MIP-TV Special Report: Focus on partnerships: Sky Dancers

Sky Dancers pits five students of the High Hope Academy, each with his or her own unique academic and athletic discipline, against the evil Sky Clone in a fight to save the Wingdom (the magical kingdom of Sky Dancers). Queen Skylar,...
April 1, 1996

Sky Dancers pits five students of the High Hope Academy, each with his or her own unique academic and athletic discipline, against the evil Sky Clone in a fight to save the Wingdom (the magical kingdom of Sky Dancers). Queen Skylar, the last reigning monarch of the Wingdom and the school’s head mistress, has bestowed each with special powers. Sky Clone, the cyclone dwelling beast, creates havoc for the Sky Realm and it’s up to the Sky Dancers to help defeat him. (26 x 30 minutes)

Dragon Flyz

Earth in the 41st century is uninhabitable for all except the mutated creature Dreadwing. The floating city of Alandis, home of the Dragon Flyz, hovers far above the Earth and the deadly Warp Wind Zone, where winds blow at more than 1,000 miles per hour. The four Dragon Flyz or dragon aviators (three brothers and their sister) who fly on the backs of dragons, must brave the wind zone and descend to Earth fighting off Dreadwing in a mission to find magical crystals that have the power to prevent the floating city from crashing to Earth. (26 x 30 minutes)


Abrams/Gentile Entertainment

Gaumont Multimedia

Here’s how the partnership began

Summer 1993

Sky Dancers began life as a girl’s toy and from the summer of 1993 to mid-1994, the Gentile brothers, John and Anthony, develop the concept for the toy. Galoob Toys picks up the worldwide license. But, even while developing the toy, the groundwork for a show is laid. ‘When you design these toys, you have to create an entire world to get motivations going,’ says John Gentile. ‘In essence, we create the writer’s bible for the show even before we design the toy just so we know how to design the toy.’

November 1994

The Sky Dancers toy is shipped to stores in the U.S. and in December 1994, the toy is launched internationally. Sales begin to gain momentum, especially in Italy and France.

January 1995

As the Sky Dancer toy begins to take off, the brothers begin developing a boys property called Dragon Flyz. This time, they decide to try things the other way around and go with the show first and then follow up with the toy. There’s too much clutter in the boy’s market says John Gentile. ‘There must be 35 to 40 male action properties out there and you need the benefit of entertainment to make your mark.’ The goal is to get the show ready to pitch at MIP in April.

April 1995 (MIP-TV)

AGE brings both properties to MIP-TV to look for co-producers. Sky Dancers, at this point, has made its mark with the success of the toy and Gentile notes that in a lot of ways, it was almost a pre-sold property.

AGE speaks with a number of potential co-producers but things begin to gel with Gaumont Multimedia of Paris. The partnership seems right for a number of reasons. For AGE, the chance to tap into the French talent pool gives them a crack at French government funding and, as a result, increased budgets (the budget on each series is slightly more than US$300,000 per half-hour) as well as access to top-notch talent. ‘The cast of artists, storyboard people and directors that Gaumont pulled together,’ says Gentile, ‘made it easy to relinquish roles to French talent because of level of talent. ‘

For Gaumont, initially there is a problem with a property that spun from a toy. According to Marc du Pontavice, managing director of Gaumont Multimedia, it’s hard work trying to convince European broadcasters to go with these types of properties. ‘You have to prove to the broadcasters in Europe that the series you’re working on, although it may be based on a toy, has its own value, its own identity and that it’s not only devoted to the toy business.’ What finally convinced du Pontavice? ‘I would say that the answer came from the artists in my studio who came up very quickly with the designs and graphic ideas and made a series that existed by itself.’

May 1995

Gaumont’s team flew to New York to sign the double production deal. AGE controls program sales, merchandising and video rights for the U.S., and Gaumont controls the rest of the world.

The group gives themselves six months to come up with the bible and the basic design, and Gaumont begins to shop the program around Europe. They go to several broadcasters in France, the U.K. and Germany and find pre-buyers in several markets.

October 1995 (MIPCOM)

Gaumont informs AGE that they want to exercise their option. At the same time, Gaumont moves into its brand-new animation facility in Paris. Production begins immediately in Paris with two separate teams working on each property. Scripting is handled equally by AGE and Gaumont. Pre-production is handled by Gaumont; Akom in Korea d’es cel animation for Dragon Flyz; and Hon Shin, also in Korea, d’es cel animation for Sky Dancers.

The relationship hits some rough spots creatively, but nothing that jeopardizes the projects. ‘There’s a lot of choreography to make this worldwide dance come together,’ says Gentile. Du Pontavice likens a co-production to ‘a whole life living with someone. You have good aspects and very difficult aspects as well.’

Specifically, both partners admit to being challenged in trying to find the acceptable level of action-a level acceptable equally by stricter European regulations and one acceptable with kids, particularly in the U.S., looking for excitement. Fortunately, notes du Pontavice, violence isn’t a big part of the programs. ‘The concept of flying characters [in Dragon Flyz] is by itself an action concept, so you don’t have to have a lot of fights and battles. In the case of Sky Dancers, it is less about action [and more about] graceful characters flying and dancing.’

Evaluating the Partnership

‘Now that the machine is up and running, it’s going very smoothly,’ notes Gentile. The look and feel of the projects have been honed and creative differences have been ironed out. ‘We think, on both shows,’ says Gentile, ‘we’ve gotten a good balance between our needs and their needs.’

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