Founded in 1971, Nelvana is made up of two divisions. Nelvana Studios develops and produces animated content from its production facility in Toronto. The firm’s library has well over 3,200 half-hour animated episodes, including classic properties such as Babar, Franklin, Rolie Polie Olie and The Berenstain Bears, plus newer titles like Ruby Gloom and Jane and the Dragon. Nelvana Enterprises, meanwhile, is the international distribution arm of Corus Entertainment (the firm’s parent company).
In addition to this, the company is also involved with qubo, the bilingual multi-platform television network for children which includes blocks on NBC Saturday morning, Telemundo for Hispanic audiences and ION Networks, a 24/7 digital kids channel. Its programmes also run on KidsCo, the branded global channel for children which launched in April 2007.
“Each time that we build a show, we try to incorporate entertainment, education and safety,” explains Mark Northwood, VP of licensing for The Americas. “Our producers are asked to think about the types of shows that they would want their own children to watch, and that type of thinking leads to broadcasters who pick up our animation because it’s viewed as a ‘safe place’ for a child.
“Nelvana is now the home of both classic pre-school properties like Franklin and Babar, but also male action hits such as Beyblade and now Bakugan, plus girls six to 11 properties like Ruby Gloom. The profile of the company overall has increased over recent years due to our increased international presence, broadening of the age range of our offerings and the more ‘branded’ feel of the merchandise at retail. We are proud of our heritage and produce approximately 120 plus episodes a year to both support our classics and build the more recent brand extensions.”
The big news from the firm over the past 12 months has been the emergence of Bakugan. Indeed, the signs are that it could be the top boys promoted product in North America this autumn, while it is due to launch in the UK and parts of Europe later this year. Further countries will follow in spring 2009. An additional 26 episodes – Bakugan: New Vestroia – have also recently been confirmed.
Going forward, and Northwood is confident of Nelvana being able to underline its position in the market.
“The children’s entertainment sector continues to be an exciting place to have a career,” he says. “Though there is intense competition in key markets, there is continued growth in the sector globally. As incomes continue to grow in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, parents have constantly improving lifestyles and continue to increase their expenditure on their children. As Corus Entertainment expands its TV presence internationally, our brands continue to grow in these key growth markets, through TV sales, home entertainment and our growing merchandise franchise.
“As we look forward, Nelvana will work even more closely with partners in Japan to ensure that a steady influx of action properties from Japan make their way into the global markets. We are expanding our efforts globally with shows like Ruby Gloom that take us into the fashion business and, of course, we will be producing more pre-school content to support our existing brands.
“Here in Canada, we will be acting as an agent for licensors who want to ensure success for their brands with a mixture of TV broadcast, web support, TV support and product licensing,” Northwood concludes.