- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

Flinch Studios represents a new breed of Web site designer. The group works with clients such as public relations giant Manning Selvage & Lee PR and Diva TV to create interactive, animated pages for the Internet.

"Every company would be best served by creating more entertaining ways to brand their content both in the real world and on line," said Chris Takami, president of Flinch Studios.

"A company like Anheuser-Busch spends a lot of time creating instant consumer awareness of Budweiser in the real world and those same companies will begin to feel the demand for creating an Internet presence that is just as powerful."

Based in Los Angeles, Flinch's 25 artists and content developers work with Macromedia Flash technologies to create unique animated identities for clients' on-line presence. One notable effort is the musical video for artists Blink 182 designed for showcasing at Eruptor.com.

Introduced in mid-1998, the Flinch Studio site features the type of engaging Web experiences the group can create. Containing 16 examples of Flash character animations developed for companies including Warner Bros. Online, Kelloggs and Disney Online, their site receives more than 1,000 visitors per day.

Of those character animations, "The Peeper," developed for celebrity Adam Sandler (www.adamsandler.com) first appeared on the Entertaindom Web site and was an immediate success for a Web cartoon.

"The film was up for about six months, and it received more than 18 million hits, I believe," said Tony Crillo, chief executive officer of Flinch Studios. "It was the most highly viewed piece of animation content on the Web to date when it was removed."

"The Peeper" may soon lose its number one ranking as people are now flocking to Flinch Studio efforts with director Tim Burton's ("Edward Scissorhands, "Batman") effort, "Stainboy," an episodic cartoon that can be seen only at the Macromedia Shockwave Web site (www.shockwave.com).

"My opinion is that the Internet has many branches and no mere mortal can truly understand where it is going to go with the immediate future lying somewhere between the games we play and the movies we watch," Mr. Takami said.

Looking for that middle road, the design firm is attempting to pave new cyber-highway by merging Flash media, which only allows a passive experience for the viewer, such as watching a cartoon, with interactive environments.

With this new technology already under way, it can only be a matter of time before teens will be able to shop at a Britney Spears boutique, with an animated Britney behind the counter offering music, clothing and dating advice.

"We have developed the ability for the Web site surfer to enter an animated Flash site and then seamlessly leave the Flash world and interact with the sites' HTML," Mr. Takami said.

"In this way we can breathe a living, animated personality into a Web site, developing a strong sense of community between the animated virtual and real worlds."

A site to die for

The funeral home business has traditionally relied on sales representatives and catalogs to purchase the embalming fluids, makeup, tombstones and even hearses the industry requires. Shopping for industry-related items in this manner is not only time consuming, but does not always result in getting the best price.

And with funeral home consolidators and scaled down services, including an increase in cremation, times can be tough for this centuries-old business.

Funeral Exchange (www.funeralexchange.com) of Richardson, Texas, has created a business-to-business hub for the buyers and suppliers' of death-care services and products used by funeral homes and cemeteries.

The group provides members, both buyers and sellers, with an on-line, Web-site-based solution that will allow a mortician to shop for the best price and selection on items from flower stands to caskets.

Sellers are able to create an on-line catalog featuring products and services that can then be viewed, and purchased, by other Funeral Exchange members. The group predicts that members will be able to save as much as 20 percent when purchasing through Funeral Exchange. Membership cost is $49 per month with suppliers paying a 4.5 percent transaction fee to the group.

In addition to the e-commerce marketplace, site members can take advantage of unique on-line information, news sources and professional interaction with other members of the death-care service industry.

• Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or e-mail ([email protected]).

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