Special report: NATPE – Market Crucial For Canadians

NATPE has become a crucial market for Canadians looking to produce competitively budgeted children's television. Breakthrough Film and Television's Dudley the Dragon has become a NATPE regular, and now with 38 episodes in the can at press time and financing for...
January 1, 1996

NATPE has become a crucial market for Canadians looking to produce competitively budgeted children’s television. Breakthrough Film and Television’s Dudley the Dragon has become a NATPE regular, and now with 38 episodes in the can at press time and financing for another 27 under way, Breakthrough is looking at a strip for NATPE consideration.

In addition to the 245 PBS stations currently airing the show, producer Ira Levy says his company has been approached by U.S. commercial stations, and a second window is in the cards.

More Dudley product is launching in the spring and fall, including an interactive CD-ROM release with a major U.S. publisher in the fall. A Hallmark seasonal card line sporting the big green-and-yellow character begins with Valentine’s Day. Four additional Dudley videos will be released by Goodtimes Entertainment in the U.S. and Malofilm in Canada this year, and board games, puzzles and apparel will follow.

Educational material is now being distributed and Dudley is on the curriculum in many states and provinces. Dudley the feature is also on the agenda, with next Christmas as the earliest possible release.

Toronto-based Protocol Entertainment is enviably the producer of one of the leading children’s series in the U.S., Goosebumps, based on a series of books from the prolific writer R.L. Stine. Protocol has 13 half hour-episodes and a one-hour special in the can and has orders from Fox and YTV for four more one hours and another 13 episodes.

A ton of merchandising is coming down the pike, with the licensing program launched in the U.S. destined to heat up with the launch next fall of Goosebumps, the feature.

In addition to a planned third season for the Alliance/BLT Productions computer-generated ReBoot series, a potential feature is on the slate, possibly for 1997. Electronic Arts, which has the interactive rights to ReBoot plans a fall game launch, and Polygram, which holds the home video rights, is releasing two episodes every quarter. Some product has launched in the U.K., U.S. and Canada, notably Irwin Toy action figures.

Agents are being assigned worldwide, and Alliance merchandising and licensing administrator Helen Chapman says merchandising programs for Europe, South America and Pacific Rim countries are looking at a 1996 launch date.

Another Alliance computer-animated entry, Beast Wars, will be introduced at NATPE. Produced by Mainframe Entertainment (a partnership between Vancouver-based BLT and Alliance) in partnership with Hasbro, the half-hour series features the new Transformers toy line.

Also for children, Alliance International will be taking the 20-episode half-hour adventure series Mirror, Mirror to market. The Australian/New Zealand coproduction, which tackles the ubiquitous topic of time travel with a young female protagonist, is produced by Gibson Group and Millenium Pictures.

The Multimedia Group of Canada is working on securing U.S. broadcasters for two new puppet series having their first NATPE outing, The Big Garage, and Kitty Cats Toons. Big Garage has a funky new look: The Prisma Productions, Montreal/Winchester Entertainment, U.K., coproduction uses latex rubber puppets. Ideal Loisiers of France holds the worldwide toy rights. The merchandising program is slated for a ’96 launch on the new 26-episode half-hour preschool series which launched in Canada in October.

Kitty Cat Toons will build on the success of the internationally-successful 260-episode Kitty Cats puppet show (the number one kids show on The Learning Channel, U.S).

Montreal-based Cinar hopes that two new series at NATPE, The Little Lulu Show and Wimzie’s House, will pick up some new broadcasters. Cinar is looking for a second window for Little Lulu which airs on HBO in the U.S. and now on the CTV Network in Canada, and is looking to add a U.S. airdate to Wimzie’s broadcast roster. Western Publishing holds Lulu merchandising rights, and Cinar has the rights to Wimzie.

Bonjour Timothy and The Whole of the Moon are among the family feature titles Cinar also packed for NATPE.

Paragon International’s Kratt’s Creatures series, new to NATPE, is 50 half-hours of cool animal facts presented by the brothers Kratt. Perhaps heartened by the success of Bill Nye’s science evangelism, Paragon is predicting high licensing potential for this vehicle. Broadcasters are PBS in the U.S. and TVOntario in Canada.

Kratt’s first deal is with Scholastic’s book publishing company. The book product will be released mid-’96. Polygram is signed on for video (probably for ’97), and toy and multimedia deals are in the works.

Also being distributed by Paragon in the hopes of a second U.S. window and international, the cult favorite Once Upon A Hamster, which airs on Encore, has 26 new episodes wrapped by Hammytime Productions.

Ken DuBon, vice president of U.S. sales for Paragon Entertainment is looking to syndicate the durable Lambchop’s Playalong, hoping it will be the impetus to start a syndication division of Paragon. DuBon will be considering acquisitions and new productions exclusively for syndication.

The Magic Adventures of Mumfie, the animated short series from U.K.-based Britt Allcroft which launched on Fox Cubhouse in the fall, is the star of a long-term merchandising campaign rolling out this year, with licensing being handled through its New York office. The animation for the 11-minute series and Christmas special was produced by Toronto-based Ph’enix Animation Studios, a company in which Catalyst has a stake, and also has a new slate of animated specials: Bedtime Primetime Classics, 12 one-hour special series being introduced at NATPE.

Catalyst is also launching live action Time Exposures at NATPE, and more of the Thomas Tank Engine vehicle, Shining Time Specials.

In addition to offering Bubbie Break (a talk show for and about grandparents with 52 episodes in the can), Toronto-based JAMS Productions is unveiling The Collecting Kids, a kid-hosted magazine about the accumulating desire of junior consumers and the objects thereof – from pogmania to Barbie – geared to the age 8 and up crowd.

New for NATPE from Cambium Releasing, Toronto, is the half-hour pilot of Brenda’s Room, a mixed bag of entertainment for the five to nine set. Also new: The Adventures of Nilus the Sandman, now a half-hour animated series featuring the dreamdust sprinkler previously seen in specials.

Atlantis Films has two new one-hour series in development targeted at the young adult audience, Otaku Patrol Group and Underground. Otaku (geek in Japanese), to be produced by Atlantis in association with Postlinear Entertainment, tracks the lives of San Francisco techno-punks in the gritty digital-toy-heavy fictional series.

Underground is a rock and roll version of The Fugitive, with a 19-year-old protagonist who becomes a cult hero for his skill in evading the long arm of the law after being framed for his father’s murder. The suspense drama is to be shot by Atlantis in association with Haddock/Davis Productions.

Sinbad is another first-run syndicated series. Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) is the creative behind the All American Television-distributed action hour.

Toronto-based Nelvana, Canada’s animation giant, also has a live-action slate at NATPE. New series with youth appeal include Jake and The Kid, a period piece based on the W.O. Mitchell tale, coproduced with Alberta-based Great North Productions; and the her’es of the much-collected mystery novels Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys are present in a series and also feature in a merchandising program. Another title likely to be popular with kids from Nelvana is Attack of the Killer B Movies, a featurized half-hour series.

Montreal-based Ciné-Groupe is hoping its award-winning animated series The Little Flying Bears will be as popular in the U.S. as it is in Europe, where it has sold more than 84 licenses. Merchandise includes flying teddy bears, coloring books and sweets.

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