Duo forms toon studio

Dern, Sabella make pact, bow with 'Noddy'

HOLLYWOOD — Former MGM Animation toppers Paul Sabella and Jonathan Dern have formed animation studio SD Entertainment to develop a series of projects, the first of which will be an update of British preschool strip “Make Way for Noddy.”

For “Noddy,” starring the elf-like character based on children’s author Enid Blyton, SD Entertainment has pacted with U.K.-based Chorion IP to produce a 3D computer-animated version of the already popular stop-motion series.

SD will create and design the 100 original episodes out of its Canoga Park, Calif.-based facility, as well as spearhead the design of merchandising.

Company has 12 additional animated projects in development and is seeking strategic alliances and co-productions with other studios, broadcast and cable networks as well as Internet content creators.

Sabella told Daily Variety that the goal is to create franchisable properties that cross over to a variety of platforms including television, homevideo, videogames, the Internet, publishing, feature films and merchandising.

Franchise quality

“When we choose a project, we look at whether it has a franchise quality going for it, whether it is internationally known, whether it can appeal to young audiences and whether it has a hook,” Sabella said.

Sabella and Dern are producing the Saturday ayem toon series “Action Man” for toymaker Hasbro, Fox Kids and Mainframe Entertainment.

The duo formed MGM Animation in 1993, developing “All Dogs Go to Heaven — The Series,” “Robocop: Alpha Commando,” “The Lionhearts,” homevid feature “Babes in Toyland,” “The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue,” as well as features “All Dogs Go to Heaven 2” and “The Pebble and the Penguin.”

While there, Sabella and Dern produced the theatrical short “Driving Mr. Pink: The Pink Panther,” also helmed by Sabella.

Before that, Sabella was senior veep at Hanna-Barbera, responsible for all aspects of television animation production and serving as executive producer of “Fish Police,” “Tom and Jerry Kids” and “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures.” He also produced Hanna-Barbera’s “The Smurfs” and “Foofur.”

Dern was an associate producer at DIC Enterprises/Rainforest Entertainment.

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