Duet toons sales

Pair to rep each other's product in U.S., U.K. and Oz

SYDNEY — Australia’s leading animation house, Yoram Gross-EM.TV, is cozying up to the EM.TV-owned Jim Henson Co. in a deal that entails a reciprocal repping of each other’s product.

Effective April 1, YGEM Licensing is handling TV sales and merchandizing for the Henson catalog Down Under, including “The Muppets” and new series such as “The Hoobs,” “Construction Site” and “Mopatop’s Shop.”

In turn, Henson is distributing Gross’ output in the U.S. and the U.K., starting with the skein “Flipper and Lopaka.”

The two firms have been looking for ways to work together since Germany’s EM.TV acquired the Henson Co. last year; EM.TV has owned a 50% stake in YGEM since March 1999.

Sandra Gross, a director of YGEM, says she hopes Henson’s clout will give Gross’ productions greater access to the U.S., traditionally a tough market for imported animation, and the U.K.

EM.TV’s well-publicized financial problems have had no impact on the operations of YGEM, Gross stresses, and the German firm is sticking to its commitment to finance and distribute two series a year from the Oz producer.

Previously, Henson’s merchandizing rights in Oz were handled by Melbourne-based Gaffney Intl. Licensing.

The Henson-YGEM accord binds the two outfits, regardless of whether EM.TV opts to sell the Muppets creator, as has been speculated (Variety, March 19-25).

YGEM has a full slate, wrapping the second series of “Tabaluga” and “Flipper,” producing “Old Tom” (for which Alliance Atlantis is fielding North and South American rights) and starting to crank up “Fairy Tale Police Department.”

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