IT’s been a busy summer for Cookie Jar Group. The Toronto, Canada-based entertainment company caught the industry by surprise this past June when it snapped up L.A.’s DIC Entertainment for US$87.6 million, and later offered US$195 million to buy Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and Sushi Pack from American Greetings at the end of July. Heading into the fall markets, Cookie Jar has gotten to work on integrating DIC into its operations, while it works towards completing the purchase of the AG properties for a September 30 deadline.
To that end, at press time, Cookie Jar had just completed a round of lay-offs to eliminate duplicate positions, letting go of approximately 80 full-time staffers. The company now employs between 230 and 240 people, including staff at CPLG, the pan-Euro licensing agency that was part of the DIC acquisition. According to CEO Michael Hirsh, most of the redundancies were made in the finance, business affairs, executive administration and production divisions of the newly merged entity.
As had been hinted at the time of DIC’s acquisition, the company is being streamlined into entertainment production and licensing arms. Cookie Jar’s creative team, helmed by president and COO Toper Taylor, is taking the lead on producing new series, and DIC licensing head Kirk Bloomgarden, now EVP of worldwide consumer products & marketing of Cookie Jar Entertainment, is overseeing all L&M activities.
Additionally, with the exception of the revival of Inspector Gadget, projects in the DIC development pipeline have been halted for the time being. Prior to the acquisition, Hirsh says Cookie Jar had 10 series in production, and he’s aiming to keep that volume up. He expects to see expansion on the consumer products side, largely driven by the team at the now-combined Burbank, California office, DIC’s former home.
Cookie Jar is also now in the process of consolidating international operations and will be moving staff under one roof in cities where both Cookie Jar and DIC had offices. For example, the three existing offices in Paris will be moved into one location.
With the acquisition, Cookie Jar also became a broadcaster. It now owns one-third of pan-regional net Kidsco and the Saturday morning DIC block on CBS in the US. Hirsh is excited by the Kidsco partnership, but says the future of the low-rated CBS venture is ‘something we’re evaluating.’
In the meantime, Hirsh, Taylor et al are heading to MIPCOM with new boys action series Meta Jets, which has toyco Mattel attached, and one-off special Gotta Catch Santa Claus, voiced by William Shatner. Interestingly, the special sprang from the mind of Taylor’s 16-year-old son, Trevor. What is it they say about apples and trees?