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Alliance Atlantis moves thoughtfully into kids programming

Suzanne French, who has been heading up Alliance Atlantis Communications Kids since the spring as VP of junior programming, says ever since Alliance and Atlantis merged to form Canada's largest production and distribution company last September, the goal has been to...
September 1, 1999

Suzanne French, who has been heading up Alliance Atlantis Communications Kids since the spring as VP of junior programming, says ever since Alliance and Atlantis merged to form Canada’s largest production and distribution company last September, the goal has been to develop kids programming using the resources of the two companies. Both Alliance Atlantis and the Communications Kids division are headquartered in Toronto, with offices located in L.A., Montreal, Vancouver, London, Sydney and Ireland.

The self-described quarterback of the new kids division, French is responsible for organizing Alliance Atlantis’ various kid shows into a more cohesive overall strategy. The division was also created to fill a niche in a market French says the company has not fully explored.

Its slate will include about two-thirds live-action programming and one-third animated fare, including some in-house production. About 20% to 25% of the company’s development budget will be devoted to children’s programming, and French says the new division will set its sights on an eight- to 12-year-old demo, but will also look at developing some teen programming.

Alliance Atlantis plans to work with other Canadian productions companies like Calibre Digital Pictures,

Mainframe and Funbag, along with several non-Canadian prodcos.

Five shows will launch at MIPCOM, including animated Pumper Pups by Alliance Atlantis and Ottawa-based Amberwood Productions. Thirteen half-hour eps of the 2-D animated series will debut on YTV in February 2000. Pumper Pups is based on a talking fire truck and a team of helper puppies. Each episode contains three shorts with two 30-second interstitials suggesting fun activities viewers can do with a friend.

Also making the trip to MIPCOM is live-action series My Best Friend Is An Alien, which began airing in July on Fox Kids and debuted on YTV this month as I Was A Sixth Grade Alien. Aimed at the five to 11 set, the 22 x half-hour show has a rough budget of US$333,000 per ep.

Rounding out the slate is a second season of live-action series The Famous Jett Jackson (Alliance Atlantis), animated adventure series China Wings, about a WWI hero and his aviation company (a co-pro with France’s P.R.H. St. Clair, N. Fine Films and France 3 , in association with ARTE) and the second season of CGI series Shadowraiders (Mainframe).

Alliance Atlantis has also added Monster By Mistake to its production slate. The 3-D series is about an eight-year-old who is magically transformed into a monster every time he sneezes. A co-pro arrangement with Cambium Film & Video Productions and Catapult Productions means the first 13 segments of the 26-episode run (budgeted at US$250,000 per episode) will air on Canada’s youthcaster YTV this fall, with the second set in production for broadcast starting in fall 2000. AD

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