While animation’s universality gives it a boost on the international market, programmers are finding that niche kid audiences crave live-action programming that strongly reflects their reality. With that idea in mind, prodcos and distributors alike are focusing on programs for the Latin American audience and other culturally specific shows that fit the marketplace as only live action can.
For instance, Nickelodeon recently shot a pilot for Taina, a prime-time series set in Queens, New York about a young Puerto Rican girl who wants to be the next Selena, but has all the constraints of normal family life in the Puerto Rican culture. It features a mostly Latino cast, which should not only appeal to the significant numbers of Latinos living in the U.S. (estimated at 31 million), but also tell great, compelling kids stories, says Cyma Zarghami, Nick’s executive vice president. ‘That it is authentic and representative of a significant part of the demographic makes it very attractive to us, and above all, it is a great story about a girl coming of age.’
Taina is produced and created by Maria Perez-Brown, owner of New York-based prodco Dorado Entertainment. Nick has invested US$600,000 in the project, which has strong music deal and merchandise potential.
Nick is also involved with The Brothers Garcia, a pilot by Jeff Valdez of L.A.-based prodco SITV about three brothers and their sisters, as told through the eyes of the kids. Several other projects with Latino themes and characters are in the works, with Nick eyeing a fall 2000 air date for two of the series after pilot group testing is done.
In the past few years, there has been an ever-increasing appetite for live action aimed at ages seven to 11 in Latin America, especially fantasy or adventure shows, says Paris-based Salsa Distribution’s sales and account manager Morgann Favenac.
In response to this demand, Salsa is touting a Latin American kids soap opera called Vivir en Jeans, produced by Buenos Aires-based South Star. The 66 x one-hour series is aimed at seven- to 13-year-olds, with distribution handled by Salsa in Latin America and Latin Star in Argentina. The delivery date has not yet been set for the US$30,000 per-episode series.
Live action can also work to change children’s attitudes through education. Washington, D.C.’s Common Ground Productions has just wrapped production of eight x 30-minute series Nashe Maalo, a show designed to help Macedonian kids solve cultural and racial differences through equality and friendship with a little magic thrown in. The show is aimed at kids ages seven to 12 and was co-produced with Children’s Television Workshop. The US$1.1 million series is currently airing on A1 in Macedonia.