Set during the time of Pharaoh Ramses II, Princess of the Nile is a 26 x 26-minute animated series that tells the tale of Queen Nefertari’s smart little sister, Neteb, and her friend Merempah. Each episode finds the teenagers involved in plots wrought against the Pharaoh of Egypt, as they try to unravel these plots. The series draws on the mysteries of ancient Egypt and offers an exciting mix of adventure and romance.
Marina Productions, France
France 2, France
Victory Children, Germany
How the partnership began:
Claude Berthier, then-president and CEO of Marina Productions, takes a vacation tour of Egypt and is struck by the powerful images and inherent symbolism that remain of the ancient civilization that existed on the banks of the Nile. He returns to France convinced that Marina should develop an animated series to help educate children about the wonders of ancient Egypt.
Berthier contacts Italian animation producer Marco Pagot of Rever, who had previously worked with Berthier in developing the television series Dog Tracer, and suggests the two collaborate on the creation of an animated series set in ancient Egypt. Pagot sets about producing the initial bible for Princess of the Nile.
April 1996 (MIP-TV)
Marina pitches Princess of the Nile to a select group of potential partners. France 2 expresses an immediate interest in helping to finance and develop the series. Germany’s Victory Children signs on as a financial backer shortly after, and is involved purely on the financial side of the project.
Marina learns that TF1 has partnered with animation company Dupuis to develop their own Egyptian-themed series, based on the popular French comic book Papyrus. Berthier orders that steps be taken to eliminate creative similarities between the two properties.
‘We decided to go for a more realistic, less stylized approach in our animation than we saw in the Papyrus comic,’ says Wendy Griffiths, Marina’s vice president of animation production and executive producer of Princess of the Nile. ‘We also shifted the time period back to the time of Ramses II because it was a very rich period in history.’
A new production bible, written by Françoise Boublil and former history teacher Jean Helpert, is completed. The story is adapted to take on more historical fact and less fantasy.
Rachel Kahn, head of children’s programming at France 2, becomes involved with the project and urges the show’s creators to make Princess of the Nile more epic in nature while maintaining as much historical authenticity as possible. World-renowned Egyptologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt and colleague Françoise Angles are brought on board as technical advisors.
Griffiths says that despite its emphasis on providing accurate historical interpretation, Princess of the Nile contains enough elements of pure entertainment, including action adventure, to keep kids interested. ‘When you get right down to it,’ she says, ‘kids are not desperately interested in pharaohs giving pompous speeches and queens having their hair done. They want to see people of their own age group doing interesting things, being bright and living up to expectations.’
Initial designs are drawn up for the show by a California-based animation studio, but they’re rejected as being too ‘cold.’
Griffiths transfers the design work to French studio Story and names Bernard Deyries and Gregory Panaccione as co-directors.
With a view to future distribution in North America, Marina and France 2 decide it is a good idea to work with an American script coordinator and scriptwriters. ‘That way,’ explains Griffiths, ‘we have dialogues that ring true to an American audience.’
Noting that the general level of knowledge about Egypt is quite high in French culture, combined with the fact that the show’s Egyptologists are based in France, Griffiths decides to have all treatments for Princess of the Nile done in France before they are fielded out to the scriptwriters in Los Angeles. The English scripts are subsequently translated into French.
‘Of course, we work very much hand in hand with France 2 on the register of the dialogues in French,’ says Griffiths.
After final dialogue changes requested by France 2 are made, the pilot script is completed and storyboards begin to take shape.
Paris-based Medialab is contracted to do production on the series, including creating elaborate computer-generated backgrounds. Animation is done in North Korea and color in Vietnam.
September 1997 (MIPCOM)
Marina premieres first episode at MIPCOM.
Post-production is in full swing. Twenty-four of 26 scripts are complete and a little more than half the storyboards are done. The program is in Marina’s catalogue and its distribution department is preparing to show the first two episodes at MIP-TV, hoping to attract some more interest throughout Europe. Distribution is locked up for Italy, Turkey and Morocco. North American distribution and merchandising deals are in the works.
Episodes are due to start being delivered in June, with complete delivery expected by March 1999.
Evaluating the Partnership
Allowing that Princess of the Nile has not been the most trouble-free series she has produced, Griffiths praises France 2, and Rachel Kahn in particular, for maintaining a high level of excitement about, and commitment to, the series from the very beginning.
‘A lot of our strength on this production comes from the fact that the French are very much `into’ Egypt,’ says Griffiths, pointing out that documentaries on Egypt frequently appear on French TV, and that the Louvre has even opened an entire wing devoted to ancient Egypt.
In this report:
- Kids reality shows sell ‘edutainment’
- They’ve got the whole world in their plans
- Local programmers emphasize local character
- Sonic Underground
- Bob Morane
- The Myth Men: Guardians of the Legend
- Mumble Bumble
- Fix & Foxi
- Princess of the Nile
- MIP-TV Roundup