Bardel Entertainment – Female CEO and co-founder evolves family business into world-renowned animation studio

Bardel Entertainment began as a family-based start-up in Vancouver’s fledging creative sector in 1987, and went on to become North America’s leading animation services provider. Delna Bhesania started Bardel with her husband Barry Ward, the company taking its title from the hybridization of their first names.

Bhesania, CEO and co-founder, got the idea to start an animation studio after taking a visualization seminar in her early 20s. With past experience in Toronto and Montreal animation companies, Ward agreed to get on board. “It was never planned, things happened organically,” she recounts.

Bardel quickly evolved from a family business making handcrafted animation into the only full-service animation studio providing services for a diverse slate of U.S. partners:  Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Disney, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The current production slate includes award-winning series such as All Hail King Julien, Mack & Moxy, Puss in Boots, VeggieTales, Dinotrux, Rick & Morty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jake & the NeverLand Pirates, and Teen Titans Go!

In 2015, Bardel was nominated for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the company’s show “All Hail King Julien” won an Emmy. Recently the company was handpicked by director Roger Allers of the Lion King, to turn the best-selling novel The Prophet into a feature film, setting a new industry standard in handdrawn 2D and 3D animation.  Bhesania sees more feature films in Bardel’s future.

Since 2013, Bardel has grown tremendously from 150 employees to 675. Operating revenues have tripled each year with two studios in Vancouver and one in Kelowna. Bhesania says moving to Kelowna made economic sense due to regional tax incentives and the area’s rapid growth.

As Bardel approaches its 30th anniversary, Bhesania reflects on the growth of the company. “It’s taken a lot of time to get there with lots of ups and downs.” Bardel has benefited from Netflix and streaming videos while obstacles include the 2008/09 economic downturn. Her advice to would-be entrepreneurs is to have lots of perseverance and patience.

In 2014 Bardel was acquired by Italy-based Rainbow, Europe’s largest animation studio. “Barry and I are very excited to be part of the Rainbow Group and look forward to working together to bring to life high-quality feature films, TV series and new media.”

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