A 26 x 30-minute action-adventure series targeted at boys six to 11. The show’s her’es are a chimp named Charlie and his simian crew, whose mission is to protect the universe from the evil Nebula who is plotting to destroy the universe. Bohbot Entertainment and Media Entertainment kick off the show in syndication in the U.S. on August 4. The show will run every Sunday morning, and weekday mornings for the month of November. TF1 has also signed on to air the series.
Monkeyshine Productions, Santa Monica, California
Hallmark Entertainment, New York
Here’s how the patnership began
Gordon Bressack, now an executive producer of Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys, conceives the idea for the show in 1986, and fleshes out the concept over the next eight years.
Bressack approaches his colleagues at Monkeyshine who had been working with him on the Mighty Max series, Rob Hudnut and Gary Hartle. Excited by the idea, Hartle draws early sk@tches, and Hudnut, a former marketing director for boys toys with Mattel, dons his marketing hat. What he sees is the potential for ‘a really terrific male action line,’ says Hudnut, an executive producer of Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. They start to develop the characters and storylines.
Hudnut jumps on a flight to meet with Bluebird Toys of Swindon, England, the company that had created the Mighty Max toy line. He explains the show’s premise and the marketing rationale, and presents one color drawing of the main characters to Casey Norman, director of development; David Edey, international marketing director; and Torquil Norman, chief executive officer. ‘They liked the idea so much,’ says Hudnut, ‘that they agreed to partner with us that same day.’
Hudnut follows up the meeting by sending written details on the characters and drawings of each character. Monkeyshine starts looking for an animation partner to finance the production.
Bressack travels to New York to introduce himself to Vickie Cardaro, vice president of creative affairs with Hallmark Entertainment. ‘Hallmark was immediately interested,’ says Hudnut, and the two companies begin to negotiate a deal.
‘We liked the people, and we obviously liked the concept,’ says J’el Denton, Hallmark’s managing director of international. What further appeals to Hallmark is the strong creative and business backgrounds of the Monkeyshine team, and their track record with shows like Mighty Max.
For its part, Monkeyshine is impressed by Hallmark’s commitment to quality. ‘They’ve been very supportive of our desire to do excellent animation,’ says Hudnut.
The partners agree that Hallmark will finance the show, while Monkeyshine will handle production. The two companies will co-own the trademark and copyright.
This marks Hallmark’s first original animated series in which it has full creative input, and Hallmark wants to ensure that the show will have all the right elements, including humor and action, to attract commercial broadcasters.
Hudnut, Bressack, and two representatives from Bluebird Toys-Torquil Norman and Chris Burgin, COO-visit a group of marketing and design staff at Mattel, including Matt Bousquette, senior vice president, boys toys. In hand, they have visuals of all of the characters and 3-D prototypes of the characters and their vehicles. While Bluebird will produce the toy line and distribute the products in the U.K. and Ireland, it is seeking a company to handle all other international distribution. Having worked previously with Bluebird in a similar arrangement for Mighty Max toys, Mattel climbs on board.
Putting toy deals in place had been a key component of producing the series for Monkeyshine. ‘By having strong merchandising partners like Bluebird and Mattel, you can produce a higher-quality series,’ says Hudnut, ‘and increase the property’s overall likelihood of success.’
The three executive producers of the series-Hudnut, Bressack and Hartle-and Cardaro meet J’e Pearson, president of Epoch Ink of Santa Monica, California, and Andy Kim, president of Toon Us In of Los Angeles at the Toon Us In office. ‘We knew of them [Pearson and Kim] by reputation,’ says Hudnut.
Pearson signs on to handle pre- and post-production, and Kim to do layout and animation. The arrangement enables Monkeyshine to keep ‘more of the control in L.A., and by working with smaller companies, we are able to put the most money on the screen,’ says Hudnut.
Hudnut pitches the series to Kaaren Brown, senior vice president, program acquisitions and development with Bohbot Entertainment and Media of New York. Peter von Gal, Hallmark’s executive vice president of worldwide sales, later negotiates the deal with Brown.
Hallmark brings the writer’s guide, character drawings and storyboards to MIPCOM to drum up initial interest, and catches the eye of TF1. The Paris-based broadcaster finalizes the deal in early 1996.
Both Monkeyshine and Hallmark are confident that the show will be a hit, with Hudnut expecting it to sell quickly worldwide and Denton anticipating that it will draw a good rating.
As well as being pleased with the final product, the two companies are happy with their choice of partners. ‘From a creative, a marketing and a distribution standpoint, they’ve [Hallmark] been terrific to work with,’ says Hudnut. Denton is pleased at how helpful Monkeyshine has been in providing materials to help sell the show; Bressack and Hudnut have also participated in meetings with broadcasters to explain the creative concept. ‘It really has been a partnership,’ says Denton.