Michael Hirsh (born 1948) is a Belgian-born Canadian citizen. He has been a significant figure in the Canadian television industry, or more specifically children's programming, since the 1980s.
Born in Belgium in 1948, Michael's family emigrated to North America when he was a child; he was raised primarily in Toronto and New York. After high school, Michael attended York University in Toronto where he would meet his future business partner, Patrick Loubert. Hirsh abandoned his post-secondary education after three years to pursue his filmmaking ambitions.
In 1971, Hirsh co-founded Nelvana with Patrick Loubert and British-born animation artist Clive A. Smith. Under co-CEO Hirsh's leadership, the studio was responsible for many of its animated phenomena.
During this period, he co-directed the satirical live-action/animated 1972 feature Voulez-vous coucher avec God?
In the 1980s, Hirsh saved Nelvana from more than one brush with bankruptcy. After the failure of their initial feature film, Rock & Rule, the original distributor of their live-action show, T. and T., went out of business. Defying advice to fold the company, Michael found a replacement distributor within six weeks.
In late 1996, amid Golden Books negotiations to buy Nelvana, Hirsh went against his co-founders' advice and declined the offer. This led to the now infamous argument with the then COO of the company, Eleanor Olmstead, in which the normally mild-mannered Hirsh and Olmstead were reportedly heard "swearing up and down the hallway at one another". After remaining unaware for some time, Golden Books eventually walked out of the C?$140 million deal in light of the internal discord.
In 1997, Hirsh and Nelvana helped found Teletoon along with fellow Canadian children's television production company Cinar.
In September 2000, Hirsh sold the Nelvana holdings to Corus Entertainment for C$540 million. Two years later, he was the last of the original founders to leave the studio, but has since taken an advisory role.
In 2004, Hirsh reestablished himself in the children's television market when he led a consortium which acquired the remains of Cinar after a financial scandal had brought that company to ruin. Cinar was bought for C$190 million and Hirsh became CEO of the new company rebranded "Cookie Jar Entertainment".
Since then, the Cookie Jar Group has been expanding in both Canada and the United States. In 2008, Cookie Jar merged with DIC Entertainment in an estimated US$87.6 million buyout, forming one of the world's largest privately held children's entertainment companies.
In 2012, Cookie Jar Entertainment was acquired by DHX Media and Hirsh became Executive Chairman of DHX Media. The combined company has a children's library of 8000 episodes and is the largest supplier of kids programming to online streaming services, as well as a leader in production and licensing and merchandising for children.
A number of productions that Michael has been involved with have been nominated for or won awards. For their work on shows including Beetlejuice, Babar, Little Bear, Rupert, Franklin, Rolie Polie Olie and The Adventures of Tintin, Hirsh and his colleagues have received awards such as Daytime Emmys and Geminis.