what’s developing in kids production

Nelvana replaces Junior Kroll with carnies...
April 1, 2000

Nelvana replaces Junior Kroll with carnies

Junior’s out and Marvin is in. Marvin the Tap-Dancing Horse, based on the book by Michael and Betty Paraskevas will air on PBS instead of the Paraskevas’ Junior Kroll and Company. The other Nelvana toons airing with Marvin this fall are Seven Little Monsters, George Shrinks, Timothy Goes to School, Elliot Moose and Corduroy Bear.

The 13 x half-hour toon stars nine-year-old Eddy, who takes a summer job at Fast Talkin’ Jack’s carnival and befriends Marvin, a talented equine who eschewed a successful Broadway career for a simpler life among friends. What sets this one apart from other offerings targeted at the three to eight set? ‘First of all, he’s a tap-dancing horse,’ says supervising producer Cynthia Taylor, pointing out the obvious departure from the fold. ‘So right off the bat, we’ve got something a bit different.’

Taylor also says that Marvin’s Broadway background offers the perfect segue into some song and dance numbers. Nelvana handles worldwide distribution rights for the series, which carries an average 2-D toon price tag of US$300,000 per episode.

Hoping to step up development and acquisitions even further, Nelvana recently increased its credit facility with the Royal Bank of Canada to US$102 million.

Jules Verne going to the small screen and video

France’s Tele Images is teaming up with partners EM.TV & Merchandising, France 3 and newbie Belgium-based prodco Sofidoc on Jules Verne’s Amazing Journeys. Currently in prepro, the 2-D animated series is geared to ages eight to 12 and will come in either six x one-hour or 12 x half-hour formats.

Budgeted at roughly US$5 million, the action/adventure period piece is set in the 19th century. Each episode is based on a different Verne story, including timeless tales Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Mysterious Island, The Southern Star, 800 Leagues Down the Amazon and The Greatest Show on Ice. ‘Because the novelist Jules Verne is the most popular of the last century, there’s magic in his work that we hope to capture in the series,’ says Philippe Alessandri, head of children’s programming at Tele Images.

Jules has been presold to France 3, the Disney Channel in France, Sat.1 in Germany and Belgium pubcaster RTBF. The first three episodes will be ready for delivery by Christmas 2000. The French arm of California-based Universal Video will distribute the first six episodes on video, and Tele Images is looking for international presales for TV or video at MIP-TV. Tele Images holds worldwide distribution rights, excepting German-speaking territories, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Israel and New Zealand, which are held by EM.TV.

Link beds a Viking

There’s a Viking in my Bed-described as Cat Weasel meets Fawlty Towers for the 21st century by Claire Derry, managing director of Link-stars Sigurd, a mad and hairy 10th century viking on a quest to get back home after falling from his long boat and resurfacing in modern-day England. The Danish warrior, with his trusty sword Nosepicker, takes up residence in a lovely B&B, where two kids try to help him back to the land of Norse lore.

Based on the books by Jeremy Strong, this 13 x half-hour series is slated for delivery in winter 2001. Co-pro partner BBC is signed on as a caster, and London-based Link is shopping for other sales for the live-action project now in prepro. The US$160,000 to US$190,000 per-episode Viking targets ages seven to 10. Link handles worldwide distribution rights.

Team Entertainment’s live-action safari

Africa Quest is an action-adventure series set on an African game preserve where diamond mines (presumably still undiscovered by De-Beers) abound. The co-pro from Munich, Germany-based Team Entertainment, Germany’s Taurus Films and Dublin-based Word 2000 Entertainment is a 13 x hour-long, live-action family series. Scheduled to air in September on Germany’s ZDF in prime time, Africa Quest comes with a price tag of US$12 million. Team International retains worldwide distribution rights, except Europe, which is handled by Taurus.

Peakviewing tips hat to tots

London-based producer and distributor Peakviewing is continuing to diversify from its TV movie roots, adding a whack of new series for preschoolers to its stable of kids fare. Peakviewing Transatlantic is fully financing all the series.

