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Télé-Quebec’s kid-winning slate adds allegorical preschool series

MONTREAL: Télé-Quebec, a regional Canadian broadcaster, is reinforcing its already successful afternoon children's block with the addition of Cornemuse, a live-action preschool series produced by Téléfiction....
February 1, 1999

MONTREAL: Télé-Quebec, a regional Canadian broadcaster, is reinforcing its already successful afternoon children’s block with the addition of Cornemuse, a live-action preschool series produced by Téléfiction.

Guided by new director-general of programming Mario Clement, Télé-Quebec has seen a dramatic increase in children’s viewing (ages two to 11), winning a 10 share in the fall sweep, compared to a 2.5 share the previous year.

Based primarily on the strength of its preschool numbers, the educational/cultural public broadcaster says it’s now the market ratings leader among kids in the 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. block, with 21% of overall children’s viewing. The network operates on an annual budget of roughly US$46.2 million, including a US$35 million appropriation from the Quebec government.

Télé-Quebec hopes the new Cornemuse series will approximate the success of Passé-Partout, a show the pubcaster produced in-house almost a decade ago, which has since become Quebec’s most popular kids series of all time.

Cornemuse features a cast of engaging baby animals and their families, and aims to develop self-esteem in preschoolers, says veteran children’s producer Carmen Bourassa. The 65 x half-hour series premiered last month, and Bourassa says it’s hoped that the show will emulate the ratings standard set by preschool phenom Teletubbies.

The network’s 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. block includes the Canadian tween series The Adventures of Shirley Holmes (Forefront Entertainment/Credo Entertainment), Teletubbies (Ragdoll Productions), Cornemuse, which replaces Wimzie’s House (Cinar), and Macaroni tout garni (Publivision), a series for five- to seven-year-olds.

Cornemuse is about a dog/veternarian who encourages kids to sing, play and learn, but the real stars are four pint-sized four-year-olds, each from a different species. Characters include Tibor the shy Tiger, Kounga the naughty Kangaroo, Rafi the benevolent Racoon, Bagou the teasing Monkey-and then there’s Zozo, a sympathetic little bird who sometimes transforms into an animated cartoon character.

The show has 11 screenwriters, and is the original idea of Michelle Gascon, Paule Marier, Nicole Lavigne, the late Michele Poirier and Bourassa. Bourassa, Claude Veillet and Jacques Bonin are producing. So far 57 episodes are wrapped, with eight more slated to go in February. Montreal’s PMT Video is producing the animation sequences.

Cornemuse is produced on a tight budget of US$2.5 million, with funding from Téléfilm Canada, the Canadian Television Fund and exporter Téléfiction Distribution and Marketing. Téléfiction is also the producer of Pin-Pon, a top-rated preschool series set in a fire station that’s licensed by French-track specialty channel, Canal Famille.

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