In the early 1990s Raymond Thompson was enjoying a very successful creative/production career at the BBC and was a veteran of the television and film industries, where he began as a writer.
Raymond recognised great potential changes arising from deregulation in the television industry in the UK and similar deregulation worldwide. The global market place was changing with the advent of satellite and cable broadcasting, changes to terrestrial broadcasting and the spread of new media technologies from digital television to the Internet.
There was also a gap in the international market place for quality family programming. Inspired by Walt Disney (and believing producers have a responsibility to the audience, especially children), Raymond has always had a passion for creating aspirational and positive programming that pushes boundaries and inspires as well as entertains audiences. By contrast, too often programming was derivative and “lowest-common denominator”.
Raymond aimed to fill that gap for quality family product by establishing his own independent production company.
A mutual merchant banking contact introduced Raymond to the Sanctuary Group PLC. Sanctuary is a multi-media group with many subsidiaries and interests in all aspects of the music and entertainment industries ranging from record labels, management, agency, studios, book publishing and interactive and new media.
There was a great relationship from the start between Raymond and Sanctuary, with both sharing similar philosophies and attitudes and so they formed their joint-venture, embarking upon their first production…
The Enid Blyton Adventure Series. Inspired by the flagship novels of Enid Blyton’s literary works, the series is available as 24 x half-hour episodes and 8 x mini-movies. Cloud 9 updated the stories so they were contemporary and added imaginative elements. The Enid Blyton Adventure Series is a huge success worldwide with sales to over 120 territories including key end-users such as ZDF, Disney, Buena Vista Video.
The series was filmed in New Zealand, with its fabulous scenery, great production values and well-admired crews (which seeded Cloud 9’s long association with New Zealand).
In 1996 a follow-up series was produced, The Enid Blyton Secret Series, inspired by another classic series of Blyton’s books. Filmed in New Zealand, the series was a major success and is available as 20 x half-hour episodes and 5 x mini-movies.
Also in 1996, Richard Thomas (recognised and loved by audiences for his portrayal as John Boy in The Waltons) arrived in New Zealand with his family to the Cloud 9 Studios to star as David Robinson in Cloud 9’s “The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson”. Inspired by the literary classic, the series was filmed on location on a real-life desert island in the heart of the South Pacific (two cruise liners were chartered for the cast and crew!). Richard Thomas flew to MIP in Cannes, France, in 1997 to launch the series – which has become a huge success worldwide, supplying key end-users from NHK in Japan to the USA, Germany, and Disney.
Cloud 9 completed its first movie of the week in 1997, Return to Treasure Island, an original sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story. Also filmed in the South Pacific on a real island paradise, the series stars Dean O’Gorman (Young Hercules) as Jim Hawkins and is set during the American War of Independence.
In 1998, Cloud 9 embarked upon a unique fantasy series, The Legend of William Tell. The production is imaginative in storylines, characterisation and “the look”. With shooting in New Zealand’s photogenic South Island, there is spectacular scenery. The series is available as 32 x half-hour episodes and 16 x one-hour episodes and has a cult following around the world.
Also in 1998, William Shatner (an icon and famed for his legendary portrayal as Captain Kirk in the immortal Star Trek franchise) flew to Cloud 9’s studios in New Zealand for production of William Shatner’s A Twist in the Tale. This family series is inspired by the Twilight Zone yet is not horror-driven or supernatural – instead each story (set in the past, present and future) has an unexpected “twist” in the tale and “things are never quite what they seem”. William Shatner is the enigmatic “Storyteller” and was enthusiastically welcomed at MIPCOM in 1998 in Cannes, France, to launch the series, which has become a popular success around the world.
In early 1999 Cloud 9 completed the first season of an original and groundbreaking new teen/children’s drama series that would push many boundaries – “The Tribe”. There are no adults in the series, only children and teenagers who must build a New World in their own image. Available as an initial 52 x half-hours or 26 x hour episodes, The Tribe soon became a massive hit with a cult following.
The Official Tribe Website (www.tribeworld.com) was launched in April 1999 and receives millions of hits each week. There is also a devoted Official Fan Club – as well as countless unofficial Tribe sites by fans.
In September 1999 Cloud 9 began production of the second series of the Tribe, another 52 x half-hour episodes or 26 x hours, and the series was completed in March 2000.
After a short break for the cast and crew, Cloud 9 from June 2000 until December 2000 produced Tribe Series 3, another 52 x half-hour episodes (or 26 x hours).
In June 2000 Cloud 9 established a children’s charity called the Cloud 9 Children’s Foundation, which was launched on June 25th with an open day of the Cloud 9 Studios in New Zealand, attended by over 20,000 people.
In January 2001 Cloud 9’s “Atlantis High” started its first series as 26 x half-hour episodes. An unprecedented spoof comedy-melodrama for kids of all ages, the series has everything from aliens to superheroes, secret agents to a lost civilisation and amazing secrets, and much more…
A fourth series of “The Tribe” (another 52 x half-hour episodes or 26 x hours) was produced from July – December 2001 and took the storyline into new territory examining rapid technological change with the Internet, computers, and a virtual reality world…
In February 2002 Cloud 9 began production on “Revelations – The Initial Journey” – a family drama series following a sixteen-year old’s journey through life and time.
A fifth series of “The Tribe (another 52 x half hour episodes or 26 x hours) was produced from November 2002 – February 2004 and saw the Mallrats face new struggles within their city. This brings the Tribe franchise to 260 x half-hours or 130 x hour episodes.
In March 2006 Cloud 9 concluded post-production on “The New Tomorrow” a sequel to the cult hit The Tribe.
In 2007, Cloud 9 developed a publishing division (Cumulus Publishing) and in 2009, embarked upon the development of a portfolio of motion-pictures to further build and consolidate the company’s growth.
Today the Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group has several subsidiary companies and is involved in all manner of television origination and exploitation from production to distribution, supported by global campaigns including Internet websites, book publishing, and merchandising tie-ins.
There are eight websites run by an Internet branch of the group which are Tribeworld, Tribe USA, Tribeworld Germany, Revelations, Atlantis High, Entercloud9, The New Tomorrow and a charity site – Withyoueverystepoftheway.com
But the story has only just begun.
Cloud 9 has a substantial in-house development programme – and is committed to making quality and original programming for the 21st Century and beyond…