Sony’s Family grows by 5 in development

Attanasio to head pix, Higgins gets TV, others join SPFE

The fledgling Sony Pictures Family Entertainment Group has started a small family of its own, naming five new development execs last week.

“We took our time building a team that we think will work well together,” said SPFE prexy Sander Schwartz. “We are focusing our efforts on developing material that can be franchised and branded.”

The division was founded in February. The recent hires come in response to a growing slate of feature films, TV originals and direct-to-video efforts.

SPFE will focus on rights acquisitions for modern and classic children’s books, videogame titles and comic books. It also plans to explore remakes of kid-related titles from the Columbia library.

The new appointments are: Stacey Attanasio, senior VP, production; Bob Higgins, senior VP, creative affairs; Joe D’Ambrosia, executive director of creative affairs; Tara Polacik, director, creative affairs; and Grace Benn, who will serve as a creative executive.

Attanasio will be responsible for live-action, animated and CGI feature film development. She will focus on creating product with broad franchise potential for pre-teenage audiences.

Attanasio joins SPFE from Disney-based Meyers/Shyer Co. As exec veepee, she was involved in the “The Parent Trap” and Charles Shyer’s next pic, “L’Affaire Du Collier.”

Attanasio previously served as VP of motion pictures at Savoy Pictures, where she oversaw acquisition, development and production of more than 20 projects, including “Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio.”

Kid programming roots

Previously, Higgins served as veepee of creative affairs for ColTriStar TV’s children’s programming. He continues to have creative supervision over all TV programming development and current production for animated television series.

Before joining Col/TriStar TV in 1996, Higgins was director of development for Nelvana Communications, where he supervised development and sale of animated and live-action children’s TV series.

D’Ambrosia comes to SPFE from Nickelodeon Movies, where he served as director of development. He was involved in Nick’s feature film division, which produced “The Rugrats Movie” and “Harriet the Spy.”

In her new position as director of creative affairs, Polacik will continue to be involved in creation, development and direction of the division’s programming. Formerly manager of creative affairs, Polacik oversaw development of “Dragon Tales,” a Children’s Television Workshop co-production that bows on PBS this fall.

As a creative executive, Benn will be responsible for acquiring and developing features and TV properties. She had a been creative assistant and story editor at Columbia Pictures.