As international animation content producers and buyers head over to Cannes this month (March 30-April 3) in search of the next big thing, we put our feelers out there to bring you news about these shows, even before the market gets rolling. Here are a few items about toons that will debut at MIPTV:
A Swell Show
FreshTV, the successful entity behind Cartoon Network’s ratings-grabbing doubleheader of 6Teen and Total Drama Island, is back this year with a new show called Stoked. The stylish toon is described as a sitcom about six teenaged surfers who work at a famous surf resort one summer, and we think it’s also going to be huge with the eight to 12 auds.
‘This is a show that my co-creator Jennifer Pertsch and I have been dreaming of making since forever,’ says Tom McGillis, who also created FreshTV’s previous hits. ‘We started to notice that surfing has become something that tweens want to experience as well. We often hear tweens call themselves surfers, even if they’ve never dipped their toe in the ocean!’
The series’ smooth Flash-based animation is handled by Elliott Animation, FreshTV’s sister company in Toronto’s Liberty Village. ‘We have taken Flash to new heights with this production,’ claims McGillis . ‘We invested a huge amount of time and resources into designing a pipeline that combines traditional, 3D and Flash animation into something that has never been attempted in TV animation before. The results are jaw-dropping!’
McGillis says he and Pertsch (an avid surfer herself) do extensive research on the likes and dislikes of their shows’ demo. ‘That research taught us that today’s tweens are incredibly sophisticated in their media consumption,’ says McGillis. ‘We never make adult jokes ‘for the parents’ that will fly over tweens’ heads. We respect our tween audience completely and make shows specifically for them. If some of our jokes fly over their parents’ heads, we’ve done our job!’
BRB Unleashes a New Dog
We love it when our pals at Spanish studio BRB show us a sneak preview of their upcoming new toons. The team that gave us Bernard, Imp, Angus & Cheryl and Suckers will be hitting the MIP Market with a smashing new CG-animated show about a mail-delivery pooch. Kambu, a 104 x 5 high-def package, is produced by Screen 21 and Chako and will be ready for a fall of 2010 delivery. ‘This is the first CG-animated preschool show we have created in a long time,’ says BRB’s charming head of co-productions, Carlos Biern. ‘This character has been huge in terms of publishing and consumer products in several countries.’
The show finds our dog hero’usually in charge of delivering good news and packages’in a new environment. ‘Kambu finds himself on a very funny and unique island,’ explains Biern. ‘In this strange world, elephants are small, snails move fast and summers are chilly! Not only are the situations quite funny, it also promotes discovery and early-learning principles. You never know, but Kambu could very well be the next Snoopy!’
Spreading Their Wings
As much as everyone admires butterflies, there haven’t been too many shows about these beautiful creatures. Munich-based Studio100 is answering that call this spring with a new 52 x 5 toon called Butterfly and Beautyfly. Aimed at preschoolers, this poetic show follows the adventures of two butterflies as they explore the different corners of their garden and meet new friends and creatures along the way. The new series has already won several festival honors and been hailed as the best preschool show by the Family League in Belgium. ‘The show engages children not as passive targets, but as a specific, active and precious audience,’ says Patrick Elmendorff, managing director of Studio100 Media. ‘Through beautiful animation, the show introduces the little pleasures and great joys of life as well as its doubts and anxieties to younger viewers.’
Hot Wheels and Jumbo Thrills
Toronto’s toon powerhouse Nelvana is bringing contempo takes on two classic brands to the market this year. First up, there’s the new 22 x 26 CG-animated Hot Wheels’ Battle Force 5, which is based on the classic Mattel brand and follows the adventures of five teenage drivers and their ultra-cool vehicles. Their mission, obviously, is saving the world from ‘the barbaric predators of Vandals and the sinister robotic armies of the Sark!’ Billed as the first CG-animated show based on the iconic brand, the series will air on Teletoon in Canada and Cartoon Network in the U.S. on Saturday mornings.
Those with good memories will recall that Nelvana also co-produced the popular Babar series (from 1989 to 1991 and from 2000 to 2001). Now we hear that the studio has teamed up with creative French shop TeamTO to produce 26 episodes of The New Adventures of Babar. This fantastic-looking new project will put a CG-animated polish to the beloved children’s character, which was first introduced in 1931 by French author Jean de Brunhoff. TF1 in France, YTV in Canada and Playhouse Disney France have already signed up to air the show.
The new toon will focus on King Babar’s eight-year-old grandson and will zero in on the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Among the new characters introduced in the show are Chiku the monkey (Zephir’s daughter), Monroe the porcupine, Zawade the zebra and Jake the hyena. Frankly, Babar is the one elephant in the room that nobody will ever want to ignore.
