Starz are the Limit: The Word on the Growing Studio
With the success of 9, Starz Animation has become a hot animation studio. We wanted to get to know more about the growing mini-major and see what they are up to. I had a chance to chat with Heather Kenyon, Head of Sales and Project Development at Starz Animation. If you don't already know Ms. Kenyon is then you should. She's one of the most knowledgeable and hard-working animation execs around. She started her animation career at Hanna-Barbera and for a time served as the editor-in-chief of this very website. She followed that up with a successful run at Cartoon Network where she helped such shows as Chowder and Flapjack to the air.
Rick DeMott: What is your role at Starz?
Heather Kenyon: Since I started in this newly created position in May, my mandate has been really clear: find cool new projects that we can get involved in! Now, how we are involved can happen a number of different ways. We have three paths to keep the studio growing. One is to track down service work. Two is to find co-productions and co-ventures that we can participate in, and three, to begin to develop a slate of proprietary projects.
RD: How are Starz Animation Toronto and Starz Media related? Do you collaborate with Film Roman?
HK: Starz Media is our parent. Film Roman and Starz Animation Toronto are side-by-side under the umbrella known as Starz Animation. Film Roman, which produces the animation for The Simpsons, of course, but also Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, Marvel Entertainment’s new Super Hero Squad, the feature Dante’s Inferno (based on the EA game) and others, is 2D, 3D and Flash. For most of our television and long form projects, storyboards, animatics and pre-production is done in-house, animation is done overseas. Starz Animation Toronto is high-end CG only. We have produced all of our work in house, in Toronto, to date -- this includes 9 and the current Gnomeo & Juliet -- in order to max out quality and take advantage of Canada’s great tax credits. David Steinberg, head of Starz Animation Toronto, and Jay Fukuto, head of Film Roman, are close and we are working on several projects that will bring the studios closer. We are sister studios and while the opportunity to work together hasn’t happened yet I think it will in the future. Both studios are open and flexible and there have been several bids recently where we have looked at different configurations between the studios. Or one studio has handed a project to bid off to the other. Between the two studios we can produce in a number of different ways and hit a lot of different price points.
Under the Starz umbrella there are several other companies that we can work with as well -- like the Starz channels and Anchor Bay Entertainment for home entertainment. I am still learning about different companies that Liberty owns. It is so big! Just the other day I learned we owned the Atlanta Braves baseball team too!
RD: What is the reaction and mood toward 9 at the company?