In light of Toronto, Canada-based Fireworks’ glowing reputation as an international distributor, many folks tend to overlook its equally strong production arm, which has churned out hits like Caitlin’s Way (with creator Tom Lynch) and Real Kids, Real Adventures for Discovery Kids.
Yet the company’s two arms support one another: Fireworks Entertainment produces globally exploitable projects so that Fireworks International can grab a share of the distribution rights. ‘Production is all about the rights, which is the hardest part of the business right now,’ says Fireworks Entertainment chairman and CEO Jay Firestone. ‘That’s why we’ll often do production for next to nothing in order to get the rights.’ Firestone does admit that as part of multimedia conglomerate CanWest Global, Fireworks can afford to take that position more easily than other producers or distributors.
Kids material has always been high on Firestone’s list, with a focus on live-action fare in the cost range of US$300,000 to US$400,000 per half hour. Animation is too tough an international sell these days, he says, because of the volume that’s already out there and its sometimes-weak ability to translate across multiple territories.
One current project that fits the Fireworks bill perfectly is The Strange Legacy of Cameron Cruz, a 13 x half-hour live-action series that’s in co-development with Nickelodeon. Described as something akin to The Sixth Sense for kids, the series begins when Cameron’s grandfather, who has the ability to see ghosts, mysteriously disappears. Grandpa Cruz’s special gift passes to Cameron, who must help the deceased deal with unfinished business while he searches for his relative.
Building on the experience of Real Kids, Real Adventures, Firestone says his company is in a good position to help Discovery Kids fill its new Saturday morning block on NBC. Fireworks is also exploring opportunities with Animal Planet, which Firestone says is hunting for new kids shows.
Looking a little further into the future, Fireworks Entertainment may try its hand at kids feature films and TV movies. In that vein, the company has been co-producing a big-budget ABC miniseries called A Wrinkle in Time. Based on the kids sci-fi classic written by Madeleine L’Engle, the special event is expected to air in a Wonderful World of Disney slot during the November 2002 sweeps.