MONTREAL — Cinar Films of Montreal is set to step up production again next year, with its busiest slate of TV shows ever.

Cinar will increase its overall production level by 34% to C$57.5 million ($42.4 million), compared to C$42.9 million ($31.6 million) in 1996.

The 1997 slate features a mix of returning series and new productions, with eight animated shows and four live-action offerings. The new animated projects set to begin production include “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse Adventures,” a 26-episode series to be co-produced by Cinar and France Animation, in association with Ravensburger Film & TV; and “Dr. Xargle,” a 13-episode comic drama about extraterrestrials to be co-produced with HTV and King Rollo Films in the U.K. “Dr. Xargle” will air on ITV in Britain next spring.

As always, Cinar, which is a producer and international distrib, will be concentrating exclusively on children’s and family fare for TV.

Cinar will also be producing two series for Canada’s new all-cartoon specialty cable channel Teletoon, which is partly owned by Cinar. The Teletoon shows are “Caillou,” a set of five-minute vignettes, and “Animal Crackers,” based on the comic strip created by Roger Bollen and syndicated by the Tribune Media Service.

The live-action slate is headed up by Cinar’s remake of “Lassie,” a 26-show series produced in association with Golden Books Entertainment.

“Lassie” will air on Discovery in the U.S. and on YTV in Canada.

Cinar is also lensing a new drama series, “Emily of New Moon,” in partnership with Salter Street Films of Halifax and Vancouver-based WIC Entertainment.

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