Toronto-based Nelvana continues to turn classic book properties into toons with its recent rights acquisition of author/illustrator Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle. Delivery on a new 2-D series geared to the two to 11 demographic is likely to begin in 2002, and plans include having 65-eps in the can within five years.
In addition to production, distribution and associated merchandise licensing rights for a TV series based on the 13-book series, Nelvana also acquired publishing tie-in rights. Nelvana will spin new tales based on the Dolittle character, who first came to light in the author’s war letters home when he subbed the fanciful talking-to-animals story for the real news from the front to spare his family from the inhumanity of war.
The books, which have been published around the globe since their 1920 debut, also yielded the oft-aired Doctor Dolittle feature starring Rex Harrison, and recently, Dolittle, starring Eddie Murphy resuscitating a rat.
Nelvana’s Dolittle series will be developed with the creator’s son, Christopher Lofting, located in New York, and his agent, L.A.-based Franklin Waterman Productions. From the Nelvana camp, Toper Taylor and Steve Galloway are heading up creative on the project. As to ballpark potential worth of the Dolittle property, Taylor, president of L.A.-based Nelvana Communications, says that as a worldwide brand with over 50 years of awareness, Nelvana views it as its next classic literary property, a la Babar and Little Bear (which was their strongest consumer products revenue performer in 1999).
In other publishing rights news, the toon studio (which also owns publishers Kids Can Press and Klutz) picked up remaining Little Bear merchandising and interactive rights from Wild Things Productions (for US$2.75 million), including publishing based on the Nelvana-animated preschool series airing on Nick Jr. in the U.S., CBC/SRC in Canada and Teletoon /Citel in France.