In fact, only Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks studios owns more kids programs, but DHX got its start with more adult fare, winning an Oscar for the documentary Bowling for Columbine.
Michael Donovan says he discovered there’s fun and profit in animation.
"When I started going into children's [programming]," recalls Donovan, "it was like off, off Broadway. It was only about three or four per cent of the audience. It was nothing broadcasters took seriously. But it has become much more meaningful because with the change to digital delivery, things that are old can be seen equally with things that are new . And children's stuff never ages, so it never gets old."
Video on demand and online streaming has given old shows like the Teletubbies and Inspector Gadget new life. At DHX in Halifax, Gadget is getting a 3D makeover for the Teletoon network.
Now owns The Family Channel
Turner Broadcasting will export it to Asia and Latin America. Five shows including a top secret pilot for a toy company have tripled the Halifax workforce, making recruitment a challenge according to Phil Stamp,vice-president in charge of the Halifax DHX studio.
"You have to simultaneously attract people to the province as well as grow the pool of available pool here," he said. "But that what we have managed to do in last two years to get us where we are now."
Last summer, DHX bought The Family Channel, which could bring in $75 million next year. Donovan's company also bought another animation company in Vancouver that helped double its stock price and shouldn’t impact the east coast studio.
"Two years ago in Halifax we were at between 50 and 60 employees," recalls Stamp. "Now we are in the vicinity of 170. So the studio has nearly tripled in size and more than tripled in its production capacity."
Donovan, a successful film producer and serial entrepreneur who also serves on the board of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, says the fact the company is making kids shows out of England, Vancouver and Toronto doesn't make Halifax vulnerable to a future shift in production.
"Our goal is to have more and more animated shows done in Halifax and in Nova Scotia generally," he said. "With the universities and the creative culture, I believe we have an advantage, so we intend to expand."