to use the location for a project that is now on hold.

The two-story jail, built in 1954, contains group and individual cells, an exercise yard, holding cells and original equipment. Even the original air conditioners work, according to Pensacola film consultant Denise Daughtry.

“The jail was scheduled for demolition, but we’ve put that on hold. You’re welcome to redress it, blow it up, burn it down, stage a riot inside, vandalize it or anything you want to it,” Daughtry said. “The perfect set, equipped with authentic props, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week —and no pesky prisoners holding up your shooting schedule.”

For info, contact Denise Daughtry via e-mail at daughtry@email.com and view the site at filmpensacola.com/jail.

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The Dallas/Fort Worth Film Critics Assn. and the D/FW Regional Film Commission selected Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and Sony’s “Arlington Road” as winners of their seven Lone Star Awards at the 30th annual USA Film Festival, which concluded May 4 at Dallas’ AMC Glen Lakes Theater. The awards are voted annually by the 35 members of the association for the best films and performances shot in Texas and released during the previous year.

“Boys Don’t Cry” took top honors for best film (producers Eva Kolodner, Christine Vachon, Jeffrey Sharp and John Hart), director (Kimberly Peirce), screenplay (Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen), actress (Hilary Swank) and supporting actress (Chloe Sevigny).

Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins won actor and supporting actor nods, respectively, for “Arlington Road.”

Texas locations doubled for “Boys Don’t Cry” Nebraska backdrop, as well as “Arlington Road’s” Washington, D.C.

The evening was also part of a series of Women in Film/Dallas festival programs featuring accomplished women directors.