Sissi started something. . . . From princesses to witches to supergirls, the rise of female heroes is a growing series toon trend.
And some of the new girl toon stars are just plain kids.
From Germany, the folks working on the third Werner film (for `99 release) bring a very `90s girl to the table this September for the six- to 12-year-old set. Berlin’s Hahn Film is producing Renada as 52 x 11-minute episodes starring a plucky 12-year-old heroine who is described by writer Armin Prediger as more independent than Gerhard Hahn’s other quirky female character, the star of the witch series Bibi Blocksberg. Without a nuclear family to fall back on (à la Heidi, she lives with her grandfather), Renada comes up with her own solutions and even helps take care of gramps. She lives in a cool, attic-like boat abode (shades of Pippi), replete with musician boarders, and has a boy nerd best friend, Milton.
The series was initially 20 x five-minute shorts within ARD’s mixed bag Tiger Duck Club block. It was most popular with the nine to 12 demographic, slightly bigger on the female side, but boys liked it too, although the fan mail was predominantly from girls. Rooted in modern-day kid idiom, episodes feature boy-inclusive stuff like skateboards and in-line skating. The switch to a longer format was to appeal to the international market (two x 11 minutes packed into a half-hour slot), and the new series is being produced in English and dubbed in German.
While living by your wits is all well and good, having cool vehicles and supercostumes can’t hurt. Canal+ Distribution is keen on the prospects of series such as its Fantomette’s Mysterious Adventures (a Canada/France co-production from Cactus Animation and Elma Animation for December `98 delivery to Canal J/France 3). Based on the Hachette-published Georges Chaulet novels, the property features a Lara Croft for the six- to 10-year-old set, and also scores high on the style front. Exemplifying the deco-driven (The Jetsons meets Frank Lloyd Wright), stylized look popping up more frequently, the half-hour series is about a 14-year-old student who becomes a battler of evil after donning her computer glove and electronic gadget belt, and is replete with toyetic vehicles with interactive elements already intrinsically designed.
Apparently, ancient Egypt, royalty and romance can vie with gadget allure. France’s Marina Productions targets the eight- to 12-year-old girl gang with its Princess of the Nile series for France 2, consisting of 26 action-adventure, female heroine half-hours. Borrowing France’s top Egyptologist from the Louvre to instill accuracy, the series explores the mysteries of ancient Egypt as Princess Neteb juggles medical school studies with foiling plots of the Pharoah’s enemies. The princess has a guy sidekick to stir some romance into the suspense/intrigue mix. The budget is US$7 million, and delivery is set for September. Sales in place include Disney Channel Spain, Canal Famille in Canada and Television Suisse Romande in Switzerland-the series is also being eyed by rival U.S. kidcasters. Earlier presales include Italy, South Africa and Turkey.
Millésime Productions (Marina’s sister company) has produced two girl shows: Enigma, co-produced with M6, Tele-München and D’Ocon, is a sort of Superman’s daughter series (52 x 26 minutes), which has been sold to Fox Kids in the U.S.; and The Little Witches (26 x 26 minutes), co-produced with TF1, D’Ocon and Tele-München, was designed by the late Jean Yves Raimbaud (Space Goofs, Oggy and the Cockroaches). (Raimbaud passed away in June.)
Another entry for a rumored Fox princess block, Sheherazade, has captured interest for a second season. The first 26 episodes of the half-hour animated series out of France’s Carrere, a co-production with France 2, Tele-München and Tilt, airs in France, Spain, Portugal and on HBO in South America, and was just picked up by Fox Kids in the U.S., where an English dub is under way. The princess travels throughout the planet with her mischievous genie buddy in adventures inspired by Oriental tales, spun with a humorous and modern twist. A France/Italy/Spain toy release and a video out of Warner Home Video are part of the plot, to hatch initially in France by the end of the year.
Madrid’s Planet Cartoon, a 3-D software developer that is getting into series production, has a sci-fi entry featuring a girl heroine in development with Montreal-based Ciné-Groupe. The co-production series Sinkha is based on Marco Patrito’s multimedia novel. The Goth-toned animation title is budgeted in the US$350,000 to US$400,000 per episode range, and is one of several series the two companies are doing together, all aimed at the audience honed by the computer/video game market. Ciné-Groupe is one of the three companies behind Princess Sissi, partnered with Saban International, Paris, and Italy’s RAI Cinemafiction, now in its second season of animated half-hours.
And RAI has a few other animated girls half-hour series in development: Made In Florence, starring Saby, an art/fashion entrepreneur (with Film Master Film); and Jolanda, the Daughter of the Black Pirate, the tale of a swashbuckling teen heroine set in the 17th century (with BRB Internacional, Barcelona). The company also piloted the historical story of Matilda of Canossa as a 13 x 13-minute, 2-D series, produced by RAI Struttura Ragazzi and Marcenaro Produzioni, set in the 11th century.
Out of England, girl power headquarters, Angelina Ballerina is being touted as an animated series from HIT, which is negotiating a TV/video/publishing/product licensing and merchandising rights deal with ABC (All Books for Children; to be renamed shortly), publisher of the Angelina picture books. Beloved of the younger North American jeté set, Angelina is a contemporary dancing mouse girl, the intrepid star of the charmingly illustrated stories. HIT, which bought a 40% stake in ABC in February, has reportedly been stalking the rodent rights for eight years.