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A busy time for Cinar

MONTREAL: Cinar Films has made its largest acquisition to date, buying full control of Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co. of Greenboro, North Carolina. The deal includes affiliates Unique Collating Service and The Wild Goose Co., a science-kit producer. Cinar paid US$40.5 million for...
August 1, 1997

MONTREAL: Cinar Films has made its largest acquisition to date, buying full control of Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co. of Greenboro, North Carolina. The deal includes affiliates Unique Collating Service and The Wild Goose Co., a science-kit producer. Cinar paid US$40.5 million for Carson-Dellosa, including US$24.5 million in cash and US$16 million in Class B subordinate voting shares.

Cinar chair and CEO Micheline Charest says the company’s non-violent entertainment products and library lines will be integrated into Carson-Dellosa’s activity, and some of the publisher’s current print products can be extended to audiovisual and interactive media.

Cinar had to expand its business and because of the commitment to hold the course in the children’s business, Charest says the acquisition ‘is about reaching our same audience by a different means.

‘With the integration and the overlap of product that’s developing, we can reach our kids via television through entertainment product for which we have an established infrastructure and a corporate culture. That has taken us in a direction and to the idea that we can reach the school market, of course, through the existing [Carson-Dellosa] product, but also by extending that product line.’

Charest says North American classrooms are changing with the advent of computerization, and this will open more doors to line extension and new media opportunities. ‘There are differences between the haves and the have-nots, but there are plenty of classrooms in the U.S. that are very well equipped and financed. Privatization of the education system is also happening.’

Carson-Dellosa produces and sells an extensive product line of supplemental kindergarten and primary-school educational materials, mainly print, with some 1,200 items in 30 product categories, ranging from stickers to billboards to decorative materials and books.

The materials are enhanced by the use of what Charest calls recognizable characters in the marketplace. ‘We think we can use our entertainment properties and the work we do for entertainment purposes and adapt some of it.’

It has been a busy time for Cinar. PBS has picked up the first 40 half-hour episodes of Wimzie’s House, granting the educational series a Ready-to-Learn badge of merit.

Produced by Cinar Films, the show was originally slated to air weekly as of October 12, but PBS network programmers have been given the added option of a daily feed, says Cinar president Ron Weinberg.

Weinberg says the agreement for a daily feed as of September 1 was worked out at the PBS annual program meeting in Dallas this past June.

‘It’s a big breakthrough because it was not contemplated by PBS that the show would air daily at this point.’

Also, with the RTL stamp of approval, Wimzie becomes the latest element in an educationally enhanced 6.5-hour-a-day program block currently picked up by about half of PBS stations. The designation implies the availability of community outreach materials including English- and Spanish-language print materials for use by teachers and parents. The show has a PBS-accessible Web site (www.wimzie.com) that includes a complete content guide for parents.

Produced for the preschool set, the series follows the engaging adventures of five-year-old Wimzie, her family and friends, and is set in a unique daycare center. The program nurtures ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ generation values and is inspired by themes like friendship, generosity, jealousy, diversity and sibling rivalry.

Erica Gourd of Lindberg Licensing and Promotions of New York has been contracted to launch a comprehensive licensing program for the series. Gourd is also handling licensing on Arthur, a top-rated Cinar/WGBH show airing on PBS.

Another key development at Cinar is the revitalization of its new FilmFair Studio in London, England, acquired last fall at a cost of Cdn $23 million (US$16.8 million).

FilmFair has been an active production studio for the past three decades. New business includes a soon-to-be-announced international co-production of Paddington Bear, and 13 new episodes of the puppet-animation (stop-motion) series The Wobbles, a co-production with HTV commissioned by ITV in the U.K.

Rather than a homogenized studio look, Cinar Europe vice president David Ferguson says Cinar and FilmFair have the advantage of producing shows with a wide range of styles.

‘Variety makes things more interesting for the creative people, and it’s a great way to expand business. We can have four different productions on four channels in one market at the same time,’ he says.

Ferguson says Cinar Europe’s goal is to bring the FilmFair catalogue to the world. Historically rich in dialogue, the new stop-motion series will be more international in content and financing. Titles include both stop-motion and cel-animation series among them, Huxley Pig, Hattytown, Moschops, Astro Farm, The Adventures of Portland Bill, Dirty Beasts, Revolting Rhymes and the Brown Bear Specials.

‘The classic preschool titles are appreciated in Germany and France,’ says Ferguson. And he says there’s interest in North America, too, ‘because the approach is different.’

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