Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Kyle Scott/The Globe and Mail

The dawn of the Netflix age sparked a content bonanza – and thanks to Jennifer Twiner McCarron, Thunderbird Entertainment is growing right along with demand.

As told to Dawn Calleja

I grew up in production. My first job, in the late ’90s, was at Mainstream Entertainment, where they were doing the first computer-animated TV series, called ReBoot – that show is now in the Smithsonian. While I was on maternity leave for the second time – it turned out to be twins – I got a call from Atomic Cartoons, which only had about 20 people and wanted me to help build the studio. In 2015, we signed a deal with a guy in Sydney who had the rights to the Beatles’ music, and we developed it into the show Beat Bugs. Thunderbird Entertainment acquired us, and it invested quite a bit of money in the show.

Story continues below advertisement

Back in the day, we were all vying for a Saturday morning cartoon spot between 8 a.m. and noon. But then Netflix changed the game, not just with streaming but by setting itself up as a studio. When it bet the house on House of Cards – and spent US$1 million per episode – things started to shift.

The reason everyone wants to get into streaming is because it’s a great business model, and you have all these new players that aren’t exactly startups: Apple and Disney and HBO and NBC. And it’s a great time for us to be content creators, because there’s such a luxury of places to sell to. Streamers are measured on subscribers, not ratings, so they constantly have to refresh their sites. There’s a constant need for content. Plus, the old model meant you would have to get a Canadian sale, and then find U.S. and international sales. You’d have to piece the whole thing together. Now, it’s much easier to put shows together. And when you deliver, they drop in 190 countries and 40 different languages.

So with Beat Bugs, we felt we should go to where more people’s eyeballs were. We pitched it to Netflix in Los Angeles, and we sold it in the room. We went off and made 52 episodes and set up a toy line. We still have great relationships with the Canadian broadcasters – we do a ton with Discovery, like Highway Thru Hell, and with CBC on Kim’s Convenience. And those places are having a renaissance as well, because they have to compete with streaming.

A year after Beat Bugs, Thunderbird asked me to run the entire company, and five months later, we went public. It’s a steep learning curve – it’s like the MBA I never got. Though I’m still more comfortable in a boardroom at Disney than I ever am on Bay Street.

We now have 1,000 employees. We’ve opened an animation studio in Ottawa and increased our footprint in L.A. – we have about 120 people there. That’s where all the buyers are, so having boots on the ground was key to starting to grow the business through sales. It doesn’t diminish us as a Canadian entity; it has just given us more places to sell that content.

So we’re staying true to our mission: making content that makes the world a better place. If you boil down the value of our work in the kids space, we’re helping parents cook dinner quietly. We’re not saving the whales.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies