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Canimation Hall of Fame – The Care Bears

Canimation was created as a site where some of the top animation writers in the world could share their craft. But it was also created to celebrate Canadian Animation itself. So we weren’t kidding about starting our own little Canimation Hall of Fame here in our private little corner of the digital world!

We’ve been honouring classic Canadian cartoon characters that occupy a unique place in our country’s animation history. Last time out it was Rocket Robin Hood and his creators, Al Guest and Jean Mathieson.

This time out, we’re giving a big, fluffy, pastel hug to a major game changer in turning arty, independent, Canuck animation into big business.

Let’s give some love to…


It’s hard to believe these fluffy, pastel characters created by a U.S.  greeting card company to warm Mommy’s heart on Mother’s Day or any other occasion saved Canadian animation giant Nelvana from bankruptcy and helped jumpstart the modern age of Canadian animation.

Founded in 1971, by Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert and Clive Smith, Nelvana built its initial reputation making animated shorts for the CBC and a series of highly regarded holiday specials.

The company then devoted five years and $8 million to the production of an animated rock and roll fable called Rock & Rule. Sadly, the film received almost no promotion on its release in the States and left the company on the brink of financial collapse.

Nelvana managed to keep the lights on by doing children’s television. But it was their move to acquire the character rights to the Care Bears from franchise owner American Greetings that turned their fortunes around.

One of the first films to be based on a toy line (Raggedy Anne and Andy beat it out, for one), The Care Bears Movie was released in 1985.  It was an unprecedented success.  In fact, for many years it was the highest grossing animated feature ever made without the name “Disney” preceding the title.

Sorry, now that I'm a success, all autograph requests go through my agent, Cashheart Bear.

Building on that success, Nelvana released a second Care Bears movie and a highly successful television series.  Over the years Nelvana developed a worldwide reputation for taking character franchises and making them into successful animated shows that maintained the flavour of the original character.

That approach (similar to the one taken by Cinar and later, Cookie Jar) is what propelled Nelvana to become international animation leader, producing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of cartoon television. More hits like Babar, Tintin, Little Bear and Magic School Bus enabled the company to branch out into original production like today’s 6Teen, Sidekicks and modern classics like Fairly Oddparents.

The tattoo parlour line-ups in Care-A-Lot are craaaaazy.

Oddly, Nelvana and Cinar may also be partially responsible for the proliferation of successful smaller companies.

With changes in structure at Nelvana over the years (and the help of Cinar’s implosion just before the new millennium) scores of highly skilled animators, producers and writers were scattered into the wilderness to help staff and build up other companies, setting the stage for today’s vital field of animation production companies.

And so, with huggy-hugs all around, Canimation inducts The Care Bears into our imaginary, totally made up Canadian Animation Hall of Fame.

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