MarVista, Waterfront Team for Toon Specials

In a bid to grab a piece of the lucrative direct-to-video market, Los Angeles-based family entertainment producer and distributor MarVista Ent. has entered into a multi-picture, multi-year development, production and distribution partnership with Vancouver-based Waterfront Pictures. The entities will sink $6 million into developing six new animated video specials.

The first title produced under the agreement, A Fairy Tale Christmas, will debut at this year’s MIP-TV, taking place April 11-15 in Cannes, France. Slated for completion by June 2005, the one-hour feature will mark MarVista’s first foray into animation since the company was founded in 2004. The five additional projects will be developed over the next three years.

A Fairy Tale Christmas tells the story of a young princess who is captured by the King’s Viceroy and forced into a life of slavery. While the Viceroy schemes to take over the kingdom, the princess and her new animal friends plan to make the dangerous journey back to the castle in the hope that she can once again dance for her father.

Waterfront Pictures, through the amalgamation of Edge Ent., produced the 1998 family movie Summer of The Monkeys, based on the Award-winning novel by Wilson Rawls and distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The company also produced the 2001 Mia Sara vehicle, The Impossible Elephant, distributed by Carlton America.

Also debuting at MIP-TV 2005 is the 2D-animated, full-length feature Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss. Written, directed and animated by Phil Nibbelink, the G-rated film retells the classic Shakespeare tale of star-crossed lovers with seals rather than humans. Nibbelink previously directed An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, served as supervising animator on Warner Bros.’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was animation director on Disney’s Casper; and did character animation on The Fox and the Hound.

Rounding out MarVista’s MIP animation line-up are the 13×30 pre-school series Ribert & Robert’s WonderWorld and the one-hour special, The Avenging Apes of Africa. In Ribert & Robert’s WonderWorld, a computer animated frog who wants to know everything and his live-action host pal take roller-coaster rides through the WonderWorld’s theme park where performers teach them about everything from colors, music and art to magic, science, storytelling and dance.

The Avenging Apes of Africa centers on six great apes orphaned by a cold-hearted poacher in the middle of the Congo jungle. Through an ancient healing serum, the simians gain superhero abilities and make a pact to save and protect threatened and endangered animals all over the world. The project is produced by Grace Animation Studios, headed by Christopher Turner.

MarVista Ent. was founded by Whamo Ent. key executives Joseph Szew and Fernando Szew; Porch Light Ent.’s former senior VP of worldwide sales and executive producer Michael Jacobs; and George Port, former president/founder of Anchor Bay Ent. The company is the beneficiary of the Whamo library, which contains approximately 3000 hours of television programming, including 45 animated feature films.