The next phase of Toronto, Canada-based Portfolio Entertainment’s multi-faceted expansion plan that began in 2014 is officially open for business. Covering 9,000 square feet and located in the creative hub of the city’s King West district, Portfolio Animation is the company’s newly launched state-of-the-art studio and corporate office space.
Portfolio veteran and SVP of production Julie Stall will helm the studio, along with head of studio operations Sonya Carey, and work directly with new creative head Dave Beatty (Johnny Test), who is also senior producer and showrunner for the new studio’s first original animated kids series Freaktown. Additional Portfolio kids properties The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! and Doki, along with Freaktown, currently comprise the core of the studio’s pipeline.
With its new talent and full animation services (including concept development, design, storyboarding, animatic editing and a new cloud-based storage system) under one roof, Portfolio expects the studio will attract new partners, strengthen its already thriving global distribution business and improve the quality, value and efficiency of its projects.
The company’s growth and diversification plan initially kicked into gear last year with the installation of a new senior management team.
“The decision to expand was made between 18 months and two years ago,” says Lisa Olfman, co-founder and co-CEO of Portfolio. “From that time period on, we assembled a group of what we consider to be top talent from a variety of entertainment sectors. To ramp up, we tripled our size across our development, animation and production divisions.”
New hires include former Teletoon Canada business exec Trent Locke, who joined in March 2014 as Portfolio’s COO and VP of finance, and Liliana Vogt, who came over from 9 Story Media Group last October to fill Portfolio’s newly created SVP of content position.
For Olfman’s longtime business partner, co-founder and co-CEO Joy Rosen, the time was right for the company to enhance its operations.
“There is a lot of disruption happening in our industry right now, but we look at any type of change as an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve,” she says. “Our new studio will give us the opportunity to have more creative control, the ability to attract more emerging talent, and the leverage to continue our work as a respected talent incubator. With our years of experience building the business, we feel it’s a great time to ratchet up and grow in-house.”
Portfolio is currently at work transitioning its core group of shows into the new pipeline.
The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, for example, is now fully in-house. Two full seasons (60 eps) plus one holdiay special have been produced, and work is underway on three one-hour specials for PBS KIDS and Treehouse.
For Doki, production is continuing on season three, and pre-production is being completed at Portfolio on Freaktown.
According to Rosen, the new studio has seven shows in development, three of which are live-action tween/teen properties—a new format and demographic for the company.
“Liliana’s really helped us to expand and has brough artists to us that we might not have had the opportunity to work with before,” she notes.
While the move to diversify has gone smoothly, Olfman contends that the biggest challenge has been gathering talent. “It’s a wonderful time for the animation business in Canada, and there is a tremendous amount of work across the country, but being able to find the talent that will help continue to improve our quality is difficult,” she says.
With the new studio in place, Portfolio is now meeting with co-producers and global networks to bring more projects under its collaborative roof.
From Kidscreen’s October 2015 issue.