THE creators of cult cartoons Danger Mouse and Count Duckula are looking to the North East in a bid to fund their latest animated children’s TV series.
Manchester-based animation studio Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick (CHF) needs to raise £2m to produce children’s show, Pip!, which will air next year on Channel 5, home to pre-school favourites Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam.
The investment arm of the company, CHF Enterprise, is based in Newcastle and is a subsidiary of the media group.
With Peppa Pig selling around £200m of merchandise from pyjamas to playing cards each year in the UK alone, creating a cartoon character with sale appeal is the holy grail for animation companies.
Although less glamorous than the film industry, its ability to sell branded merchandise means animation can now potentially offer far greater returns to investors.
Chris Reynolds, managing director at CHF Enterprise, said: “To be a part of such a terrific animation series in the early stages is really very exciting and also very unusual.
“We believe Pip! is an incredibly strong concept, which could potentially be as big as Peppa Pig or Bob the Builder.
“There is a huge market out there for merchandising, which is great for investors because they will get a slice of everything that Pip! makes.”
The cartoon is set in the fictional seaside town of Salty Cove, and CHF has already signed up Sir David Jason – who previously worked with Cosgrove Hall on Danger Mouse and other cartoons – to play the puppy Pip’s sea-dog uncle Skipper. CHF has an illustrious heritage, despite being only 18 months old.
The CH stands for Cosgrove Hall, which made some of the best-loved cartoons of the Eighties, including Danger Mouse, also voiced by Sir David, and Count Duckula, the vegetarian vampire, and later produced programmes such as Postman Pat for other companies.
Cosgrove Hall closed down in 2009, by which time it was owned by ITV and it had become cheaper to import cartoons from abroad.
Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall, the founders, retired six years before the business closed, but last year decided they wanted to get back to work.
They teamed up with Francis Fitzpatrick, whose animation Jakers, about an Irish talking pig, has been a huge hit in the US.
Mr Hall died in November last year after a sudden illness, but CHF carried on with his blessing, and with his son Simon on board. Some of the money will be raised through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), which attracts 30% tax relief on the investment, and is also exempt from capital gains tax.
The show is also set to benefit from the Government’s plans to offer tax relief to animation companies in the UK, which could be up to 25%, starting from April 2013.
Mr Reynolds added: “The Government’s decision to offer tax relief will have an incredible impact on our business and will encourage animation businesses to stay in the UK.
“More and more animators have been relocating overseas to countries such as Ireland and Canada, where tax incentives can slash the cost of production.
“A similar approach in the UK will not only make it a much more attractive proposition to potential investors, it will also encourage our production talent to remain in this country.”