New Nelvana Topper Talks

Yesterday Animation Magazine Online reported that Paul Robertson had taken over for former Nelvana ceo Michael Hirsh. We have since spoken with the newly appointed president of Corus Television and Nelvana about his new role and the direction of the company.

AMO: How is the changing of the guard going?

PR: Terrific. We’ve been able to get continuity with some really key folks on the Nelvana side. What we’re doing here is taking some very creative, strong executives from the TV side and putting them together with the Nelvana executives and creating a powerful new team. We’re just pleased to be able to announce a solid new structure so we can continue the momentum.

AMO: Are you still currently working with Hirsh in the transition?

PR: Yes. Michael is pleased at the way this has rolled out. He says he was the one who first thought of it, which, as I’m sure, is absolutely true. He’s been tremendously helpful to me just in terms of getting my footing and helping me to get to know the customers. He’s going to make Nelvana his creative home and work on projects that could be of interest to [the company].

AMO: Were you the heir apparent?

PR: I don’t know how it was contemplated, how it was all going to unfold. But I think that when it came down to it, [Corus exec. chair] Heather Shaw and [Corus president and ceo] John Cassaday were looking for someone who had a sensitivity with the kids’ products, as well as an orientation for the market or for brand building. I guess they must have thought I fit that bill.

AMO: How will your role within the company change specifically?

PR: I’d been working on television alone and now I have responsibility for working on television plus Nelvana. So it really is an expansion of responsibilities but it’s possible because we have such an outstanding team of seasoned executives. We have so much experience on the team, whether it’s Peter Moss and 25 years in kids entertainment or Scott Dyer, who was a pioneer in 3D digital. They’re both Emmy Award winners. So I think it’s a tribute to the team that we were able to take this on with the belief that we can keep building on the success that Michael and his partners have had.

AMO: How exactly will the new team operate?

PR: There’s Moss, Dyer, and then a new position to be announced. Between those three people and myself, we’ll manage all the key elements of the business. So Peter on the front end of the creative development side, Scott on the creative production side, and the new person to be hired focusing on all the commercial elements of our business. We’ll work together as a team to greenlight new projects and build brands in the market.

AMO: Will the new position be filled internally?

PR: No. We’ve been searching outside for that one but haven’t been able to announce anyone yet. Reporting to that person would be all our sales offices — L.A., Tokyo, France, the U.K. If we thought we had the skills inside, we’d certainly go there first.

AMO: Any time frame for when you hope to have that position filled?

PR: It’s hard to tell. There are a couple candidates that seem very interested in the role and we’re interested in them, so hopefully it won’t be too long.

In addition to his duties at Corus and Nelvana, Robertson is president of the Executive Committee for Concerned Children’s Advertisers and was appointed chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in May 2001.