Let’s say TV’s famous obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk was reincarnated as a young squirrel and had to deal with all kinds of phobias in his daily woodland adventures. That unlikely scenario is a good way to describe Scaredy Squirrel, the new animated show currently in production at Toronto-based studio Corus/Nelvana. Based on books by M’lanie Watt, the 52 x 11 series is directed by Matt Ferguson, who has also worked on previous Corus shows such as Grossology and Spliced.
‘We wanted to create a fun, wacky comedy for the six- to 11-year-old age group,’ says Ferguson. ‘What we did was take the core idea of the Scaredy books’he’s a bit older in our show than the books’and put this skittish, nervous character in a larger world. We treat him as a character who has lots of fears, but that never stops him from doing things. For example, he might be worried of germs, but then he comes up with a fake hand to shake hands with others.’
Ferguson also points out that Scaredy lives in an urban-like forest, where the trees are condo buildings and rivers look like freeways. ‘It looks like a cross between New York City and a woodland environment,’ says the director.
‘Developing a show that would resonate with YTV’s kids and family audience, while still honoring the legacy of the incredible Kids Can Press book series, was a worthwhile challenge creatively as it offered us the opportunity to expand on so many different story angles,’ said Jocelyn Hamilton, Corus Kids’ VP of programming and production. ‘The world we have created for Scaredy with a squash-and-stretch sensibility is something that his fans have never seen before.’
The team at Nelvana is using Toon Boom software to produce the show’s cartoony animation. ‘We’ve been working with Toon Boom to develop this software’and it’s a bridge between traditional and Flash,’ explains Ferguson. ‘It’s full animation style, similar to what you’ve seen in Grossology. We’re not just pushing cut-outs around like Flash. Plus we have all the animation done here in Canada. Half of the animation is done at Nelvana, and the other is done by PSI, Oakland outside Toronto.’
According to Ferguson, the TV Scaredy is different from the book version in several ways. In the Watt books, he doesn’t talk and doesn’t have a cast of friends and adversaries. ‘He likes things to be done in a perfect way, that’s why he has a job stacking cans in a grocery store. He plays paddleball (which is kind of like basketball) and becomes obsessive about competing against his nemesis.’
In terms of the look of the show, the animation team is going for that universally loved Warner Bros. cartoon-y feel. ‘We want the show to feel like a younger property,’ says Ferguson. ‘The city environment is rooted in a forest world. Everything is done in a stylized wood structure. As a unifying them, we took motifs from Western Aboriginal art and placed them in sky-rises or the subway.’
Ferguson says the biggest challenge for the development team was coming up with a strong angle to spin off a TV show based on Watt’s popular books. ‘What’s so great about the character is his quirky and obsessive nature,’ he says. ‘So we worked closely with the author to come up with new situations for an older version of Scaredy. The fun is to have this OCD, neurotic character and drop him into these demanding situations and see how he reacts to them.’
Scaredy Squirrel will premiere on Canada’s YTV in the spring of 2011.
Nelvana’s Triple Pack
In addition to Scaredy Squirrel, the Canadian toon powerhouse Nelvana will be bringing three other animated shows to the MIPTV market:
Detentionaire is an offbeat comedy that also has elements of an action-thriller. It’s about a tenth grader who has to spend the rest of the school year in detention after he’s wrongfully blamed for a huge practical joke. Aimed at kids 6-12, the show is produced in partnership with Teletoon and the Canadian TV Fund.
Sidekick follows the misadventures of sidekicks-in-training, Eric and Trevor, at the Academy for Aspiring Sidekicks as they try to figure out girls, life, junk, school, girls and, of course, saving the world. [Target audience: Kids, 8-11]
Babar and the Adventures of Badou introduces King Babar’s adventurous eight-year-old grandson, Badou, along with a cast of colorful new characters including Zawadi the zebra and Chiku the monkey, in an updated version of the classic series. This is a Canadian-French co-pro with TeamTO aimed at children 4-7.