Thanks to everyone who took the time to cast their ballot for KidScreen‘s inaugural Best of the Year Awards, and we’d like to congratulate all the nominees on their outstanding performances in 2007. Since the nomination roundup in KS’s Nov/Dec issue recounted the 2007 achievements of the 30 companies vying for honors, we thought it would be appropriate to ask the victors how they intend to top their own efforts in 2008. So without further ado, let’s get to the winners!
Producer of the Year: Aardman Animations
Aardman took the prize decisively, scoring more than twice as many votes as runner-up Chorion. Head of broadcast & development Miles Bullough was quite chuffed to hear the news. In addition to working on 2009 commission Timmy for CBeebies, the prodco is rolling full-steam ahead on the production of a new half-hour Wallace & Gromit TV feature Trouble at’ Mill from Nick Park. On the development side of things, Bullough says work has started on turning stop-motion interstitials Purple & Brown into a longer-format series with Nickelodeon UK. And several years in the making, Chop Socky Chooks, the CGI co-pro with Toronto’s Decode Entertainment, is making its broadcast debut on Cartoon Network US next month, before rolling out worldwide in September.
Distributor of the Year: Taffy Entertainment
It was a close race between Taffy and Cake, but it looks like the stickier foodstuff triumphed in the end. In terms of 2008 plans, president of worldwide distribution Lionel Marty is concentrating on getting new core kid toon Cosmic Quantum Ray (26 x half hours) and preschool series Lamimila (being sold as Paper Playtime Pals in English territories) into as many broadcast homes as possible. Both series have added-value one-minute segments for each episode that Marty says may become standard on future projects. The clips, he says, are animated separately from the series and can be used on multiple platforms. Speaking of which, Taffy’s broadband/VOD channel Kabillion celebrates its first anniversary this month, and Taffy CEO Bill Schultz says discussions are underway to format the concept for two markets outside of the US. In the meantime, Kabillion VOD is now carried in 14 million US households, and Schultz says advertising inventory on both VOD and broadband sold out in Q4 2007.
Runner-Up: Cake Distribution
Broadcaster of the Year: Disney Channel US
Not surprisingly, Disney dominated this award category; its momentum in 2007 was pretty much unstoppable. Following up the record-setting broadcast of High School Musical 2, which helped propel Disney to the top of the basic cable heap and attracted more total viewers than any other net, won’t be easy. To that end, Gary Marsh, president of entertainment at Disney Channels Worldwide, says creative hubs in the US, London and Tokyo will be working more closely together to develop long- and short-form content meant to travel between Disney’s 27 channels worldwide, like new toon Phineas and Ferb and live-actioner Camp Rock.
Runner-Up: France 3
Licensor of the Year: Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products
NVCP president Leigh Anne Brodsky says creating a larger footprint at all tiers of retail is the goal for 2008. The effort will revolve around getting the IP owner’s entire portfolio, from preschool properties like Dora the Explorer to tween hits such as The Naked Brothers Band, into one destination on the shop floor of major retailers in the US. Cross-branding is also on her radar, thanks to a successful promotion last year between Lucky Brand Jeans and The Naked Brothers that saw NB t-shirts sold exclusively at Lucky Brand outlets. While not retail, NVCP is getting started on this path with Hertz in the spring, offering its Nickelodeon on the Go pre-loaded media players to the rental car company’s customers.
Runner-Up: Disney Consumer Products
Licensee of the Year: Jakks Pacific
Job one for 2008, says SVP of licensing and media Jennifer Richmond, is making good on all the master toy deals signed in 2007. To that end, Jakks is working on the spring launch of the new Neopets toy line and is planning to manufacture an elaborate assortment of science-inspired toys based on the Discovery Kids brand. She says last year’s hit high-tech microscope, the EyeClops Bionic Eye, has inspired work on the DK line, and you can expect to see other tried-and-tested scientific devices given a tech-twist. Plus the company hasn’t stopped signing master toy deals. At press time, Richmond said she had a number of contracts on the table, and she’s continuing to scour the market for more pick-ups. ‘We’re looking at everything now, from boys to strong girl and celebrity-driven brands,’ she says.
Licensing Agent of the Year: Big Tent Entertainment
Increasing its retail reach in the US and Latin America is at the top of CEO Rich Collins’ to-do list for this year. With the new office in Buenos Aires now open and the recent acquisition of rights to MGM’s portfolio in the region, things should really start picking up steam. Additionally, Big Tent plans to add to its own portfolio in the coming year, and Collins and company are on the look-out for more tween- and teen-skewing properties à la current residents such as The Saddle Club and Domo. ‘These are the demos with more disposable income and interest in the internet and viral concepts,’ says Collins. ‘We like a model that says it doesn’t have to all be about TV.’
Runner-Up: Kidz Entertainment