Belgium's 'Hopla' hopping to U.S.

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BRUSSELS -- NCircle Entertainment has signed a distribution deal for Belgian children's animation "Hopla," about a mischievous rabbit and his farmyard friends.

"Hopla" already has been successfully launched in 31 global territories, but the U.S. is still virgin territory for the 3D-animation cartoon.

Alliance Entertainment Corp. subsidiary NCircle will distribute past and future titles to general market retail in the U.S. and Canada as well as organize its publishing and merchandising. NCircle head Debbie Ries said the company chose "Hopla" for its simplicity, bright colors, cheerful music and educational qualities, adding that the cartoon series had a long future ahead in the U.S.

Hopla and his friends -- pig Onki, bear Nina and kitten Lola -- first appeared in five-minute episodes in 1999 on the Flemish broadcaster VRT, and quickly moved to VRT children's channel Ketnet in 2000. Since 2006, it has been in hands of Ostend-based Bert Smets Prods., the company that first created the characters.

NCircle Entertainment was set up last October as a family and children-friendly licensing unit for home entertainment retailer Alliance Entertainment Corp.

Ries already has a track record from her previous position at HIT Entertainment where she led the market positioning of "Bob the Builder," "Barney the Dinosaur" and "Thomas the Tank Engine."

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