When Astral Media launched Playhouse Disney Canada last November, the company earmarked Canadian productions as a priority. And with the introduction of a US$1-million Playhouse Disney Development Fund last month, it’s becoming clear that the net is committed to harvesting its own homegrown content crop.
Joe Tedesco, VP and GM of Playhouse Disney Canada, says although it’s hard to put a number on how many series the fund will help develop, he knows what kind of content he wants for his two- to -seven-year-old target audience. Finding viable animation concepts is the priority, and Tedesco points to the highly stylized realism of Toronto, Canada-based Decode Entertainment’s Franny’s Feet and the sweet sentiments expressed in 2-D animated series The Secret World of Benjamin Bear from Ottawa’s Amberwood Entertainment as elements that caught his interest. New seasons of both shows have just been greenlit by the network.
Tedesco adds that the fund is set up so that his team will determine which projects get the go-ahead. But Disney Worldwide will be informed and consulted every step of the way.
Fuelled by the thought of landing an international Disney deal, the Canadian production community has already sent in a mountain of pitches. ‘There is a high probability that these projects will lead to international sales with other Disney channels,’ concedes Tedesco. ‘Given that we are licensing the Disney brand, anything we develop will be a good brand fit.’ He’s currently in the very early stages of sifting through submissions and deciding which projects will make it through to the next step.
And don’t be disuaded from applying if your project happens to have an international partner or two attached already. Playhouse Disney has a little wiggle room to get around Canadian content quotas that stipulate that at least 30% of a Canuck broadcaster’s programming must qualify as Canadian. International co-productions can qualify as Canadian if the partners’ homeland has a treaty with Canada. Producers from the UK and France fit the bill, for example.
If you’re interested in lobbing a pitch, production coordinator Swin Chang is accepting brief outlines with financial models at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-956-2010.