Cool new shows

A made-for-the-Internet property, titled Gravity Angels, produced by Woodland Hills, California-based Brilliant Digital Entertainment, is being converted to a TV format, available for delivery at MIP-TV. The two-hour, 3-D animated science-fiction thriller was produced for interactive at around US$500,000, with the...
April 1, 1999

A made-for-the-Internet property, titled Gravity Angels, produced by Woodland Hills, California-based Brilliant Digital Entertainment, is being converted to a TV format, available for delivery at MIP-TV. The two-hour, 3-D animated science-fiction thriller was produced for interactive at around US$500,000, with the conversion to tape costing practically nothing because the original was created for multiplatform use, says Kevin Bermeister, president of Brilliant Digital.

‘We scripted the story for Internet and TV broadcast,’ notes Bermeister. ‘We were able to tag objects and images to only appear in the broadcast format,’ he adds. For Internet use, these ‘dropout’ elements were removed to conform to the eight-bit color format. The TV movie will have increased broadcast quality at 82 bits.

Gravity Angels takes place in the year 2098 on the deadly moon Ganymede, where six misfits from Earth have been banished and fear certain death. The movie will be offered in two soundtrack versions: one that targets boys ages eight and up, and another aimed at adults. Kaleidoscope Media Group in New York is distributing.

Brilliant Digital has created movies for the Internet through licensing agreements with DC Comics (Superman), Morgan Creek Productions (Ace Ventura), King Features (Popeye) and Universal (Xena: Warrior Princess). Gravity Angels is the company’s first non-licensed movie product.

Sony Wonder in New York is shopping around a new animated series concept in search of co-production partners at MIP-TV. Two Morons on the Moon is a 26 x half-hour program aimed at boys and girls ages six to 14, with a primary target of kids ages eight to 12. Described as a sci-fi comedy, the original premise centers around two NASA janitors who are accidentally locked in a space shuttle and launched to the moon. Upon their arrival, they find a vacation hot spot long since discovered by aliens from across the galaxy. The preliminary budget for the series is US$300,000 to US$350,000 per episode. New York-based Sunbow Entertainment, a division of Sony Wonder, will handle international distribution. Sony Wonder is presenting the series bible at MIP-TV.

They ain’t afraid of no foxes. The Foxbusters, a trio of chickens that learn to fly and outwit their predators, star in an animated series from Cosgrove Hall Films in Manchester, England. Based on the book of the same name by Dick King Smith (author of Babe), the series is in production. Whoopi Goldberg has signed on as voice talent. The budget is roughly £2.5 million (US$4.1 million) for 26 x 11-minute episodes for children ages six to 12. The Foxbusters is distributed by London-based ITEL, and is set to launch on ITV in the U.K. in September.

Coscient Group in Montreal is kicking off three new series at MIP-TV. YAA! to the m@x is developed in association with Canadian youth specialty channel YTV, and is inspired by the channel’s annual YTV Achievement Awards, which celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of Canadian kids and teens. The 10 x 30-minute series launched on March 7 on YTV, and is budgeted at Cdn$110,000 (US$72,000) per episode. A celebrity guest makes an appearance in each episode. The series is produced by Coscient company SDA Productions, and is targeted at kids ages nine to 12. Coscient is bringing the series to the international market as To the Max, and is exploring opportunities to adapt the concept of kids pushing themselves to the limit for other territories.

Tapping into the growing interest in series for girls, Miranda is a live-action drama, for girls ages nine to 12, with a lead character who possesses extraordinary mental and physical powers that she uses for good. The 13 x 30-minute series is in development with YTV for fall delivery, and is budgeted at Cdn$500,000 (US$329,000) per episode.

The live-action preschool series Rockabye Bubble enters the fantasy world of two children after they’re tucked into bed. The 26 x 15-minute series is developed with TVO, and is presold to provincial public broadcasters TVO, Access, Knowledge and SCN in Canada. Budgeted at less than Cdn$1 million (US$658,000), Rockabye Bubble will be ready for delivery in January. Coscient is looking for partners to produce the series or localize it for other territories.

