Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc. CEO Michael Hirsh is calling for government support for not only Canadian drama, but also Canadian animation. He made the plea in his address delivered September 23 at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in Ottawa. Below is an excerpt from his keynote address. …Although the industry has gone through several lean years lately, Canada is still an Animation Nation…(A) major driver of the growth and development of animation in this country was the licensing of Teletoon, Canada’s only all animation network, to a consortium of Cinar, Family Channel, Nelvana and YTV. The network first aired in 1997. With a commitment to spend 47% of the prior year’s revenue, Teletoon doubled the number of cartoons that were made in Canada over the past five years…By the time I was ready to exit Nelvana in 2002, after selling the company to Corus in 2000, Canadian animation was recognized as a worldwide leader. Nelvana had over 26 series on the air in the United States. The company supplied approximately one third of Nick Jr.’s series, one third of PBS’s Kids block and one half of ABC family’s boy’s programming. …All in all, I figure that the Canadian animation industry experienced an 18-year growth cycle. By coincidence, this growth was interrupted about the same time as the Internet bubble in 2001. Several factors contributed to the down cycle. The most important was the simple fact that too much animation was being produced globally. ...That decline has been precipitous. At the height of activity in Canada, the combined output of Nelvana, Cinar, and CineGroupe was approximately 700 episodes a year of cartoons. By way of comparison, these same companies (with the exception of CineGroupe which is now in liquidation) are currently producing approximately 200 episodes. The massive programming supply at the peak choked the system and reduced the need for the next few years. And there are hangovers from the industry’s decline that we haven’t recovered from. These include low license fees, vertical integration and consolidation. Today, we are faced with a new opportunity to regroup and go on to greater heights. The international glut has been absorbed. The leaps forward in digital production result in cost reductions that help balance lower licence fees. Digital production also provides more creative jobs for Canadians in the future. And with demand on the rise, there is room once again for new players...I believe we are building towards the next Golden Age of animation. Today, more kids are playing with video games that are animation sophisticated. There is more use of the Internet with greater demand for animation. Demand for educational aids is strong. Video-on-demand and subscription video on demand are growing. …The partnership with government is still key. Unfortunately, children’s animated programming does not get its fair share of the Canada Television Fund (CTF), one of the key domestic incentive programs. That’s my opinion and I believe it is widely shared in our industry. We need to work together to ensure that animation, which is so important to our kids gets the maximum support from the CTF and other sources. What could be more essential to the development of sovereign nations than kids? And what do kids want to view more than animation? At the present time, the federal government’s attention is focused on drama, which is the weak sister of Canadian programming. According to Trina McQueen’s drama report, and I quote, "Drama is the weakest of all major genres of English-language television. No broadcaster has ever made money on drama. It exists entirely because of political and regulatory will," end of quote. None of us will deny that Canadian producers of drama programming are entitled to government support and funding. However, the animation industry has also gone through a very rough patch in the last several years. We could use some help to boost our recovery. ...Our message to the government is: give us a hand and you will see a return on your investment. The return will come in two ways: we will generate strong export sales and we will ensure that Canadian children grow up with Canadian stories and values. Just a few years ago, half of the top ten shows on Teletoon and YTV were Canadian. Today that’s down to two of the top 20. This trend can and must be reversed.