MONTREAL: The Jim Henson Company has filed a lawsuit against Montreal-based Cinar, alleging that the Canadian prodco’s preschool puppet series Wimzie’s House represents ‘unfair competition and copyright infringement’ of the Muppets. In a prepared statement, Cinar said it ‘has meritorious defenses to the claims…and intends to contest the them vigorously.’ Wimzie’s House, which is currently broadcast in 100 countries, was produced in 1995, and has aired on PBS since October 1997. Cinar has recently signed several licensing agreements for Wimzie’s House merchandise, including toy deals with Eden and Learning Curve International.
On a more positive note, a new alliance with Viacom Consumer Products, the licensing division of Paramount Pictures, will expand Cinar’s role beyond producer of the animated series The Busy World of Richard Scarry, to include responsibility for entertainment and educational categories like programming, home video, music and the development of a new TV series.
Cinar will also participate in Simon & Schuster’s Richard Scarry book publishing activities. To date, Cinar has produced 65 half hours of The Busy World of Richard Scarry, which has sold in over 127 countries.
In other production news, Cinar has committed US$124 million to producing 360 half-hour episodes for its 1999/2000 production slate. Cinar has also acquired a film library that’s produced, owned and licensed to third parties by Leucadia Film Corporation, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The US$2.3-million deal adds 12 feature-length movie titles to Cinar’s growing family film library. Leucadia titles have been sold to broadcasters in more than 75 countries. In other news, the company has increased its credit facility with the Royal Bank of Canada to the tune of US$98.3 million.