Cinar loaded for ‘Bear’

MONTREAL — Cinar Films has begun production in Montreal on a new version of “The Adventures of Paddington Bear,” to be co-produced with Protecrea/Canal J, a subsidiary of French broadcaster TF1.

The animated series will begin airing in September on the ITV network in the U.K., on Canal J and TF1 in France, and on the new all-cartoon web Teletoon in Canada. Cinar, which has the international rights to the project, has yet to make a “Paddington” sale in the U.S., but discussions are under way with several American broadcasters.

The original “Paddington Bear” series was produced in England in the mid-1970s using stop-motion animation techniques.

Both series are based on the bestselling books by British kids author Michael Bond. More than 25 million copies have sold around the globe, the stories have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Cinar picked up the rights to re-make “Paddington Bear” when it acquired the London-based FilmFair production facilities and library in November. An initial run of 13 episodes is planned, with a total budget of C$6.6 million ($4.8 million), but Cinar execs are confident the show will continue beyond the first batch of episodes.

Cinar VP of animation Cassandra Schafhausen said the new shows will remain true to the spirit of the original series and books about the bear from “darkest Peru” who ends up in London’s Paddington Station and is adopted by the Brown family.

“It’s very authentic,” Schafhausen said. “He’s a dignified, curious, engaging bear. He’s a very ironic character. It’s very dry and sly. It comes out of a classic comedic tradition of understatement. It’s not pat, trivial stuff.”

Bond, who was recently named to the Order of the British Empire, has been closely involved in the production of the series. The Cinar series is not the only “Paddington” action on the sked this fall: HarperCollins in the U.S. will publish a 12-book series over the next two years, beginning with “Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise” this fall.

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