Ex-Teletubbies distributor unveils new projects

Kenn Viselman also regains ownership of Itsy Bitsy name

It might be itsy bitsy to you, but it's a big deal to Kenn Viselman.

Nine years after he was forced out of the animation firm he founded in his New York apartment in 1995, Viselman has regained ownership of the name the Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. from the Handleman Co.

Viselman, who this year founded a new company, Kenn Viselman Presents, also announced plans Tuesday to produce an animated TV series called "Millipede," which he will attempt to sell at MIPCOM in October. He described it as a compilation of animation segments aimed at preschoolers.

Viselman also unveiled two other related companies: A Teenie Weenie Music Publishing Co. and Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Multi-Media. They will be grouped along with Itsy Bitsy under a new corporate umbrella called the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Entertainment Co.

Viselman also is in production on an interactive theatrical movie for children called "The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure," which he is producing with Angela Rivet. The movie, based on a script by Scott Stabile, is designed to get kids in the audience to interact with the characters on screen on cue.

Viselman's biggest success was as U.S. distributor of the PBS series "TeleTubbies," which he lost control of when his company was taken over by Handleman. His other credits include animated shows based on "Thomas the Tank Engine," "Noddy," "Eloise" and the commercial-free animation block It's Itsy Bitsy Time!

Through the years, he never forgot what Handleman had done. At the time, his Itsy Bitsy company had borrowed money from Handleman, then a national distributor of music and media products. He got into a dispute with Handleman over its accounting practices.

Viselman said he was forced out in a hostile takeover in 2001 and locked out of his offices. He began a three-year legal battle with Handleman to get his company back. He said he won an arbitration ruling, but by then the assets had been dispersed.

However, Viselman has continued to seek the return of the company name.

Handleman was dissolved in 2009 after citing a decline in its distribution business due to the changing marketplace. Its only business since has been to sell off its assets, though it apparently refused to sell to Viselman.

So Viselman employed a third party to re-acquire the Itsy Bitsy name on his behalf, without telling Handleman that he was the one financing the purchase for what he said was only "a few thousand dollars."