In order to more comprehensively and efficiently develop its growing roster of kids entertainment properties, The Britt Allcroft Company has embarked on a lofty global expansion plan that starts off with a name change. Under the new umbrella moniker of Gullane Entertainment (the name derives from the company’s feature film division Gullane Pictures), all of the company’s various production facilities and associated outfits-including Media Merchants and Sooty Productions in the U.K., Toronto-based indie prodco and distribco Catalyst Entertainment and Britt Allcroft Productions out of L.A.-will increasingly unite their separate development and co-production efforts, as well as scoping out other co-pro partners in their respective regions to shoulder some of the workload and production costs. ‘It’s really more like horizontal integration,’ says Charles Falzon, president of the new entity. ‘We are truly still an English company, a Canadian company and a U.S. company, and we’ll come together on projects when the resources warrant it.’
Gullane has set aside US$50 million to fund a year’s worth of production that will test the integration plan, as well as appointing L.A.-based Meredith Metz as VP of packaging to control the flow of product between Gullane’s various units. To start, Metz will oversee the completion of Cinderella and Me, a six x half-hour co-pro between Catalyst and the BBC about one of Cinderella’s charmed rats who misses the midnight curfew and is doomed to spend the rest of his life as a human boy. It is an adaptation of a Philip Pullman book. At least three other children’s series are in development, including a revamped Thomas the Tank Engine series that’s being dubbed in-house as ‘The Thomas 2000 Project.’
Metz, who previously served as the L.A.-based VP of Canadian prodco Fireworks Entertainment, will also be focusing on strengthening Gullane’s output of family-targeted TV pics. ‘Many of the family movies lately at the network level are being done as European co-productions,’ she says. ‘Hallmark’s made a big business doing that, and I’d like to see what we can do there.’ To that end, Metz says Gullane is planning to start work on an Animal Planet TV movie with France’s Tele Images shortly.
To help unite production efforts in the U.K., Peter Urie has been named group head and senior VP of a newly created European Production division. Urie was formerly director of business affairs for Media Merchants.
In off-screen news, Gullane has established Gullane Live to increase its branded live theater events and theme park attractions, and Gullane New Media to grow web portal PlanetGullane.com into a thriving entertainment hub for