Was Nelvana ever good?

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Well-Known Member
Oct 23, 2014
I did a topic a while back asking if DiC Entertainment, one of the biggest and most well known children's animation companies that has become sort of a meme in recent years, was any good. Now let's tackle another big freelance animation name you probably remember from your childhood, Nelvana Limited. Perhaps Canada's most prolific children's production company, Nelvana is a behemoth, with hundreds of shows and works under its belt, dating all the way back to its founding in the 70s. Their animation gig initially was mostly contracted animation segments and adult films like Rock & Rule. Today, they're mainly known for their children's book adaptations, but also dabble in more original works for Canadian networks, YTV and Teletoon, especially after they were bought by those two's parent company, Corus Entertainment in 2000. If you grew up watching cartoons based on kids books, or pre-school programming, chances are Nelvana had a hand in making it.

Nelvana is similar to DiC in that they both primarily specialize in adaptations, both syndicate their shows on a variety of networks and outlets, and have the ability to create several different shows at once. But there's also a lot of differences I think. Unlike DiC, Nelvana's shows tend to be a lot more polished IMO. They're less prone to animation errors, and generally have better writing. Nelvana also tends to be more faithful with their adaptations, particularly its storybook adaptations. As a result, there's more shows from Nelvana that I can genuinely consider good vs. DiC.

However, not everything Nelvana makes is good. They have a fare share of bad shows, or at least just mediocre ones. I, like most people, wasn't a fan of what they did with their animated Donkey Kong Country Cartoon. It had little to do with the games, and was prone to all the jank and awkwardness that late-90s motion capture CGI on a TV budget was known for. But the most hated shows from Nelvana has to be when the company tried its hand at dubbing Anime, namely their dub of Cardcaptor Sakura, re-titled "Cardcaptors". Funny story about this show, Unlike DiC with Sailor Moon, Nelvana actually dubbed all 70 episodes of the series, and aside from the obvious changes like Americanization (or Canadianization in this case) and toning down the romance elements that wouldn't fly outside Japan, the basic plot is in tact. So I will cut them some slack as they weren't entirely responsible for the butchering.

Much of the worst changes made to the show, are the result of what I presume was executive meddling on Kids' WB!'s part. Wanting another Pokemon hit, Kids' WB! (again, I presume) requested Nelvana edit their already edited version of Cardcaptor Sakura down even further. Chopping out the first 8 episodes of the series and clumsily editing them into flashback segments. Episodes were re-ordered, scenes were re-arranged, and relationships and comedic elements were downplayed even further. All this was a misguided attempt to make the show edgier and actiony, in order to force Syaoran Li into the protagonist role, replacing Sakura, so that the network can gear the show to boys, because as we all know, boys will never watch a cartoon about an icky girl /s. Fortunately, Nelvana knew how much of a train-wreck their version for Kids' WB! was, so they brought in Geneon for an Uncut release in NA, which actually outsold DVD releases of the edited version.

After that disaster, Nelvana hardly touched anime again, save for the toyetic, Medabots and Beyblade, which were a better fit for the children's anime market in the US at the time. As for what was good from Nelvana? Well I really liked their version of Rupert. Such an imaginative show. I also admire Stickin' Around if only for its creative visual-oriented humor. So what did you like from Nelvana, and more importantly, were they ever good?
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YTPer, Cartoon Analyst, Artist
Jan 10, 2015
Raleigh, North Carolina
Back in 2016 I was really into Ruby Gloom, a show from Nelvana based on a fashion line from Mighty Fine. It never aired on US linear television, but it was available for streaming on Netflix until recently (Netflix only had the first 13 episodes, though). I still think it's a good show, and that the main/title character is cute.


Active Member
Jul 14, 2010
Can't speak for their later work, but up until about 97 I would say they were an innovative and ambitious company who strove for quality within budgetary restrictions and with variable material.


Beak Freak & Bronikitty
Sep 9, 2018
Nelvana put out a lot of good preschool shows some of them being based on books like Little Bear. They also did the highly underrated cult classic Blazing Dragons.


Fight the darkness all around
Mar 17, 2010
Pre-Corus Nelvana was an innovator, who punched well above their weight when it came to production values. They smartly adapted a number of beloved children's books into well-received animated series. Babar, Rupert, Tintin, Redwall, etc. They made some of the very few kids TV tie-ins (Beetlejuice, Tales from the Cryptkeeper) to Hollywood movies and shows worth some salt. Even their total failures, like Rock & Rule, Sam & Max, as well as Cadillacs & Dinosaurs all had some merit. The company helped Canada become more than just an animation outsourcing hub.

Corus' Nelvana is just a name. The company doesn't even have its own individual office in Toronto anymore. That isn't to say nothing good has come from them, but there have been far more misses than hits. Novels, which were once Nelvana's lifeblood for source material, only get adapted if it's a legacy Nelvana property (like Babar) or something Corus publishes themselves. They're laser-focused on the preschool demo, presumably because that's the only thing that's working for them right now. You're not going to see them making something like Bob & Magaret today. Production values have cratered. Mysticons was supposed to be a "genre-defining" series, but the only thing it defined to me is why Toon Boom isn't a great fit for action animation. They're trend followers, not setters.


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