Coscient sees Rockabye Bubble as the series most ripe with licensing potential, and is considering bedtime products such as blankets, pajamas and bubble bath. The company also plans to produce books, videos, CDs and accessories based on Miranda. Coscient company Motion International is distributing the three series.

London’s VARGA tvc will unleash Preston Pig at MIP-TV. VARGA is working with London-based executive producer Link Entertain-ment, which is distributing the series. Preston Pig is animated and features the piglet, who is oblivious to the fact that he is forever thwarting attempts on his life by the conniving and hungry Mr. Wolf. Budgeted at £1.7 million (US$2.8 million), the series consists of 26 x seven-minute episodes. Preston is based on the character created by author/illustrator Colin McNaughton in his series of four Preston books, and the TV series is aimed at children ages five to 11. The series has been commissioned by ITV in the U.K., and the first 13 episodes will be delivered in September 2000, and the next 13 by April 2001, for a fall 2000 or spring 2001 debut. Link is also handling licensing for the series.

Blue Gum Hospital is continuing its construction with its debut at MIP-TV. The animated series, spawned from the Christmas Day special Scrooge Koala’s Christmas (also known as Scrooge and Comet’s Adventure in the U.S. and Canada), will be ready for delivery in late 2000. Each episode revolves around one or more members of an Aussie animal gang solving a problem, teaching kids moral life lessons as they go. The 26 x 24-minute episodes are targeted at children ages three to six. Blue Gum Hospital is produced by Energee Entertainment in Sydney, which is presenting the series bible and concept to broadcasters and producers at MIP-TV, with the goal of securing up to 70% of the budget, which is about US$200,000 per episode. Energee will retain distribution rights in the Asia-Pacific region.

London-based producer/distributor HIT Entertainment has a raft of new animated shows.

Top of the bill is the 26 x five-minute Dinosaur Roar, a stop-frame model animated series for preschoolers that will be produced by HIT’s own studio, Hot Animation. A series like Dinosaur Roar costs about £700,000 (US$1.1 million).

HIT Productions managing director Kate Fawkes says the series will attempt to capitalize on preschoolers’ fascination with dinosaurs. ‘A lot of other dinosaur TV and film concepts, like Jurassic Park, are targeted too old for them. We haven’t seen anything [that] captures this age group’s imagination.’

The concept is based on three books by Paul and Henrietta Stickland, but the TV stories will be written for HIT by John Grace. There will be no actual words in Dinosaur Roar, instead the lead characters will communicate by grunts (similar to the Pingu concept).

For MIP-TV, Fawkes expects to have a 45-second pilot and a production bible. She anticipates strong interest from broadcasters, but will push the series into production even if there are no immediate offers. It will be ready for completion in fall 2000. Fawkes believes the concept is capable of running to more than its first run of 26 episodes-a key consideration for HIT. HIT will handle international distribution and licensing.

HIT is also coming to MIP-TV with the worldwide rights to a preschool cel-animated series called Pablo-The Little Red Fox, a 52 x five-minute series produced by Millimages of Paris. The series is budgeted at US$3.5 million. HIT, which came on board as a co-producer at Cartoon last year, has already secured the BBC as a U.K. broadcaster. In France, the series will be aired by France 2.

According to HIT Productions’ head of development and acquisitions, Peter Curtis, the partnership with Millimages is a proven one. Last year, the two were co-producers on the successful animated series Archibald the Koala. By MIPCOM, HIT will be able to show the first episodes of Pablo.

ABC International is going behind the scenes with Zoo Tails. Produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Natural History Unit in Melbourne, Zoo Tails is a live-action look at the inner workings of three different Australian zoos over a five-month span. The stories, narrated by an 11-year-old boy, are about the animals and those who look after them. With a budget of about AUD$185,000 (US$116,000), the 40 episodes range in length from one minute to five minutes. The target demo for the show is children ages five to nine, and the series is available.

Dargaud-Marina Productions in Paris is putting a big push behind Small Stories. Les Films de l’Arlequin in Paris has produced 52 five-minute episodes, with a budget of FF10 million (US$1.7 million). Small Stories is an animated series based on the French children’s magazine Pomme d’Api. The show features stories about witches, queens and monsters for a two- to five-year-old audience. Production is complete, and Dargaud-Marina, which holds worldwide TV, video and merchandising rights, is distributing the series. An earlier Small Stories TV series was produced in 1995.

Montreal-based Cinar and Paris-based Alphanim are bringing a well-known property to a younger audience with the launch of an animated Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!. The nephew of adventurer Robert Ripley emulates his uncle by traveling the world in search of the truly bizarre in this series for kids ages eight to 12. The program has a budget of Cdn$13.2 million (US$8.7 million) for 26 x 30-minute episodes. The first 13 episodes are in production, and the second 13 are in pre-production. The program began airing last month in Canada on the Family Channel, and is set to debut on Fox Family Channel in the U.S. in the summer. It has also been sold to France 3. Distribution is split between Alphanim (Italy, Spain, France and French-speaking European countries), Animation Enterprises in Hong Kong (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia) and Cinar (all other territories). Sony Signatures has signed on to handle licensing for the 81-year-old property, which began as a collection of syndicated newspaper cartoons by Robert Ripley.

Copenhagen, Denmark-based Interactive Television Entertainment is introducing the animated series Hugo Jungle, which stars a troll named Hugo who battles against a witch who tries to break up his family. The show allows the first person who calls in to actually control the action on his or her TV screen with a touch-tone phone. More than US$500,000 has been invested into producing the new series. Episode lengths can be customized by broadcasters. The target audience is kids ages four to 12. Hugo Jungle began airing on Denmark’s TV2 in February, and Hugo, which debuted in the ITE series Hugo the TV Troll, has appeared on plush, apparel and video game products. ITE is distributing the series.

Argo Films and Noga Communications, both in Tel Aviv, are unveiling the preschool series Mimi and Me to the international market. The first batch of 18 x 15-minute episodes has been airing on Noga’s The Children’s Channel in Israel since late 1998, with another 18 in development. In this puppet series, a cow named Mimi and her friends must learn to get along with an unexpected visitor who crashes on their island. Each episode focuses on a theme, from using your imagination to telling the truth, and includes a lead story, three short segments and a song emphasizing cognitive and emotional aspects of the theme. The series is budgeted at US$75,000 per episode, and is distributed by Argo (Germany, Australia, Denmark and Canada), and Cinephil Com- munications, also based in Tel Aviv, and Noga (which are handling remaining territories).

Neptuno Films in Barcelona is hoping to scare up interest in its new animated series, The Gravediggers’ Squad. Combining terror and humor, the 104 x 13-minute series stars three gravediggers who earn extra pocket money by solving mysterious cases, such as the robbery of a skeleton’s bones. The original premise is targeted at kids ages eight to 14, primarily boys. Budgeted at US$150,000 per episode, the series is in pre-production and Neptuno is eyeing late 2000 for delivery. The producer is looking to secure financing for the project, and is in discussions with buyers in several major markets. Neptuno is aiming to bring a full episode for viewing at MIP-TV. Neptuno Licensing is handling licensing for the series.

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MTV Networks

MTV Networks is sporting a new face at MIP-TV. Following the recent appointment of Kathleen Hricik to the newly created position of executive VP of international program enterprises for MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1 are attending MIP for the first time as a consolidated unit, with a combined library catering to buyers in need of programming for kids up to adults. Nickelodeon’s U.S. library alone consists of more than 4,200 hours. The consolidation is a move to grow the international program sales, licensing and merchandising activities of the three channels, particularly as the volumes of programming created by the U.S. channels and their international counterparts are swelling. The brands will still be positioned as separate entities.

In her previous role as senior VP of program enterprises for Nickelodeon International, Hricik helped to quadruple Nickelodeon’s program sales and licensing internationally over the last three to four years. While Nick has been actively selling its programming internationally since 1992 and has begun licensing efforts abroad, most licensing behind MTV has focused on the logo and selected series, such as Beavis and Butt-head, and no licensing has been done behind VH1. MTV has been selling its programming abroad since 1988 and VH1 only in the last three years. Celebrity Deathmatch, which MTV just began selling internationally, and Daria are series that Hricik is examining for their licensing potential. Nick airs in more than 91 million households on 15 dedicated channels worldwide, MTV in more than 285 million households in 82 territories and VH1 in more than 97 million households in 32 territories.

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