Tiger Aspect Productions Ltd.
Tiger Aspect Productions Ltd.
Incorporated: 1988 as Tiger Productions
Sales: $59.7 million (2003)
NAIC: 512110 Motion Picture, Video Tape Production
Tiger Aspect Productions Ltd. is one of the United Kingdom's most successful independent television and film production houses. The company is notably behind such international successes as Mr. Bean, the hit television series starring actor and company shareholder Rowan Atkinson, and Billy Elliot, which claims the number two spot in international box office sales among all British-produced films. Other Tiger Aspect television productions include the highly popular Lenny Henry Show, drama series Teachers, Gimme Gimme Gimme, A Place in France, and DoubleTake. The company has capitalized on the success of Mr. Bean with a full-length feature film, Bean—The Ultimate Disaster Movie, and through the creation of a hit animated series featuring the otherworldly character. Tiger Aspect's operations include a dedicated film-making unit, Tiger Pictures, created in 1999, which, in addition to Billy Elliot has produced British film hits such as Kevin & Perry Go Large and Dog Eat Dog. The company's Tigress Productions unit is a producer of nature, wildlife, scientific, and adventure documentaries, including the hit celebrity vehicle In the Wild and the Africa series produced in conjunction with National Geographic and PBS. Tiger Aspect also has produced a number of award-winning television commercials, including a long-running series of spots for Barclaycard. The company's international success had led it to enter the United States. In 2005, for example, the company's projects included production partnerships with NBC Universal, MTV, and Disney Playhouse. Tiger Aspect is led by founder and Chairman Peter Bennett-Jones, who also operates two talent agencies (many of Bennett-Jones's clients appear regularly in Tiger Aspect's productions). A private company, Tiger Aspect generates revenues of more than £59 million ($110 million).
Productive Friendship in the 1980s
Peter Bennett-Jones began his relationship with theatrical production while studying law at Cambridge University in the mid-1970s. Bennett-Jones's interest in theater led him to become the president of both of the university's primary drama groups. While still in school Bennett-Jones began touring with Footlights, and acted at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival as well. It was during this time that Bennett-Jones began forming relationships with many of the country's up-and-coming British performers, especially Rowan Atkinson.
Upon graduation, Bennett-Jones launched an active career, managing theater productions in the United Kingdom, but also in North America and Asia. Returning to England in 1982, Bennett-Jones became managing director of Talkback Productions, and also worked as a director for Pola Jones Associates, a theatrical producer. Bennett-Jones decided to launch his own business in 1987, creating a talent agency, PBJ Management.
By then, Bennett-Jones's friend Rowan Atkinson had established himself as one of the United Kingdom's fast-rising television personalities, having had particular success with his Blackadder character for the BBC in the early and mid-1980s. In 1987, the pair decided to team up, together with another friend, writer Robin Driscoll, to create a new television series based on Atkinson's "otherworldly" Mr. Bean character. In 1988, Bennett-Jones launched a new company to provide a vehicle for the new production. Bennett-Jones named his company Tiger Productions.
Mr. Bean became a major hit in the United Kingdom in 1990. Of importance, because the character was mostly silent, the series was easily exportable—and in the early 1990s Tiger Productions found itself the owner of an international hit, becoming one of the largest-selling British television programs on the foreign market. By the middle of the decade, Mr. Bean had been shown in more than 80 countries. Aiding Mr. Bean 's success was its 1991 International Emmy award. Another successful early comedy series for the company was The Vicar of Dibley.
King of British Comedy in the 1990s
Tiger Productions quickly branched out into other areas of television production. In 1991, for example, the company joined in the launch of Tigress Productions, which specialized in the production of wildlife, scientific, and other documentaries. The company also began producing television advertising. As part of Tiger's expansion, the company joined forces with another rising London-based production company, Aspect Film & Television. The two companies merged in 1993, forming Tiger Aspect Productions, with Bennett-Jones as its head.
Tiger Aspect established a reputation as the United Kingdom's leading independent producer of television comedy programming. The company was helped in part by Bennett-Jones's relationship with a large portion of the country's leading comedians, including Lenny Henry, Barry Humphries, Dawn French, and Harry Enfield, among others. Bennett-Jones also had been a major force behind the country's popular Comic Relief charity.
In 1995, Tiger Aspect had a new hit with the television series, The Thin Blue Line, also starring Rowan Atkinson. By then, the addition of Aspect's production team also had been paying off for the company, particularly in allowing it to expand into dramatic productions as well. In 1996, the company set up a dedicated unit for its drama productions, which were to include popular programs such as Teachers and A Place in France.
Tiger Aspect made its first foray into film production in 1997. The Mr. Bean franchise proved the stepping stone for the company's entry into the film world, when the company entered a co-production agreement with Working Title to develop Bean—The Ultimate Disaster Movie. Released in 1997, the film was a huge international hit.
