Motion International’s plan to ramp up worldwide branding for its youth and animation division received a form of corporate benediction last month when the company was acquired outright by TVA Group, a Montreal-based French-language media and television company that is seeking broader horizons itself. The deal is worth an estimated US$86 million.
Motion’s activities-in kids programming, international drama, large-format and Imax production and distribution-are now merged into a new integrated production and distribution company called TVA International, which is 70%-owed by TVA and 30% by a subsidiary of Québec pension fund manager, Caisse de Depot.
Louis Fournier, recently named president of Motion’s youth and animation unit, says his role is to expand the division’s strategic partnerships beyond its solid base with France to the U.S., the U.K., Germany and other territories. ‘We need to build with the U.S. and the Orient specifically,’ he says.
The strategy will key on creative initiatives, with the emphasis on building international partnerships, brand building by developing alternate media extensions to the traditional TV sales model, and greater control of exploitation rights. ‘And where we don’t control the rights, we’ll at least create a stream of revenues,’ says Fournier, former VP of sales and co-production at Cinar.
Motion’s youth and animation division is projecting 27% growth this year for revenues of more than US$14 million. The company’s overall projection is US$100 million.
Projects topping TVA/Motion’s animation slate hail from the 3-D realm and include the 26 x half-hour Xcalibur, a 3-D/motion-control co-pro with Paris-based Ellipsanime that will be delivered this fall to YTV in Canada and France 2. Motion and France’s Chaman Productions are also in advanced development on Axis (formerly Gaina), a 3-D feature film budgeted at US$8.5 million.
New cel animation in the works includes: the young male-skewing adventure The Boy, in development with YTV; Cosmozoo, a humorous space-adventure concept for kids ages eight to 10; and Lovin’ Hearts, based on the 3-D Wrebbit Interactive puzzle property.
On the live-action front, one of the more promising new entries is Third Eye (working title), a spooky tween mystery drama with a hint of The Blair Witch that’s in development with Canada’s YTV. Michel Lavoie, VP of children’s and youth programming, says the doc-style series should appeal to the nine to 12 crowd ‘and is the kind of property we think will work in the U.S.’ Also showing global potential is Mutual Funz, a series that Lavoie claims will tap into kids’ interest in trading and saving that’s exemplified by the Pokémon craze. The concept is being developed as a game show by Toronto-based development head Karyn Nolan, and TVOntario and Lyrick Studios in the U.S. have also signed on.
Also on TVA/Motion’s live-action development and production slate are:
* The Magical Kitchen, an edutainment take on the cooking show model. Canadian provincial casters for the show, now in prepro, include TVO and SCN.
* Rockabye Bubble, a 15-minute educational preschool series in production for TVO and GMTV in the U.K.
* The Toonite Show, a mag series for animation fans of all ages, in development with Canada’s Teletoon.
* Miranda, a special-effects driven flick about a teen with special powers, in development with Family Channel.
* A teen soap is also in development.