Harvey Entertainment Takes Control

by Heather Kenyon

Harvey Entertainment brings Casper back into action. © Harvey Entertainment.

The Harvey Entertainment Company, best known for such characters as Casper, The Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Baby Huey, Wendy the Good Witch and others, and Animation World Magazineare teaming up to bring our readers a series of six in-depth articles that will explore different aspects of one production. From over-all company business plan, to production to advertising, licensing and merchandising and distribution, we will learn about Harvey Entertainment’s all CGI film,Casper’s Haunted Christmas.This film is interesting to focus on as it represents one company’s shift from licensing product to seizing control and producing product, thereby keeping all the rights in one profitable bundle. To start the series we are going to talk with Harvey’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Rick Mischel. First, however, let’s learn a little about Harvey.

Casper will be paying friendly visits to all the international television markets. © Harvey Entertainment.

Harvey was founded in 1939 in New York City as a comic book company by brothers Alfred, Leon, and Robert Harvey. In the early 1950s, Harvey acquired the right to publish comic books based on Paramount Pictures’ cartoon characters. Later, they acquired the proprietary rights to Paramount’s cartoon characters and its cartoon film library. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the golden age of comic books, Harvey was considered one of the leading comic book publishers in the United States.

By 1982, the family vision for Harvey was blurred. The production of new comic books and the exhibiting of Harvey's cartoon library on television had substantially declined. In 1988, when the founder's heirs were unable to agree on the management or future direction of Harvey, the company was sold for $7.5 million. Through a series of strategic moves, Harvey has been changing its focus from a licensor to a producer and distributor of quality family entertainment. In 1999, a new management team, led by experienced entertainment industry professionals, Roger A. Burlage, Ron Cushey and Rick Mischel, took the helm to further this charge.

Prior to joining Harvey, Rick Mischel served as President of The Mischel Company, an entertainment company specializing in the production of feature films, the representation of completed films in the acquisition marketplace, and the advising of foreign-based companies on the acquisitions and sales of feature films and animated product throughout the world. He has also been a producer of feature films, like The Specials, starring Jamie Kennedy and Rob Lowe, which is currently in post-production. Prior to The Specials,Mischel served as Executive Producer on the feature film Suicide Kings, starring Christopher Walken and Denis Leary. Suicide Kingswas released in April, 1998 by Artisan Entertainment.

With past video successes, Casper and friends have come into homes everywhere to spook and scare. © Harvey Entertainment.

Prior to August of 1997, Mischel was the Senior Vice President, Acquisitions and Production of LIVE Entertainment, a position he held since September of 1994. While at LIVE, Mischel was responsible for acquiring all product for LIVE Entertainment, including feature films and specials for both theatrical and television release, and animated, episodic and long form product for the Family Home Entertainment (FHE) label. Mischel also supervised the productions of feature films co-produced or co-financed with other companies, as well as supervising the production of original films, animated features and specials for FHE. His responsibilities also included the supervision of the marketing and distribution of FHE product.

While at LIVE, Mischel was the production executive on several LIVE feature films, including Aberration, a LIVE/Grundy co-production, No Way Home, which premiered on Showtime, and on the animated specials The Littlest Angel, The Musical Adventures of Tom Sawyerand the Australian-produced Scrooge Koala’s Christmas.

Prior to LIVE, Mischel served as Vice President of Electric Pictures Corporation, where he was responsible for the development of feature film projects, the supervision of productions, including Jersey Girl, starring Dylan McDermott and Jamie Gertz, and Zandalee, starring Nicholas Cage and Judge Reinhold. Plus, he also oversaw business affairs for both domestic and foreign production and distribution.

As an entertainment attorney at O’Melveny & Myers, Mischel negotiated and drafted agreements relating to the production, financing and distribution of domestic and foreign motion pictures and television programs for such clients as Paramount, Castle Rock Entertainment, Disney and HBO.

Mischel received his J.D. degree from Stanford Law School in 1987, where he was President of his graduating class, and an M.A. in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1984. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University in Medford, MA in 1983.

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