The success of the Bean film encouraged Tiger Aspect to expand its interest in film production. In 1999, the company set up a dedicated subsidiary, Tiger Aspect Pictures. That company began work on a number of titles, especially a film about a ballet-dancing miner's son, Billy Elliot. Co-produced with Working Title, Billy Elliot became one of the largest grossing British films of all time, trailing only the earlier hits Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. While Billy Elliot was conquering international box offices, Tiger Pictures had a second hit back home, Kevin & Perry Go Large, which became one of the top-selling films in England in 2000.
Targeting International Markets in the 2000s
Tiger Aspect's interests increasingly turned international by the dawn of the 21st century. Tigress Productions, for example, opened an office in Washington, D.C., a move that helped the company win the production contract for the award-winning documentary series Africa, produced in cooperation with National Geographic and WNET, part of the PBS network in the United States. Tigress also produced the hit "celebrity wildlife" series, In the Wild, which featured a variety of international celebrities, including Julia Roberts, John Cleese, and Robin Williams, among others.
Tiger Aspect returned to the Mr. Bean franchise at the beginning of the 2000s, now launching an animated television series based on the character. The hit series led the company to launch a dedicated animation division in 2002. In that year, Tiger Aspect branched out again, this time entering the musicals market with That's Our House, a show based on the music of the group Madness. That's Our House went on to win the Olivier Award for Best Musical in 2003.
Whereas Tiger Aspect remained an active producer for the British television market, with such mid-2000s hits as the Lenny Henry Show and the Teachers television drama, the company also sought to expand its reach in the international market, especially the United States. In 2004, the company received a number of commissions to create programming for the U.S. market, notably two shows for MTV in 2004, and a deal with NBC Universal to adapt Teachers for a U.S. audience in 2005. The company also was preparing the release of a new and highly awaited animation series, Charlie and Lola, based on a popular children's book. In 2005, the company signed a broadcast deal with Disney Playhouse for that series.
As one of the UK's leading TV and film production companies, Tiger Aspect works with top writers, performers and programme makers to produce great programming.
- Peter Bennett-Jones founds the talent agency PBJ Management.
- Bennett-Jones forms Tiger Productions, in part as a production vehicle for programming featuring Rowan Atkinson, leading to the highly successful Mr. Bean series.
- The Tigress Productions wildlife and scientific documentary production joint venture is formed.
- Tiger Productions merges with Aspect Film & Television, forming Tiger Aspect Productions with Bennett-Jones as chairman.
- The company co-produces the first feature film based on the Mr. Bean character.
- The company forms the Tiger Pictures subsidiary to produce new films.
- The company releases the international hit film Billy Elliot.
- The company creates an animated series based on the Mr. Bean character and forms a dedicated animation division.
- The company forms a wildlife documentary production joint venture with Sky One.
Tiger Aspect, which reportedly had been up for sale in the early 2000s, continued to seek partners in order to broaden the range of its expansion interests. In May 2005, for example, the company announced that it had signed a deal to form a joint venture, called The Wildlife Unit, with Sky One to produce wildlife programming. Tiger Aspect remained one of the United Kingdom's top independent film and television producers, while claiming increasing prominence in the international market.
Tiger Aspect Pictures; Tigress Productions.
InvestinMedia PLC; Endemol UK PLC; Avesco PLC; Complete Communications Corporation Ltd.; RDF Media Ltd.; Entertainment Rights PLC; Aardman Animations PLC; Medal Entertainment and Media PLC; Ascent Media Group Ltd.
"An Eloquent Mime," Televisual, April 2001, p. 22.
Bennet, Ray, and Peter Pryor, "Tiger Aspect Opts Out of Deal at Working Title," Hollywood Reporter, October 1, 2002, p. 81.
Creamer, Jonathan, "Tiger Expands and Bags MTV Job," Televisual, June 2004, p. 7.
Dawtrey, Adam, "Tiger Chasing Tales," Variety, December 13, 1999, p. 28.
——, "Tigress Goes on the Prowl for US Ops," Variety, June 25, 2001, p. 16.
Hamilton, James, "Tiger Aspect Wins First US Orders," Televisual, July 2003, p. 5.
Johnson, Debra, "Zein Grabs Reins at Tiger," Daily Variety, August 7, 2002, p. 5.
"New Commissions for Tiger Aspect," Televisual, February 7, 2005, p. 9.
"Peter Bennett-Jones and Tiger Aspect," Marlowe, February 19, 2003.
"Sky and Tiger Team on New Unit," Televisual, May 11, 2005, p. 11.
"Tiger Aspect Creates Animation Arm," Television Europe, February 2002, p. 6.
"Tiger Aspect Taps Trio," Hollywood Reporter, May 28, 2004, p. 16.
Tomlinson, Heather, "Tiger Aspect Primed to Have Last Laugh After the Thin Bottom Line," Independent on Sunday, June 1, 2003, p. 6.
—M. L. Cohen