Who says you can’t make a modern (rhyming) animated show about adult subjects such as plastic surgery, over-eating and the shallowness of fame? If you need proof that this can be done, just ask Richard Morss and Alastair Mcllwain who have a new project tackling such topics called Small Tragedies. Produced by Irish studio Straandlooper (Lifeboat Luke) in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen, the sophisticated 26 x 5 series is a collection of darkly comic animated poems about some of the tough-to-stomach aspects of modern culture.
‘The rhyming narration to each film enables a fast-paced, non-linear visual story telling technique,’ explains creator Morss, whose credits include the award-winning series Tiny Planets. ‘The format allows us to tackle difficult and truly tragic subjects such as plastic surgery gone wrong, obesity and the global credit crunch in a way that is thought provoking but’hopefully’not ultimately negative or depressing.’
Morss says he had wanted to create a show about ‘all the rubbish of our lives, but didn’t want to do something filled with hate and anger!’ He adds, ‘The doggerel idea gave us the chance to do that’and hopefully to be outrageous and funny and black without mortally offending anyone.’
Since Morss is a keen observer of the global animation business, we had to get his take on the current economic nightmares facing producers all over the world. ‘We are trying to get content directly to the consumer as soon as possible in its life. We cannot afford the long- term risks involved with the traditional TV market, and have to ‘monetize’ our IP in every way we can as soon as we can. Otherwise, you just have to grow vegetables and pray!’
To find out more about the company and its eclectic animated slate, visit www.straandlooper.com.
VGI Paints a Rosie Picture
The first things you notice when you watch VGI’s new CG-animated preschool toon Everything’s Rosie are the bright colors and the sharp quality of the animation. ‘Rosie lives in a futuristic playhouse of every child’s dream,’ says VGI’s managing director Vickie Corner. ‘Her world is instantly striking, contemporary and colorful. The series is characterized by a bold color palette and the innovative fusion of modern design with an organic environment.’
Corner says her team was very conscious that the market has been’and still is’dominated by boy-led animation with few shows targeting preschool girls. ‘We wanted to create a unique, innovative and visually stunning girl-led series with mutual appeal for boys that would be at the forefront of 21st century animation. We see Rosie as a pre-school icon’the trend-setting, confident big sister whom girls will long to be like and boys will look up to.’
The series’ head writer Dave Ingham tells us that the toon’s mantra is fun and fulfillment through friendship, and that the stories help promote the social skills preschoolers need to move on to the next stage of their lives’that’s the school playground!
Everything’s Rosie is set to debut on the BBC’s CBeebies in the U.K. early next year. ‘We’re in production on the first 26 (11-minute-long) episodes of the series, but the pilot has already shown us that there is a wonderful energy and harmony between the diverse characters and I am continually delighted and intrigued by the refreshing storytelling,’ adds Corner. Looks like Dora the Explorer just got some fierce 21st-century competitor!
Spinning a New Tune
Those who can’t get enough of those super-cool Gorillaz music videos will probably flip for a new animated series created by London and Belgrade-based studio Mighty ToonHeadz. The brainchild of pals Zak Vracevic and Zoran Jevtic, the show is called Mighty Lil’ Spinnerz and is about a group of kids who find a magical gramophone with special powers. Yes, they have to fight evil forces, but they also dig cool tunes and each episode will have guest voices and music from the world of rock/pop.
The 52 x 22 show offers a great-looking blend of Maya-based CG animation and custom shaders. ‘Both pilot episode and music video cost us about $400,000,’ says Vracevic, who has a background in the European music business. ‘As we did everything in HD, we think that’s pretty good. Music videos (of this quality) alone can cost over $100K! We also managed to do some work on our soon-to-be-launched website, with some great games developed using the Unity3D engine.’
According to the producer, the show received some great feedback at MIPTV and MIPCOM last year. ‘This year, we will hopefully have a full 22-minute pilot episode as well as a music video to show,’ says Vracevic. ‘We already have financing confirmed for the first 26 episodes, but we want to do 52!’
So how does the toon biz compare to the music industry? ‘Big boys from the big networks don’t reply to e-mails or phone calls, just like the music business,’ says Vracevic. ‘There are exceptions, of course’Marc Buhaj [VP, Jetix Europe], raise your hand! We had to pull people by their sleeves to have a look at our trailer at MIPCOM! But after the first 20 seconds, it was ‘Wow! Who are you guys!?”
Mike Young, CEO of MoonScoop Group, tells Animag that his studio’s new animated show Chloe’s Closet has a special meaning for him. ‘We created it based on ideas inspired by my own granddaughter, Chloe,’ he says. ‘My wife Liz and I watched the way Chloe interacted with her little duck security blanket that she had named Lovely Carrot. When she played with it she seemed completely mesmerized and was truly enjoying the magical world she was creating in her mind.’
