After graduating from the Producer’s Lab at the Canadian Film Centre, production partners Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen decided it would be a good idea to put together a slate of projects, raise some private investment and launch a prodco. In 2005, that company became Aircraft Pictures, a Toronto, Canada-based indie producer of scripted content, from high-end TV series to independent feature films, for a variety of platforms and demographics.
While past credits include adult properties such as supernatural comedy series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (SPACE Canada, Netflix US) and digital motion picture Cybergeddon (Yahoo), the studio now has a growing slate of kids and family titles. It includes 40 episodes of tween sitcom What’s Up, Warthogs! for Canada’s Family Channel, four Roxy Hunter movies for Nickelodeon and several segments for Sesame Street.
In 2015, Aircraft opened the throttle on the kids and family side of its business even more by partnering with Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon on an animated feature film adaptation of Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s acclaimed children’s novel The Breadwinner. The project, Aircraft’s first animated film, has Hollywood heavyweight Angelina Jolie attached as executive producer through her company Jolie Pas Productions.
Following The Breadwinner deal, DHX TV’s Family Channel returned to the fold to greenlight 26 half-hour episodes of Aircraft’s The Wonderful Wayneys. The new live-action, family-driven comedy series is being co-produced with Florida’s Dolphin Entertainment and stars Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club, Jem and the Holograms) and Jason Priestley (Call Me Fitz, Beverly Hills 90210).
Claiming a stake
Aircraft co-president Leo says the company, which also has an office in L.A., has always embraced getting behind the voice of a creator with a fantastic original idea. “If we’re going to put the time in to produce something, it has to be a project we really love,” he says. “We pride ourselves on finding the right people to work with, being a great place to work for creative reasons, and ensuring that everybody from the grip to the caterer is enjoying the process. It’s led to a lot of repeat business with broadcasters and creatives.”
The company’s business acumen also recently attracted the attention of Corus Entertainment kidsnet YTV, which greenlit TV movie Bruno & Boots: Go Jump in the Pool!, a new Aircraft production adapted from Gordon Korman’s beloved Macdonald Hall book series for kids.
“It’s one of the first larger projects that we’ve produced on our own,” says Leo. “We like both styles of working, but we will be able to do more creative things on a wider breadth of projects by partnering with people.”
He notes that the company is currently finalizing a development deal with Teletoon and Nelvana on a new animated series and has a few online opportunities in the works. “We’re excited by the different ways you can finance and distribute a project these days,” says Leo. “This spans from getting a feature film out, to working with different online platforms and crafting content with YouTube creators,” he says.
This article was originally published in Kidscreen’s February/March 2016 issue.