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Building A Hollywood Buzz

Building A Hollywood BuzzWith two major projects earning high marks from critics, two Tufts graduates are turning heads in Hollywood with their production company. New York City.

Boston [04.17.03] Two years after Cary Granat announced he was leaving the top post at Dimension Films to form a movie production company with college roommate and respected Boston teacher Michael Flaherty, the 1990 Tufts graduates are proving they know how to capture children's imaginations. With two major projects earning high marks from critics - including a 3-D exploration of the Titanic wreckage led by filmmaker James Cameron - Granat and Flaherty's Walden Media is turning heads among Hollywood executives and kids alike.

› E-News: A New Dimension For Kids Entertainment
› NY Times: Putting the 'Hip and Cool' Back in Family Films

"Walden Media released its first two Hollywood movies this month, and they're anything but Mickey Mouse," reported the Denver Business Journal. "Walden teamed with Walt Disney Pictures to release ‘Titanic' director James Cameron's ‘Ghosts of the Abyss' documentary and ‘Holes,' based on the popular children's novel of the same name."

Both projects combine Walden's founding principles: educate and entertain. "Walden Media is zeroing in on what they call the underserved market for high-quality family and youth entertainment," reported The New York Times.

It's a vision forged from a combination of its founders' former jobs: film studio exec and high school teacher.

"After 12 years working for major movie studios - the last five at Dimension - Cary Granat left to join his Tufts University roommate Michael Flaherty, Walden Media's co-founder and president," reported New York's Daily News. "While Granat was at Dimension luring teens to audiences with gore-fests like ‘Scream,' Flaherty was an acclaimed Boston inner-city educator."

The duo compared their experiences:"I told him about my box office grosses, he told me about how he was improving test scores," Granat told the Daily News.

A partnership was forged and Walden was born.

Filled with high-tech effects and some bold gambles, Walden's first big film, "Ghosts of the Abyss," is a $13 million 3-D underwater exploration of the Titanic wreckage. The IMAX film has impressed many.

"The film shows, in pixel-packed clarity, details of the wreck's interior that have never been seen before," reported the Daily News. "The documentary recreates how the Titanic must have looked when fully loaded and operational, and superimposes those images onto the illuminated wreck."

Cameron and his crew used a brand-new state-of-the-art 3-D camera system developed specifically for the project, the first big-screen release for the acclaimed director since his 1997 blockbuster hit "Titanic."

"When I was creating ‘Titanic,' I was telling a love story against this backdrop of historical fact," he told the Daily News. "People didn't really see past the foreground story, necessarily, nor should they have. But it made me realize there were so many stories to be told. So for me the research to make this film was to test the 3-D camera systems, have another cool adventure, and explore the interior of the wreck for archeological and historical purposes."

The project has high entertainment value, but doesn't lose sight of opportunities to educate. Earlier this month, Walden and Tufts' Center for Engineering Educational Outreach teamed up to organize a robotics competition for 4th - 8th grade students. More than 75 students designed robots to search for "artifacts" in a scale-model recreation of the Titanic wreck.

"We are proud to partner with Tufts to hold this competition," Flaherty, a 1990 Tufts grad and Walden's President, said. "'Team Titanic' helps kids get excited about math, science and engineering and underscores our commitment to helping students find exciting and unusual ways to stretch their learning far beyond traditional textbooks."

While the Tufts duo makes time to educate, they show no signs of slowing down following its recent big-screen releases.

"For one of Hollywood's newer teams, Granat and Flaherty cannot be accused of thinking small," reported the Times. "Their remake of ‘Around the World in 80 Days' with Jackie Chan has now moved to Europe from shooting in Thailand... At least six other projects are lined up for the next 18 months."

Continuing the partnership it forged with Disney on "Ghosts," Walden is working on another project expected to make a huge splash at the box office.

"The Walden-Disney team also is making ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,' the first live-action movie adaptation based on ‘The Chronicles of Narnia' by C.S. Lewis," reported the Denver Business Journal. "The movie is being directed by Andrew Adamson, who helmed ‘Shrek,' which won the 2001 Academy Award for best animated feature film."

Many expect the film to be a major hit, due in part to Granat's past successes attracting kids to his films.

"Under Granat, Dimension made a name for itself with hits such as ‘Spy Kids,' which grossed $112.7 million in 2001, and 2000's ‘Scary Movie,' which cost $19 million to make and grossed $227 million," reported the newspaper. "The Tufts University graduate also was behind the wildly successful ‘Babe' when he was an executive at Universal Pictures."

Walden Media photo courtesy New York Times

 

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