Let’s Go, Let’s Make and Let’s See are the first three of nine series for the preschool set, with all nine to be completed by the end of the year. Each of the series consists of 26 11-minute episodes and uses live action, puppets and animation to explore a different facet of a tot’s world. For instance: Let’s Go features a scruffy dog puppet who takes kids on trips to places like the zoo; Let’s Make stars two big puppet hands with eyes who make crafts from their Useful Box of bits and pieces; and Let’s See gets up close and personal with interesting places and events via Micro the friendly computer mouse. The first 13 eps for each of the first three series are completed, with the next 13 for each of the three ready this month. The budget for the 78 eps is US$25 million. Peakviewing is presently handling distribution, but all territories are up for grabs.

Lassie meets some competition in family-targeted Pets, a live-action 90-minute TV movie with a budget of US$3.25 million. The movie, slated for delivery this month, features four kids who get captured by bumbling con men working for evil-doer The Hand before being rescued by their extraordinary pets. Filmed in a cartoon-ish style in South Africa, the production is looking for pre-sales and distributors. All territories are open.

Wendy the Witch is tube-bound

Vancouver-based Studio B Productions has teamed up with Harvey Entertainment to start production on Wendy the Witch.

The 26 x half-hour, 2-D animated toon ‘follows Wendy, who has to balance the demands of being a future top witch with fitting in with different warlock and witch cliques at school,’ says Rick Mischel, president of Harvey. Wendy also has to contend with her nutty witch aunts, Franny, Grabby and Gert, who collectively egg Wendy into performing mischievous spells. ‘There’s a lot of stretch and squash animated action designed to appeal to boys and girls ages seven to 12,’ Mischel says. Budgeted at US$330,000 per episode, Wendy will be ready for a January 2001 air date on Canada’s WIC. Worldwide distribution rights are split between Harvey and Studio B.

Veggie abuse from Dargaud-Marina

What’s a poor, thirsty potato to do? That’s the dilemma facing Spud, the protagonist of Spud and the Vegetable Garden, a 26-minute 2-D animated special. When the gardener doesn’t show up as usual to water him and his friends (an easily intimidated Leek, a mouthy Carrot and a tough-guy Broccoli) Spud sets out to find the negligent farmer and gets lost. His buddies soon join him and they are off on an adventure beyond the garden walls.

A co-pro with France 3, Teletoon and SWR, Spud targets a family audience and is budgeted at US$440,000. It will be ready for an October delivery, in time for MIPCOM. Dargaud-Marina handles distribution rights worldwide, except for the EEC.

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom from A Bug’s Life perspective

Toronto-based Catalyst Entertainment and co-pro partner Heatherwood Films of Johannesburg, South Africa are developing Kid Safari, a combo live-action/CGI series budgeted at US$50,000 to US$60,000 per episode. Geared to the five to eight set, Kid Safari is an educational wildlife program, but comes with a CGI twist. The 22 x half-hour series is narrated by a computer generated dragonfly named Buggles, who flits along with animal footage and picturesque African landscapes, giving the series a boost. Catalyst will handle worldwide distribution rights for the Kid Safari, which is slated for a fall delivery, and will be shopping for broadcasters at MIP-TV.

Flower power

L.A.-based Krislin is currently in production on the pilot for Room to Grow. Based on the book by Tina Gardener, Room to Grow explores the world of The Earth Garden, where the Kinderlings reside. These flowers are in charge of protecting all the other plants in the garden. The foliage fears the ever-encroaching threat of Weed and other plant catastrophes. Krislin’s other kid credits include Book of Virtues with Porchlight Entertainment.

The pilot will be ready for delivery by August, and Krislin plans to go into production on the CGI, 26 x 22-minute series later this year. Budgeted at US$450,000 per episode (US$550,000 for the pilot), the series is aimed at ages six to nine. Krislin is looking for buyers.


Arctic Rip-Van-Winkle latest pick-up for AAC kids

AAC picked up the distribution reins of Yvon of the Yukon, which Vancouver’s Studio B is co-producing with Taiwan’s Hong Ying. An explorer in the times of King Louis of France is frozen in an ice block in UpyerMukluk, Yukon for 300 years. Yvon is only revived after a dog, ahem, pees on him, and he soonbecomes friendly with a young boy. Screwball adventures ensue as little Tommy tries to enlighten Yvon about modern ways of life, like bathing. The 2-D, 13 x half-hour cel-animated series will be delivered to YTV for a fall 2000 air date. Budgeted at US$3 million, the series is aimed at ages seven to 11 and will be distributed by AAC Kids, excluding the U.S., China and Taiwan.

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