Shelley Duvall, the actress, producer and pioneer of cable and homevid kid’s entertainment, has partnered her Think Entertainment with Enchante Ltd., a London-based company with an office in Santa Rosa that shares Duvall’s mandate to produce quality entertainment for kids.
The deal, which will be announced today, provides Think with a much-needed cash infusion, a new management team, and a broader mandate to produce more TV specials and series.
These include her “Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales and Legends,” and her fifth series, “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” which airs on Showtime in January.
Think is also planning “Shelley Duvall’s Family Features,” and Duvall said she is negotiating with theatrical distribs.
In the process, the partnershipshould re-establish Duvall as a major force in the burgeoning children’s entertainment field. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I’m looking to revive and expand the Saturday matinee,” Duvall said. The target date to have the first production up and running is 18 months.
“Attached will be a cartoon series,” she continued. “That’s the expansion part: It’s no longer limited to Saturday.”
With so much on her platter, Duvall, who starred in such films as “The Shining” and “Popeye,” has no immediate plans to star in anyone else’s features. Think also will step up its interactive programs, book publishing, merchandising and music recording.
Think’s first-look deals with Universal Family Entertainment and MCA Home Video expired in November, leaving the path clear for Duvall to forge a partnership with Enchante.
Five-year-old Enchante — privately owned by founder Ayman Sawaf and his partner Christian Eddleman — completed a 50% stock purchase of 3-year-old Think , which was 100% owned by chairman/CEO Duvall.
“This far surpasses a first-look deal, which is basically housekeeping and maintenance,” said Duvall. “It’s a 50/50 deal now. I finally found the right people.”
Eddleman, Think’s new chief of corporate development, launched and sold the world’s then-biggest hot air balloon company — Airborn Inc. — in ’79, before becoming a Wall Street broker.
Eddleman was national director of training for PaineWebber Inc. before joining Enchante.
“My job is to make sure the creative environment that Shelley works in is well maintained,” Eddleman said, noting he plans to build a stable of talent and “not a stable of exex.”
The former broker also said Enchante — which produced two kid pix, “Magic Boat” and “Palooka”– will put up at least half the production costs and doesn’t plan to sell assets.
“We didn’t buy this company for what was in the past … check those assets, buy low and sell high,” said Eddleman. “We were investing in our mutual future.”
Enchante’s Michael Lopez — who was appointed president/COO of Think — hopes to be able to allow Duvall to concentrate on what she does best.
“We want to keep her focused on what her strengths are, which is the creative side of producing,” Lopez explained. “That is the core of the company. Creative talent is in great demand, so we want to help manage that. Our job is to run the company prudently and address the opportunities as they arise and make sure they match the long-term strategic plan.”
Lopez was responsible for launching the Enchante subsid Enchante Publishing, which bowed several weeks ago at the American Booksellers Association convention in Miami.
In a separate deal, Enchante Publishing inked a 60-book agreement with Think. The books will include original works and adaptations. First titles out will include “Shelley Duvall’s Favorite Fairy Tales” and “Shelley Duvall’s Favorite Children’s Stories.” All this expansion arrives after the troubled Think shrank from 22 employees several years ago to just four last year. The indie company has been through several permutations.
In the ’70s, Duvall launched her own Platypus Prods. and began producing the quality kid stuff that became her trademark, such as “Faerie Tale Theatre,” which was launched in ’82 and had a long run on Showtime.
By 1988, Duvall launched Think with an unprecedented partner-ship with cable TV operators Tele Communications Inc., United Artists Entertainment and Newhouse Broadcasting. By 1990, she realized cable alone could not support the company and she bought out her partners. In ’91, Think produced the series “Stories From Growing Up” for Nickelodeon and developed preschooler musicvideos “Nick Jr. Rocks!” for MTV.
In 1992, Think launched “Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories” for Showtime and MCA Universal Home Video. The series — now in its second season — has won numerous awards, including the Parent’s ChoiceAward.
This year, Think will launch its second interactive CD-ROM program, “Shelley Duvall’s It’s a Dog’s Life,” which follows “Shelley Duvall’s It’s a Bird’s Life.” Both are produced with Sanctuary Woods Multimedia Corp. in Victoria, B.C. , and distributed by Electronic Arts.
Think has two music records out via Lou Adler’s children’s label Ode 2 Kids, and a third pending in the series dubbed “Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall.”
Eddleman said he doesn’t rule out spinning off a music division of Think.