Got the next Strawberry Shortcake - Balderdash? NEO's got the connections

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 12/18/2004 - 23:38.

There's an article in the Plain Dealer on a fascinating local business development - American Greetings bought into The Hatchery, an innovative Los Angeles company "that produces family entertainment for film, television, home video,
video games and new media." My immediate thought was, what can this hatch for NEO. Our creatives need opportunities in these sectors and insider Los Angeles connections, and The Hatchery could certainly find "product" and talent here - it seems if our hometown powerhouse American Greetings is teaming up with shuch high level folks in LA, they should be able to steer some insight and opportunity from there to here. Reading a press release about The Hatchery, posted below, makes clear their management is influential and top notch - if our leaders ask very nicely, perhaps The Hatchery folks can help bring more new life to NEO than just on American Greetings bottom line. Has anyone bothered to welcome our new celebrity neighbors to town?

From the December 18, 2004 Plain Dealer coverage of this American Greetings investment:

American Greetings Corp., the Brooklyn creator of
greeting cards and other social-expression products, has bought a major stake
in The Hatchery LLC of Los Angeles, an entertainment production and marketing
company that produces family entertainment for film, television, home video,
video games and new media.

The marriage pairs American Greetings' intellectual
properties, creative resources and retail outlets with The Hatchery's
experience in identifying and building successful franchises in children's

American Greetings spokeswoman Jill Froula declined to
comment on the terms of the agreement or how much control the company will have
in the firm, but the company said in a release that it aims to acquire, develop
and expand new brand franchises as the relationship develops.

"This is an exciting opportunity to expand our
all-family reach at American Greetings," said Jeffrey Weiss, president and
chief operating officer of American Greetings. "In The Hatchery we're
adding a full-fledged entertainment production and development component to our


From a Press Release announcing the formation of The
, in November, 2003, it becomes apparent the breadth for remarkable
talent and relationships this organization now brings in potential association
with NEO. Who is exploring possible synergies that may benefit our local creative

In an innovative pooling of entertainment and marketing talents
and resources, prominent industry executives Margaret Loesch and Bruce
Stein have teamed to create The Hatchery, LLC. Ms Loesch, an Emmy
Award-winning producer and veteran network television executive, was
most recently President/CEO of Crown Media U.S./Hallmark Channel. Mr.
Stein, a top strategic marketing executive, was formerly President/COO
of Mattel, Inc.

Also a partner in The Hatchery is Emmy and Peabody Award-winning
producer-writer Dan Angel ("Door to Door," "Goosebumps," "X-Files").

In launching The Hatchery, Ms. Loesch and Mr. Stein are providing
an environment for producing family and children's entertainment and
for nurturing consumer product concepts at all stages of development,
all under the collaborative guidance of a team of creative and
accomplished executives. The venture will focus on delivering family
entertainment experiences featuring new and existing content through
many platforms, including film, television, direct-to-home videos, and
consumer products, all leveraging the company's innovative
distribution and partnership alliances.

The Hatchery is financed by a group of investors and companies who
will also play a strategic role in its operation. Among the key
investors are entertainment icon Peter Guber, Chairman/CEO, Mandalay
Entertainment Group, and Paul Schaeffer, Mandalay Vice Chairman/COO.
The two are also members of The Hatchery's operating committee and
will provide additional outreach and resources of financial and
intellectual capital in a wide range of areas such as sports, TV,
film, and music.

The unique strength of the venture is in its pedigree, its niche,
its business model, and its team approach. With its management
structure and investment ties, The Hatchery links a consortium of
high-caliber entertainment and marketing executives. Chief among them
are Ms. Loesch, Mr. Guber, and Mr. Angel -- with significant
experience and success in television and film content -- and Mr.
Stein, whose successful record in consumer product marketing and brand
development includes entertainment-based franchises such as
"Ghostbusters," "Jurassic Park," "Batman," "The Terminator," and the
video game success "Crash Bandicoot."

"In The Hatchery we've assembled a group of entrepreneurs, each of
whom has proven accomplishments and creativity in specialized areas,"
said Ms. Loesch. "Our collective creative backgrounds enable us to
identify or create those intellectual properties that fit perfectly
within our niche. We will be a much-needed launch pad for the small
property creator and a valuable resource for larger players who seek
the efficiencies and creative and strategic skills of a streamlined
group of professionals in maximizing the potential of their

Mr. Stein added: "We're not a traditional company. We have a
unique ability, flexibility, and sensibility. Companies like ours
that are focused and streamlined have a special appetite for smaller
properties which, if handled properly and with unique applications,
have proven that they can be developed into major brand franchises
with enormous commercial success."

The Hatchery has a slate of original properties already in
development and has acquired numerous well-known and acclaimed family
and children's titles for franchise development. Among the properties
in film, television, home video, and publishing for which the company
has acquired exclusive rights is "The Freak," an acclaimed CGI short
film that has been honored at 13 film festivals worldwide. Also, Ms.
Loesch is producing "Benji Returns: Rags to Riches," the latest in the
popular series of "Benji" movies, with the film's writer/director Joe
Camp. Currently in post-production, the feature film will be released
in the summer of 2004.

Ms. Loesch is widely considered one of the most successful and
creative visionaries in the history of family and children's
television. As the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of
Crown Media U.S. and its U.S. Hallmark Channel, she was one of the key
architects in building and launching the general entertainment cable
network that now reaches more than 55 million subscribers. As founding
President and CEO of FOX Kids Networks Worldwide, she reshaped the
landscape of children's television with a creative strategy that
merged diversified, quality programming with innovative and aggressive
marketing. FOX Kids Network was the most successful children's
television network in the history of broadcasting. She was also
President of Jim Henson Television Group Worldwide, President and CEO
of Marvel Productions, and an executive with Hanna-Barbera Productions
and the NBC and ABC Television Networks. Ms. Loesch is a multiple Emmy
Award-winning producer and a recipient of the prestigious George
Foster Peabody Award.

Mr. Stein is one of the industry's leading authorities in product
development, marketing, corporate strategy, franchise building, and
deal structure for entertainment, consumer products, and
technology-based companies. He has served as Chairman/CEO, Radical
Communication; Worldwide President and COO, Mattel, Inc.; CEO, Sony
Interactive Entertainment; and President, Kenner Products. He has been
a strategic consultant for several leading Silicon Valley venture
capital companies in media convergence and technology-based consumer
products. Additionally, he serves on the boards of numerous public and
private companies.

Mr. Angel is an award-winning producer, writer, and production
executive and has been creating innovative programming for the past
two decades. He was the driving force behind the production of the
family film "Door to Door," winner of this year's Emmy Award for
Outstanding Television Movie, starring Bill Macy. Mr. Angel was firmly
established as a leader in children's programming when he and his
former partner Billy Brown produced and wrote the acclaimed and
top-rated children's television series "Goosebumps," recognized by TV
Guide magazine as a "Best Children's Program" pick, and honored by the
Writer's Guild of America with an award for "Best Children's
Teleplay." Mr. Angel's other television credits include creating the
children's series "Animorphs" and serving as story editor/writer on
the hit series "The X-Files."