Toronto’s Balmur Entertainment, a company founded by Canadian songbird Anne Murray, has expanded from music into animated family entertainment by acquiring 100% of L.A.-based Evening Sky Entertainment and Toronto commercial animation studio The Animation House in a multimillion-dollar deal. The resulting merged entity plans to have two or three series in the works at any given time, and the same volume of music specials in 1999.
Balmur has undertaken a refinancing initiative that puts Murray, previously sole owner, in partnership with an investor group.
Evening Sky, a 35-person, long-form animation development and production company headed by Canadian expatriots David Corbett and Mary Corbett, and Animation House, a 25-person shop founded by Bob Fortier, fold into one company under the Evening Sky banner, through which Balmur is aiming to create and acquire co-production projects, including a number already in development through Evening Sky. Balmur is headed by president Tony Baylis.
‘We believe there are wonderful audio possibilities in family programming,’ says Baylis. ‘An animated TV series with music as a strong creative component will allow us to create audio products and opportunities.’
The company is currently finalizing a deal with a Canadian broadcaster for an animated series based on a past Murray musical property, There’s A Hippo In My Tub.
Evening Sky has a number of other projects in development, including animated short series Fritz & Miguel, aimed at the college crowd, based on the inimitable animation style of Fortier, with a budget of about US$98,000 per five-minute segment. Also on the slate is a family-oriented Christmas special called The Adventures of Timothy Tweedle, and a preschool series called Trucktown, budgeted at about US$196,000 per episode, for which the company is seeking co-production financing with European partners.
David Corbett is president and CEO of Evening Sky, Mary Corbett is executive VP, production and Fortier is executive VP, creative. Terry Godfrey continues as the principal animation director at the Toronto studio, and Fortier says the shop is looking toward creative and technical expansion that includes moving further into 3-D computer animation and attracting animation directors from the U.S. and Europe.