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Nelvana takes ‘Puff’

Kiddie outfit acquires rights to 'Dragon'

MONTREAL — Canuck kids producer and distrib Nelvana Ltd. has acquired all global development, production, distribution, and merchandise licensing rights to the property “Puff the Magic Dragon” from Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, who penned the famous folk song.

Yarrow is a member of the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, which popularized the song.

Nelvana is set to simultaneously produce an animated feature-film and TV series inspired by the song, with Emmy-winning writer Peter Sauder (“Rolie Polie Olie”) already at work on scripts for the two projects. The folk song chronicling the adventures of Little Jackie Paper and his friend Puff the Magic Dragon was first published in 1963 and has sold 50 million copies worldwide.

The tune is popular with everyone from boomers to today’s school kids, said Michael Hirsh, co-CEO of Nelvana.

“One of Nelvana’s core competencies is adapting classic children’s characters, and we think the song is a terrific vehicle,” said Hirsh. “We have a lot of faith in the property. We think it has great appeal. It’s a song that kids know and love, and it’s multigenerational.”

The “Puff” feature and TV series will go into production in 1999 or 2000. Yarrow and Lipton will likely write new songs for both projects.

Nelvana also announced its third-quarter financial results on Thursday, reporting a major boost in earnings thanks to its increased production of proprietary TV shows. Net earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30 surged 300% to C$2.4 million ($1.5 million) or 21¢ per share, compared to $360,000 or 6¢ per share in the same quarter last year. Revenue for the quarter increased 21% to $13 million, up from $10.4 million the previous year.

“The results are driven by the substantial growth in the number of proprietary productions,” said Nelvana chief financial officer Sally Moyer Kent. “We’re not doing any service work at all.”

Deliveries in the third-quarter included new episodes of “Little Bear,” “Franklin,” “Birdz,” “Anatole,” “Rolie Polie Olie” for the Disney Channel in the U.S. and CBC in Canada and “Bob & Margaret,” Nelvana’s first primetime series.

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