up on AOL Time Warner (CNET).
Foundation moves to New York (Washington
influence reflected in AOL Time Warner moves (The
The AOL-Time Warner
The ongoing problems of AOL-Time
Warner, which is a significant player in animation, seem to go forever.
The company, which resulted from the purchase of Time Warner by Internet
giant America Online in 2001, has been falling apart at the seams and
has become the subject of much speculation and gossip. In short order,
we have seen the successive resignations of Time Warner's Gerald Levin
and AOL's Steve Case, who engineered the deal in the first place, followed
by the angry departure of vice chairman Ted Turner; this was topped by
the announcement the company would take a $98.2 billion loss for 2002,
the largest ever by a American corporation. The loss was due to the decline
in value of the AOL unit; and as the original deal was valued at $112
million, the merger can only be seen as a complete and utter disaster.
While the failure has been
attributed by many to the collapse of the dot.com economy, it is also
one of several victims, including Disney and Vivendi Universal, of the
merger mania that stalked media giants during the last decade. (In one
respect, Disney shareholders can be thankful that CEO Michael Eisner resisted
Wall Street pressure to buy Yahoo!, that other Internet giant whose stock
has taken a giant tumble.) AOL's handling of the combined company was
a textbook case of how not to handle a merger.
Before the takeover, Time
Warner was something of a house of cards, with each unit being operated
as its own fiefdom; thus, animation was being produced by several different
parts, including The WB, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner
Bros. Classics and Warner Bros. Feature Animation. Though this seemed
rather messy, it actually worked quite well. For instance, on paper, there
was no reason for the Cartoon Network to set up its own studio and take
away production of such shows as The Powerpuff Girls from Warner
Bros. Animation; but in reality, the new operation has been very successful.
AOL took over it sought to rationalize these and other discrepancies in
the corporate structure; the trouble was these units were quite happy
the way they were and often resented their new masters. This was not helped
by AOL forcing all Time Warner companies to use their technology for their
Internet needs; the problem was the technology was not up to the task
and caused so many problems that the companies were told to go back using
their old service providers.
resentment expressed among the troops was made visible by Ted Turner's
outspoken remarks. Pissed off by management incompetence and the sharp
decline in the value of his stock holdings, he not only resigned but has
been selling off all his stock. (He was the company's largest stockholder.)
question is, how has this affected the company's animation operations?
Warner Bros. Animation, which had taken over the failed Warner Bros. Feature
Animation unit in 2000, has actually managed to keep the company active
in the theatrical arena, despite the failure of Osmosis Jones.
The unit kept its hand in features last year by hiring out its facilities
to Sony to help complete Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights. It is
now in production on the animation for Joe Dante's live-action comedy,
Looney Tunes: The Movie, under the direction of Eric Goldberg.
put the Turner cable operations, including the Cartoon Network, under
the aegis of The WB. The consolidation resulted in The WB dropping several
major series, including Batman Beyond and the primetime Baby
Blues. However, Cartoon Network essentially picked up many of the
creative crew involved in the former and came up with its successful Justice
League. It also helped reinvigorate adult animation with its Adult
Swim programming block, which included putting on Baby Blues. The
Cartoon Network also remains one of the few outlets where independent
studios can get a fair hearing.
despite the continuing soap opera that is AOL Time Warner, it appears
animation really hasn't done so bad for itself there.
March 2, 2003
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