Corus Entertainment’s children’s content house Nelvana announced the greenlight and start of production on its new CG animated series, Millie Magnificent (52 x 11′), based on the children’s books created by Canadian author-illustrator Ashley Spires and published by Kids Can Press. The announcement kicks off the award-winning children’s book publisher’s year-long 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Inspired by Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing, and following the success of the Nelvana-produced award-winning short film of the same name, the original preschool series Millie Magnificent has already received strong interest from international broadcasters and is set to deliver in 2024.
The picture book The Most Magnificent Thing, about a little girl who perseveres through a frustrating creative process, released in 2014 and became the keystone children’s book of the maker movement. With close to 800,000 copies sold to date, the book has been translated into 21 languages and continues to reach new readers. Its follow-up, The Most Magnificent Idea, which sees the same character working through a creative block, was the runaway bestseller of the 2022 fall and holiday season, selling over 25,000 copies in just three months.
In the new, original preschool series Millie Magnificent, eight-year-old Millie is an avid inventor, creator and problem solver. With a spark of imagination and endless determination, Millie and her ‘Creato-crew’ friends, Maya and Ben, together with her adorable canine assistant, Wallace, strive to find the most magnificent solutions to their neighborhood’s challenges.
“We are thrilled to kick off our 50th anniversary year with the news of yet another Kids Can Press franchise being made into an animated series by our colleagues at Nelvana,” said Lisa Lyons Johnston, President & Publisher of Kids Can Press. “The Most Magnificent Thing has resonated and inspired thousands of children around the world to foster their imagination and creativity, and we have loved watching Nelvana expand the universe of Ashley Spires’ beloved book, first to the big screen and now as an animated series.”
The new animated series is the second Nelvana adaptation of a Spires work published by Kids Can Press. Her Binky Adventure graphic novels inspired the 3D animated series Agent Binky: Pets of the Universe, produced by Nelvana/Warner Bros. Discovery joint venture redknot, now in its third season, airing on networks around the world.
“I’m honored that Kids Can Press is kicking off their milestone anniversary with the announcement of Millie Magnificent,” said Spires. “I am so lucky to work with a publisher with such close ties to an animation studio. As a child, I dreamed of working in animation, and having published with Kids Can Press, who have a unique relationship with Nelvana, that dream became a reality — not once, but twice! Now my role as an author-illustrator has expanded to television writer and producer.”
The creative team for Millie Magnificent includes Ruth Ramirez as series director, Sheila Rogerson as head writer, Jillianne Reinseth as supervising creative producer, Laurie Handforth as producer, Jelena Sisic as art director and Eva Zhou as design supervisor. The voice cast includes Kaia Oz (Gisele’s Mashup Adventures) as Millie, Ian Ho (A Simple Favor) as Ben and Tianna SwamiNathan (PAW Patrol) as Maya.
“Both Ashley Spires’ book and Nelvana’s short film have received tremendous accolades as it captured the hearts and minds of audiences around the world and motivated them to be like Millie — a creative thinker who always goes out of her way to help others,” said Athena Georgaklis, Head of Development, Nelvana. “We’re delighted to kick off production and onboard a female-led team to work on the series, including our very own Ruth Ramirez to direct and industry-renowned Sheila Rogerson as the head writer. The initial interest for this series has been nothing short of magnificent.”
Kids Can Press also revealed the cover of the third book in The Most Magnificent franchise, releasing in the fall of 2023. The Most Magnificent Maker’s A to Z takes readers on an inspirational alphabet journey, as our favorite characters from The Most Magnificent Thing walk us through all the words that little makers need to know. The new picture book and future books in the franchise, together with Nelvana’s Millie Magnificent, are part of the companies’ strategy to expand the audience and help foster the next maker generation.
The film The Most Magnificent Thing marked Nelvana’s first-ever animated short and has since earned nearly 30 nominations and awards and been officially selected to participate in nearly 100 international film festivals. Accolades include Best Short Film for Children at ANIMAYO 2020, the Golden Sheaf Award Winner for Children’s & Youth Production at Yorkton Film Festival, 1st Prize Children’s Jury Award for Best Animated Short Film at Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and, recently, shortlisted for the BolognaRagazzi 2022 Crossmedia Award.
The first television broadcast of The Most Magnificent Thing was on International Day of the Girl in 2019 on YTV in Canada, and it currently airs internationally on SRC (French Canada), France Television (France), ABC (Australia), TVNZ (New Zealand), Discovery Kids (LatAm), CzechTV (Czech Republic), RTVS (Slovakia), NRK (Norway), SVT (Sweden), YLE TV2 (Ireland), HOP (Israel), RTS (French Switzerland), JEI TV (South Korea), NHK (Japan), True Corp (Thailand), WeKids (China) and Radio Television HK (Hong Kong).
In addition to the aforementioned Binky Adventure series spin-off, Kids Can Press is home to Franklin the Turtle, one of the most successful Canadian children’s book franchises, with over 65 million copies in print, including international brand licensing and Nelvana’s animated TV series that continues to air around the world.
“We will have more news, milestones, promotions and events to share throughout our anniversary year, to showcase our successful partnerships and our dedication to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” added Lyons Johnston. “Watch for highlights on some of our newest picture books, graphic novels, YA and nonfiction, and previews of other exciting projects in the pipeline. Looking ahead to what this anniversary year holds, I think Millie would say it best — ‘It’s going to be magnificent!‘”