MONTREAL: Fox Family Worldwide has acquired a 20% stake in Montreal-based animation producer Ciné-Groupe, a subsidiary of Lions Gate Entertainment in Vancouver.
Headed by president Jacques Pettigrew, Ciné-Groupe is currently producing 160 half-hour segments of various series, including: the recently wrapped Princess Sissi, presold to Saban International, Paris, FR3, Radio-Canada, RAI in Italy, Fox Family Channel and Germany’s ARD; Jim Button, also sold to Saban International; Kit & Kaboodle, licensed by CBC/SRC; Bad Dog, sold to Saban U.S. and Fox Family Channel; and the animated sequences for Student Bodies, a live-action teen sitcom produced by Montreal-based Telescene Film Group.
In addition, Ciné-Groupe is slated to deliver the animated feature Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2, a sequel to the cult classic Heavy Metal. The film will be delivered by Columbia TriStar in 1999.
Ciné-Groupe also has three sci-fi youth series heading into production-Mercenary (with Sceneries Europe, based on Vincente Segrelles’ cult comics), and Grand Prix and Soft War, which employ proprietary 3D software from co-producer Planet Cartoon of Madrid. This brings Ciné-Groupe’s costs down to high-quality animation standard ($350,000 to $400,000 per episode).
Pettigrew says the teen/young adult fare is particularly popular in Japan and Germany, and points to the computer and video game market as a catalyst for developing the more mature animation niche by creating a measurable appetite for shows that target older viewers. Ciné-Groupe is harnessing its colorization facility, Toonteck in order to handle the volume. The slate will necessitate expansion and the hiring and training of a dozen animators.