Just a few months after announcing its formation, upstart HandMade Kids is on the hunt for television and film projects with distribution and investment potential, while it readies an all-new original development slate. The new kids and family division of London-based film company HandMade Films came out of the gate last October with a US$12-million agreement that included the acquisition of New York-based studio Animation Collective and a joint venture with National Geographic Kids Entertainment.
As for what’s in the catalogue right now, along with Nat Geo and Animation Collective properties like Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies and Thumb Wrestling Federation, HandMade Kids inherits the Eloise brand from its parentco. So the company currently has 11 kids productions airing on US television. It’s also acquired Sarah Ferguson’s (a.k.a. the Duchess of York) book-based IPs, Tea for Ruby and Little Red, and has eight original series in development. (It was too early at press time to reveal the projects on-deck, but HandMade expects to start making announcements in February.)
The big news for the kids production community, according to COO and CFO Simon Flamank (most recently CEO of TV-Loonland), is that HandMade plans to invest a further US$5.27 million in new content over the next year as it looks for investment, distribution and co-pro opportunities.
As for the amalgamation of its various parts, Flamank says Animation Collective will continue to operate as the creative force behind HandMade Kids. ‘What we want to do with [Animation Collective president] Larry Schwarz is give him the resources he needs to do some really creative stuff, but we’ll take care of the business side of things,’ he says. The Nat Geo JV (50.1% HandMade/49.9% Nat Geo), meanwhile, will provide a stronger administrative and distribution structure.
Other executive appointments include Richard Northcott as chairman and Patrick Meehan as joint chief executive and deputy chairman, while Debbie Back, most recently at MTV Networks, is now president of sales.
Flamank says the new division will benefit particularly from HandMade’s expertise in the film industry. ‘We bring cash, people and primarily relationships in the film industry that are all about raising funds and managing businesses,’ he says. The prodco’s US$70-million CGI-animated film Planet 51 got picked up for international distribution by Sony, which then placed it in more than 3,500 US theaters in Q4 2009. (At press time, the flick has grossed US$35 million at the domestic box office.) Additionally, the first Eloise feature film, Eloise in Paris, is heading into pre-production, with another six films based on the character set to be released over the next two years. KC