Aardman Animations (Bristol, England, 44-117-984-8485): With Chop Socky Chooks (a co-pro with Cartoon Network Europe and Decode), Shaun the Sheep (a CBBC and WDR commission) and The Flowerheads (Cbeebies is on-board) in its kids animation pipeline, Aardman has set up Richard Goleszowski to help keep up the faster output pace as creative director of broadcast and development. ‘Golly’ has racked up a lot of in-house directing credits in his 20 years with the company, working on projects including Creature Comforts, Rex the Runt and Robbie the Reindeer.
Brand Central (Los Angeles, California, 310-268-1231): The L.A. licensing agency has hired two new execs this month. Now handling hardline categories including stationery, party goods, back-to-school, housewares, candy and publishing as director of licensing is Melanie Swartz, who has spent the past eight years managing national merch programs for Disney Consumer Products as both an in-house exec and an indie consultant. And her softlines counterpart will be senior manager Glenn Mantel, whose category purview includes apparel, accessories, gifts & novelties, sporting goods and pet products. Mantel hails from EMI, where he most recently served as senior client sales manager.
Disney Channel (Burbank, California, 818-569-7500): Scheduling sage Scott Garner has been upped from VP to senior VP of programming on the heels of moving Disney’s kidcasting platforms up several rungs in the ratings race. In particular, his revamp of the Toon Disney schedule last November, which involved expanding the Jetix block, kicked in a 20% ratings increase with kids six to 11. And in the basic cable universe, Disney Channel now sits at number one with kids six to 14 during prime time. Garner, who will continue to oversee the planning and scheduling of kids content, says preschool is still a big focus. Original productions have traditionally made up 60% of the Playhouse Disney lineup, but that figure should grow next year and into 2007 as Garner readies three new in-house shows (one of which is Little Einsteins) for debut.
But what really keeps Garner up at night, now that he’s taken on programming duties for Disney’s on-demand services, is figuring out how to extend content into other non-linear streams like wireless and podcasting.
Meanwhile, executive director of business management Sean Cocchia is moving over to the Disney Channel Worldwide group as VP of business development. He’ll be responsible for blueprinting new strategies for growing Disney’s already impressive empire of global broadcast operations.
Entertainment Rights(London, England, 44-208-762-6260): Poaching right from the source, ER has recruited ex-Woolworths DVD/video product manager Helen Squire to build stronger retail relationships on behalf of its kidvid label Right Entertainment. Squire has gotten off to a running start as sales and marketing manager, talking to key accounts about cross-category merchandising and promotional opportunities for Postman Pat, Little Red Tractor and Barbie, whose latest direct-to-video title Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus is due out in October.
Exodus Film Group (Venice, California, 310-392-7778): Charged with overseeing financing and growth, Jerome Williams has joined as senior VP of business development. Exodus opened shop in 2001 with a mandate to churn out high-quality animated family features on a dime. The studio currently has three such films in the hopper – Igor, The Hero of Color City and Amarillo Armadillo – and is working with a US$50-million private placement film fund. The move represents a big shift in direction for Williams, who has a background in directing touring events, most recently serving as regional director for minister T.D. Jakes’ ‘MegaFest 2005′ evangelical event in Atlanta, Georgia.
FremantleMedia (London, England, 44-207-691-6000): Hoping to grow its business in emerging platforms such as wireless and broadband, Fremantle has chosen Catherine MacKay to head up a New Platforms division that’s in launch mode. Working from her New York office, MacKay will continue to manage ancillary rights and distribution in the U.S., Australia and Asia as regional CEO for the Enterprises unit. But under her new mantle, she’ll also be looking for direct-to-consumer delivery opps, as well as developing content that can play out in these streams.
As MacKay shifts her focus to new media, Olivier Gars is stepping up from senior to executive VP of licensing in the Americas and will manage Fremantle’s business and partnerships in interactive, consumer products, telephony, live entertainment and sponsorship.
FUNimation Entertainment (Fort Worth, Texas, 817-788-0627): In the wake of Navarre’s recent purchase of FUNimation, Ward Thomas has migrated over from the parentco to serve as senior VP of sales and operations. In his previous position as VP of sales, Thomas led Navarre Distribution Services to triple-digit growth in five years, and he sees lots of opportunity for filling out FUNimation’s retail reach with Navarre’s 18,000-strong North American account portfolio, which covers everything from mom-and-pop shops to music megastores. Navarre’s infrastructure is also set up to handle back-end functions including distribution, fulfillment and accounting, so having this kind of support should free FUNimation up to focus on content and sales.
HarperCollins Children’s Books (New York, New York, 212-246-2058): As the U.S. Hispanic population continues on its steep growth path, Adriana Dominguez has been recruited to manage Harper’s Spanish-language kids publishing program as executive editor. Dominguez joins the fold from Criticas, a monthly magazine covering the Spanish-language book trade, where she worked as children’s review editor.
Pepper’s Ghost (London, England, 44-208-546-4900): To help move the Tiny Planets merch program into new territories including the Middle East, India, Eastern Europe and Japan (where the show just sold to Disney), Tracey Watson has been brought in as a licensing executive. Watson hails from Winchester Television, where she helped develop the consumer products blueprint for The Wheels on the Bus.
Pokémon USA (New York, New York, 917-369-2029): As if Pikachu and the gang aren’t already living a full and rich enough life in digital media, Pokémon USA has brought Yves Saada aboard to move the franchise onto new electronic platforms. Saada is coming off a stint as COO of BrainPOP, which produces animated web educon for K-12 students, but he’s also spent time on Mattel’s new media team and in Microsoft France’s children’s software division.
Sesame Workshop (New York, New York, 212-595-3456): An ex-White House alum from Bush Senior’s administration, Sherrie Rollins Weston has been promoted from executive VP of corporate affairs, education and development to executive VP and chief marketing officer.
And Maura Regan will continue to build in-roads into China and Japan as she moves up from VP of international licensing and new business development to VP and GM of global licensing.
The Children’s Place (Secaucus, New Jersey, 201-558-2400): The kids retailer that bought out the Disney Store chain last year has upped Nina Miner from VP of design and product development to chief creative officer. In her new role, Miner will oversee four departments – design, trend development, creative services and visual merchandising – to ensure that one consistent brand message is being communicated to consumers.
TrueLight Entertainment (Burbank, California, 818-843-0740): Web design firm Bakers Man is getting into kids content this month with the launch of TrueLight, a new service studio designed to handle web, mobile and DVD projects, as well as straight-up film and TV animation. Helming the prodco as president is ex-DIC senior VP of creative affairs Kevin O’Donnell.