Portfolio’s Radical BJ

For those Bourbon St. bound this month, pages 12-14 offer a wrap of some of the new projects Canadian companies will be shopping at NATPE in New Orleans Jan. 25 to 28.

Versions of these stories also appear in the Winter 1999 issue Playback International.

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The working title of Portfolio Entertainment’s new animated series is BJ and the Radical Rumblebutts, a spin-off from the Barney & Friends series.

BJ and the Radical Rumblebutts will be produced in Canada on a budget of $400,000 per half-hour. The Canadian broadcaster is ytv and a u.s. broadcaster is being negotiated.

Portfolio is seeking foreign presales and international distribution to finance the series at natpe. The show will be delivered in 2000.

The origins of Portfolio’s latest project begins with the international success and acclaim earned by its previous preschool series Groundling Marsh, which aired on ytv in Canada for five years. To date, it has sold to over 95 countries around the world, including pbs in the u.s., Disney Channel in the u.k. A total of 56 half-hours of the puppet show have been produced.

This caught the attention of Dallas-based Lyrick Studios, the producers of North America’s number one rated preschool show, Barney & Friends. The company was looking to acquire additional properties for home video sales and merchandising and approached Toronto-based Portfolio about the Groundling Marsh series.

Lyrick had identified the opportunity to create a Barney spin-off show centering on the rambunctious yellow dinosaur bj. ceo Tim Clott decided Portfolio was the producer best suited to the task and the Toronto company jumped at the opportunity.

Portfolio optioned all the rights to the character, developing the series with Barney creator Sheryl Leach as a consultant and Lyrick involved in the creative. Lyrick will handle merchandising and licensing opportunities on the new series, says Olfman.

As to why Lyrick chose to sell the rights as opposed to produce the series themselves, Olfman says ‘Lyrick was looking for fresh creative. They had been so involved with Barney they felt it would be difficult to distance themselves from that series.’

Test marketing has shown that boys lose interest in Barney & Friends by the age of four, says Olfman, but bj, one of the least-known Barney characters, appears to have a strong following among young boys.

‘We saw the opportunity to give this character a history and new premise, age him up to target four- to eight-year-olds. bj would be hipper,’ Olfman adds.