Could the brisk wintry climes have something to do with the fact that Ontario, Canada, is a production hotbed for some of today’s most eye-catching animation talent on the smallscreen?
Per Frank Falcone, president and creative director of the Toronto-based Guru Studio, the answer is a resounding yes.
“It’s dark and cold for half the year!” says Falcone. “Malcolm Gladwell mentions the 10,000-Hour Rule. People spend a lot of time indoors watching shows and films, drawing and painting. So they get very good. Toronto-based productions are generating an exceptional amount of critical and audience success in the U.S. and abroad. The depth, breadth and sophistication of our talent pool is unsurpassed.”
To wit, “Paw Patrol,” animated and directed by Guru Studio for Spin Master Entertainment, has risen to the top slot on Nickelodeon and is the No. 1-rated preschool series on American TV. The show charts the adventures of six heroic puppies who save the day in the fictional town of Adventure Bay.
Inclement weather notwithstanding, tax-break incentives and government funding are the primary key reasons that the region has successfully established itself as a formidable breeding ground for top-notch cartoon fare.
“There’s great talent in America on the animation side,” says Irene Weibel, head of Nelvana Studio, which has produced such toddlerdom faves as “Bubble Guppies,” “Max & Ruby” and the recent Disney Junior co-production, “Lucky Duck.” “I think that the key difference is the environment of funding animation as an industry in Canada. The government of Canada provides support in the way of tax benefits and subsidies to animation that is produced in Canada and that doesn’t exist in the U.S., and that gives the Canadian industry that kind of leg up.”
So desired are animators at Ottawa-based Mercury Filmworks that Disney TV Animation creators frequently request to partner with them when cooking up new series.
“Because Mercury has been doing awesome work for us for a few seasons — we’re doing ‘Wander Over Yonder’ and the ‘Mickey’ shorts with them and they have been so well received — there are showrunners who come in when they pitch and know that they want Mercury to do the pilot,” says Lisa Salamone-Smith, senior VP production, Disney Television Animation. “Mercury does such a lovely job, and they take such ownership of their part of the production that it really feels like a partnership. It doesn’t feel like ‘Oh God, we’re outsourcing that part and we’ll see what it looks like when it comes back in 16 weeks.’ ”
“We enjoy a particularly special relationship with Disney,” says Mercury Filmworks president Clint Eland. “The more of these high-caliber shows that we work on, the more we’re strengthening our talent base and we’re getting better and better and better. It’s a win-win.”