Having natural history broadcasters with kid components is helping this production genre grow.
The juxtaposition of doc stock and kid-entertainment hooks is very much the direction National Geographic Television likes to take. As an example of its development strategy, Sea Trek is a series set in Zooie’s aquarium; she can enter the fish bowl, its characters come to life and she navigates an underwater world. This entails CG animation, stock and a live-action wrap.
As to costs of these kinds of series, the doc-caster aims to keep things under US$200,000 per episode, and prefers to find partnering scenarios.
Erika Markman, formerly VP of business development, children’s programming, now heading up the new National Geographic Education division, says its Really Wild Animals series and special (originally launched via home video), which took library footage and added a kid navigation mechanism, was successful, and that this year, Nat Geo plans to build Amazing Planet-three aliens exploring our world via a mixture of minidocs and slapstick-into 26 episodes. Tales From the Wild is another property that’s going beyond its initial six-pack, with seven more episodes on tap. The series takes a first-person narrative approach as a young animal diarizes its life in the wild, and uses existing footage from shows. As to the doc-component, Markman says ‘There is no lip flap, this is just bringing documentary to kids.’
As to likely pitches, Nat Geo is interested in adventure with an educational component, with a preponderance even for some literary properties-think the likes of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Anne Dickerson, the new director of program development, describes the slant as ‘outside adventures, kids doing their own exploring,’ and mentions George Jean Craighead’s Julie of the Wolf as another example of the Nat Geo kids direction.