Tarak Ben Ammar has taken a shine to Italo toons.
The Franco-Tunisian film producer and dealmaker has acquired a small but significant stake in Rainbow, maker of “Winx Club,” the smash Italo kiddie series sold in 90 countries, ahead of the expanding animation studio’s planned flotation on the Milan bourse.
Ben Ammar — topper of Paris-based Quinta Communications and board member of the Weinstein Co. — has initially taken just a 2% interest in Rainbow. But the move is considered integral to broader ambitions within Italy’s entertainment sector by the close associate of Silvio Berlusconi and adviser to Rupert Murdoch, who is also a board member of leading Italian merchant bank Mediobanca.
Ben Ammar now becomes a board member of Rainbow, which later this month will have its first feature, “Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom,” boasting a Natalie Imbruglia theme song, out wide on 500 Italian screens via 01 Distribuzione.
Rainbow, founded in 1995 by Italo artist and CGI helmer Iginio Straffi, besides having a worldwide hit franchise with “Winx Club” and a resulting windfall in merchandising coin, has also spawned the “Tommy & Oscar,” “Monster Allergy” and “Prezzy” series.
“I have discovered in Iginio Straffi the same type of creative and entrepreneurial capabilities that are behind the success of Pixar and Disney,” Ben Ammar said in a statement. “There is no equivalent animation talent in Europe.”
Ben Ammar, who holds a 24% stake in TV production company Lux Vide, maker of megaskein “War and Peace,” last month confirmed he is in negotiations to gain control of Italy’s Eagle Pictures, a distrib of mainly Hollywood genre pics and also of Italian titles, which it co-produces.