EXCLUSIVE: Australia’s Princess Productions is acquiring Irish firm Boulder Media from toy giant Hasbro, we’ve learned.
The deal is the most notable M&A on the international animation market for a while. It closed earlier this month and gives Princess expanded production services capabilities for its in-house and third-party projects and allow it push into development in Ireland. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Boulder is one of Ireland’s largest animation studios, having worked on Hasbro’s Transformers and My Little Pony franchises and TV shows such as Go Jetters and Danger Mouse. Its sale to Hasbro in 2016 was considered a major sign of intent by the U.S. toy manufacturer’s desire to make and own more content. Hasbro later acquired Pepper Pig and PJ Masks owner eOne but is now focusing more on Hasbro-branded IP and has its other entertainment assets under strategic review.
Princess is known for adult animation series such as Adult Swim’s Yolo Crystal Fantasy and Yolo Silver Destiny and is currently working on Hulu and 20th Television Animation’s Koala Man through its joint venture with Bento Box Entertainment, Princess Bento. Stars attached to that show include Sarah Snook, Demi Lardner, Jermaine Clement, Rachel House and Jarrad Wright. It’s got a busy animation studio of its own in Melbourne, providing production services to in-house shows and third-party projects such as Adult Swim’s Smiling Friends; a slate of Aussie comedy projects; and has produced comedies such as Chris Lilley shows We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year (aka The Nominees), Summer Heights High and Jonah From Tonga, along with docs and podcasts.
Dublin-based Boulder, founded back in 2000, has an extensive record of providing animation services and producing TV shows and features. Titles include Disney’s Wander Over Yonder and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy and Transformers: Cyberverse for eOne, several My Little Pony projects, BBC and Fremantle series Danger Mouse, the BBC’s Go Jetters and Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball among others.
“We’re beyond thrilled to join Boulder Media to the Princess Pictures group,” said Princess Pictures’ Managing Director Emma Fitzsimons. “In Boulder, we have found a studio that boasts not only first-class artists but also kindred spirits that share our sense of humour and passion for great stories. Boulder Media has an established reputation in kids’ animation production and we’re going to add a new focus: prime-time adult comedy production.”
“This synergetic relationship opens up unique opportunities for our future slate and enables us to amplify our creative offering in the market,” added Boulder Managing Director Jenni MacNeaney. “It’s an exciting step forward in building the Boulder brand, one that values the great work we’ve produced over the last 22 years, while setting us up for future success.”
Fitzsimons said new hires would soon follow for Boulder and Princess’ Australian studio, and gave Deadline a flavor of the direction of travel in Europe.
“Whether animation or live action, we’ve always championed brilliant creative talent, giving them all the support they need to get their show on the screen,” she said. “We’ll continue that ethos in Ireland, looking for great storytellers who have a clear vision and something to say. We’re particularly interested in under represented voices who offer a perspective on the world that global audiences might not have heard before.”
She added that while comedy “remains the most popular genre for adult animation, and Ireland has such a rich tradition of comedy that we’d be mad not to embrace it,” there is “other opportunities for different genres.”
Fitzsimons added that the growth of YouTube and global streamers had “introduced U.S. audiences to international talent and shows in a much bigger way than had ever happened before.”
“The floodgates are open now and the US appetite for different voices from foreign lands isn’t going to go away, so we expect to continue to be able to take Australian and now hopefully Irish talent over to U.S. and global buyers.”