The merger of Canada’s two largest independent production houses means there’s another big player poised to make a splash in kids programming.
Last month, Toronto-based Alliance Communications and Atlantis Communications announced plans to form Alliance Atlantis Communications. The partnership is based on a desire to stay globally competitive. Once the ink dries early this fall, Alliance Atlantis will begin expanding its programming library, film production and distribution, as well as its broadcasting activities. Alliance owns History Television and SHOWCASE, while Atlantis has Life Network and Home & Garden Television Canada.
Both companies have built their reputations in general production, but have targeted the kids programming arena for expansion, with Alliance most recently bumping up its animation volume. The direction the new company is taking with kids is expected to crystallize by the time MIP TV rolls around in April.
Alliance footed the bill for its 1997 productions to the tune of US$162.5 million, making it Canada’s biggest independent production company according to a study conducted by Canada’s film and TV journal Playback. US$18.4 million of that figure went to animation, such as Beast Wars, and children’s live-action shows. Atlantis, the second largest, put US$117.3 million into its 1997 production slate. It has developed kid’s projects like Bruce Colville’s Sixth Grade Alien and Peter Cottontail.
‘The kids programming industry is something we’ve been interested in doing more with,’ says Ted Riley, president of Atlantis Releasing who will head the new company’s TV distribution operations. ‘Our combined strengths will allow us to be more aggressive in pursuing that area.’
Titles recently added to Alliance’s ’98 production slate include Silverstone, a youth/drama/adventure series for the Disney Channel;13 half-hours began production in Toronto on July 20, production partners on Silverstone are JPKids and Blujoy Productions. The period drama Little Men, based on the writings of Louisa May Alcott, will be syndicated by Pax Net in the U.S., and begins production on 12 one-hour episodes in late August, also in Toronto.
Atlantis co-founder Michael MacMillan will become chair and CEO of the new company, while Robert Lantos, chairman and CEO of Alliance is concentrating on features, and will hold the title of chair emeritus.