As Vivendi Universal seeks to lighten its US$14-billion debt load, its Canal+ Group holding has begun to actively seek a buyer for animation studio Ellipsanime (which has churned out toons such as Funny Little Bugs, Pirate Family and Xcalibur), along with 19 other prodcos that make up StudioCanal subsidiary StudioExpand. Though StudioCanal hasn’t divulged the official asking price for StudioExpand and its assets, it’s estimated that the entire unit could fetch around US$85 million.
Ellipsanime’s net revenues dropped by 24% in 2001, and coming off a less-than-stellar 2002, the Paris-based company is taking steps to stanch the financial bleeding. Central to that effort, Ellipsanime shuttered its executive production facility EllipseStudio last month, eliminating 120 part-time and four full-time positions. Ellipsanime will absorb most of the studio’s production activity – including all storyboarding and 3-D rendering work.
At the same time, Ellipsanime has decided to cut its annual series output in half, going down from four or five series per year to two or three. Kids projects in production at press time included 78 x seven-minute comedy Frog (M6/Disney Channel/Super RTL, D’Ocon) and 26 x 26-minute 3-D series Potlach (France 3).