Kidcaster Nickelodeon is jumping into the millennium fray with a four-hour documentary called Nickellennium. Documentary filmmaker Linda Schaffer pitched Nick the idea two years ago and is now circling the globe with a four-person crew, filming kids around the world for the TV event picture that will air on Nick on January 1, 2000.
The documentary, budgeted at just over US$2 million, features kids expounding on their visions of earth and humanity in the next millennium. It will also incorporate 10 to 15 animated segments depicting these imagined future worlds, created by international animation artists. Over 500 hours of footage will be shot by Schaffer’s crew during their 14-week traveling stint, and about 60% of the final product will feature American kids, with non-English-speaking kids segments being subtitled or dubbed.
Nickellennium debuts in segment form during the first 24 hours of the year 2000 as part of a same-name event on Nick. After the millennial hoopla winds down, the doc will be reformatted into a 90-minute TV movie that will air as a Nick special throughout the year. Music for the documentary will be comprised of both pop music composed by Nick’s music directors, and local music indigenous to the movie’s many locations.
KidScreen spoke with Schaffer from the Dolomite mountain range in Italy, where she was interviewing a 10-year-old ‘spotlight kid,’ who will be featured in a 10-minute profile for the piece. Schaffer has found that each child subject envisions an entirely different world future. ‘Kids are really divided,’ she says. ‘Some of them are very anti-technology and think it will make people lazy. Then there are those that really embrace it.’
Schaffer shoots kids against a simple textured background or a bluescreen so that more detailed, futuristic backgrounds can be added later. ‘We consciously avoid any depiction of the here and now,’ Schaffer notes. Known for her Comedy Boot Camp special for Comedy Central and her American Dreamers doc, which aired on TNT, Schaffer believes that the film will find a life after Nick, perhaps on the film festival circuit, where it may interest adults audiences as well.
Nick’s plans for the film include a Web site where kids can submit their speculations for possible inclusion in the film, as well as a magazine supplement and CD soundtrack. On-line submissions from kids will include predictions in categories such as technology, food, future leaders, entertainment, the environment, home life, travel and sports. ‘We’re excited about the multiple media incarnations of this project,’ says Nick’s creative director Scott Webb.
Schaffer’s itinerary at press time included stops in Jamaica, India, London, Ireland and England, as well as a few days shooting kids in Manhattan.
Coloring kids’ imaginings
From the beginning of the Nickellennium project, its producers and creators planned to animate the stories kids recounted for the film. While many of the decisions concerning the animated segments are still in flux as the project nears post-production, Webb estimates that at least half of the one- to four-minute toon segments will be created by international animators from outside Nickelodeon.
Coordination of the out-of-house animated product will be handled by Karen Fowler, producer of Nick’s creative lab. Fowler has screened a number of animation houses worldwide whose work reflects the global and eclectic focus of the documentary. The segments are challenging to animate because of the fantastic quality of kids’ imaginations. Based on one boy’s sketch, one of the finished toon creations depicts a tiny Kiwi bird, which becomes as large as an elephant in the new millennium.
Nick’s share of the animation will be produced by two entities: Nickelodeon’s digital animation unit at their New York headquarters, and the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California. ‘We think it’s a great opportunity for [Nicktoons] animators to do something different,’ says Webb. The cost of the animation is not yet determined, but will be drawn from the film’s overall budget.