Young says he and his team are hoping to re-create that same dynamic of how kids play and interact with these imaginary friends in the show, which is created from a child’s perspective. The series is an animation hybrid of Flash, 2D and 3D CGI sets. It has a preschool math curriculum and features models that parents and children can make using household items. ‘We are very proud of the way the show has turned out,’ he enthuses.
Studio B’s follow-up toon to Martha Speaks and Kid vs. Kat will be a cool, bionic outing. The Vancouver shop has announced that it’s teaming up with Slap Happy Cartoons to create a 2D-animated series called B.O.O.M. Boys. This nicely designed 52 x 11 toon follows the adventures of three bionic brothers named Flip, Ollie and Pick, who build awesome gadgets and tools to escape the evil military agency that created them. The show was created by Studio B veterans Josh Mepham, Greg Sullivan, Kathy Rocchio and Vito Viscomi. We can’t wait to see the crossover episode where the bionic boys meet the evil Kat!
Another comic-book character will be leaping into the world of animation. This time around, it’s time for British icons Dennis and Gnasher (from U.K.’s Beano comic) to take center stage. ‘The new show will combine a bold graphic approach using outlines drawn in black to give strong definition, dynamic perspectivas and solid construction,’ says Daniela Flower, VP of int’l sales at Ludorum, the U.K.-based outfit which is producing the toon. ‘Dennis and Gnasher is a refreshing celebration of childhood, as adults experienced it; boys just being boys, inventing, building and getting up to mischief in a cheeky and charming way!’
Just the Facts, Kids!
Some people may be complaining about their business slowing down, but things are sure hopping at Singapore’s Sparky Animation. In addition to working on Veggie Tales: Big River Rescue, Zigby, Dinosaur Train and 3-2-1 Penguins, the studio is preparing a new toon aimed at six to nine-year-olds called Jack. Co-CEO Jyotirmoy (Moy) Saha tells us, ‘The wonderful thing about the show is that it’s a great way to teach kids about interesting facts and concepts, without being ‘in your face’. Jack‘s characters have their own online site that is a user-generated bank of information for kids.’ Saha became interested in the show because he spent hours on the Internet with his own children, trying to help them find noteworthy facts. ‘I found out that there was almost no place on the Web where you could get kid-friendly information. When the project was brought to me, I thought this is going to be the perfect way to bring that to young viewers.’
Animating Little Miss Mayor
The world of animation and live-action meet cute in the new Teletoon series Majority Rules, produced by E1′s Blueprint Entertainment. The 26 x 30 series revolves around the adventures of 15-year-old Becky Richards, who is elected the mayor of her small hometown. ‘The show has wonderful scripts and a fantastic crew,’ says exec producer Frank Saperstein. ‘But what makes it stand out are the great animated and graphic elements (created by Spin Entertainment using After Effects and Photoshop) that are interwoven throughout each episode as a catchy visual soundtrack.’ Also on Saperstein’s hot MIPTV slate this year are two widely different animated series: Kid Chipmunk and Eric the Tiny. Catch him while you can!
Fighting Evil with Flair
Discriminating toon buyers looking for something with a little extra zest should check out Portfolio Entertainment’s stylish new show Hood, which has been commissioned by Teletoon and Jetix Europe. The series is the brainchild of Canadian animator Howie Shia, who directed the 2006 short film Flutter, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The storylines follow a mysterious team of hoodie-clad super-teens who fight against supernatural threats. ‘Shia hasn’t done a lot of series works, but his artistic style is resonating with a lot of broadcasters who are looking for something with a young and fresh approach,’ says Joy Rosen, Portfolio’s co-CEO and co-founder. The Toronto-based shop is also bringing the pilot for Chinatown Cops, a late-night series commissioned by Teletoon.
Humf Finds a Home on Nick Jr.
A curious purple furry thing called Humf is the star of a new preschool show created by Andrew Brenner (Angelina Ballerina, Maisy). Based in part on Brenner’s experiences raising his own three sons, the show bowed on Nick Jr. in the U.K. last month. The 2D toon is co-produced by Rubber Duck Entertainment and King Rollo Films and narrated by British comic actress Caroline Quentin. ‘Right from concept stage, Humf looked like something special,’ says King Rollo Films’ managing director Leo Nielsen. ‘The stories are beautifully crafted with an emotional content that I think is very unusual and sets the series apart from other series around at the moment.” Purple, cuddly, odd and furry? That’s precisely what the world needs right now.