BKN puts IPO cash into bumbling bobby comedy series
With monies generated from its public offering on the Neuer stock market, Germany’s BKN International is working on five new series for broadcast in 2001. Included in the bunch is Keystone Kops, a 26 x half-hour (or 52 x 11-minute) 2-D toon in prepro for the seven to 12 set that centers around a crew of the billy club-toting slapstick cops from the silent film era. Replete with lots of physical comedy bits and sight gags, BKN president of international TV sales and worldwide merchandising Nadia Nardonnet is confident that the series will tap into a kid’s level of humor and have global legs, given that much of Keystone Kops’ story line is not dependent on verbal delivery. In addition, she adds that the new project offers ripe opportunities for licensing in the comic book and publishing categories. Keystone Kops, with a per-ep budget of roughly US$300,000, is set for delivery in spring 2001.
Also on the 2001 slate at BKNI are animated versions of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man. Nardonnet says that global awareness of these classic sci-fi literary properties should make the series appealing to international kids broadcasters.
ZDF spins out a star
ZDF Enterprises is in preproduction on a star-spangled preschool series based on a three-book series by German author Klaus Baumgart that has sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide. Laura’s Star tells the story of a little girl who sees a falling star land on the sidewalk in front of her house one night. Befriending the star and fixing its broken point with plaster, Laura first decides to keep it beside her bed, but later, noticing that the star has lost some of its lustre, she rigs it up to a multitude of balloons and sends it back to its home in the sky to watch over her from above. ZDF will retain worldwide distribution rights to the series, while co-pro partner Baumhaus Medien will manage all publishing activities. The 13 x 10-minute offering will be rendered in 2-D by Berlin-based toon house Cartoon-Film, with some 3-D touches added in to make the star glitter. With a total budget of US$3.5 million, Laura’s Star is slated to launch on KI.KA (formerly Kinderkanal) in fall 2001, and will be bolstered by a planned 25-minute Christmas special later that year, as well as a second series and a feature film in 2002.
Sony Wonder’s pair of family X-mas specials pack voice talent punch
In production with Vancouver-based Studio B for a holiday 2000 debut on Fox Family Channel is Santa Mouse and the Ratdeer, a half-hour special based on a same-name HarperCollins children’s book by Thacher Hurd. Melissa Joan Hart and her little sister Emily have signed up to help voice the 2-D animated show, which puts a rodent spin on Christmas lore. Sporting comical names like Blunder, Lousy and Twizzlebum, Santa Mouse’s cranky ratdeer team threatens to hightail it to the beach one Christmas Eve when their present-laden caravan crash-lands in the woods. Forest-dweller Rosie Mouse restores holiday cheer and saves the day by cajoling the fed-up ratdeer with plenty of cookies and hot chocolate. With renewed enthusiasm, Santa and his crew fix the sleigh and continue on their way. Targeting kids ages six to 10 and their families, the special carries a total budget of US$450,000.
Also on the Sony Wonder production slate is Timothy Tweedle, a US$750,000 hour-long show that is set to air on the Disney Channel this December. A co-pro with Canada’s Evening Sky Entertainment, this family special tells the story of the first Christmas elf and is based on a poem written by Evening Sky president and CEO David Corbett’s mom. Boasting voice talent like Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Howie Mandel, Timothy Tweedle will be rendered in 2-D and will include three original songs.
Tele Images heads
to the beach
France’s Tele Images is hoping that the vacation theme of its latest toon project, Seaside Hotel, will appeal to Europeans’ penchant for travel, helping to earn the series broadcasting berths in multiple Euro territories. Based on a four-pack of books written by French author Fanny Joly and illustrated by Christophe Besse, the 26 x 11-minute 2-D toon stars two kids living in an island tourist resort for the summer who rely on the antics of the hotel’s colorful employees as a never-ending source of amusement. ‘It’s an animated sitcom with a tone like Nick’s Hey Arnold!,’ says Tele Images head of children’s programs Philippe Alessandri. ‘The setting could be a resort in several European regions, so we expect the show will travel well here.’ The US$6-million series targets six- to 10-year-olds and is currently in development with French caster TF1. Alessandri is looking to close a deal with another co-pro partner at MIPCOM so that production on the series can begin in time for an end of 2001 tube debut.
John Adams offers bubbles and Alice in Wonderland with a digital twist
John Adams Television is working on a splashy new music-driven animated series called It’s Bathtime! for kids ages two to five. Currently in development, the 26 x 10-minute show is set in a bubble factory that is charged with delivering enough suds via the Magic Plughole to fill the baths of kids around the world each night. The curious stars of the series, Bubb and Les, jump down the drain one evening and encounter weird bath-world enemies like the Wicked Water Witch, who abhors cleanliness, and the Drainpipe Drubs. With a rough budget of US$10,000, each ep of It’s Bathtime! will feature an original song that illustrates the theme; the score will be composed by series creator and U.K. songster Anton Mullan, who provided the tunes for John Adams TV’s Animal Alphabet. International distribution of the series is being handled by ZDF, and although no broadcaster has yet signed on, the series is slated for completion at the end of 2001.
John Adams also has an ambitious TV/Web project called Mirrorscape on the development slate. Geared towards the seven to 12 demo, the 13 x 30-minute TV series stars two 15-year-old twins who discover a parallel universe in which time stands still on the other side of a mirror. In each episode, the protagonist pair is given an information-gathering assignment (i.e. European art) that requires them to go back in time to do face-to-face interviews with historical figures (i.e. Manet, DaVinci). Kid viewers are also given a take-home query at the end of each show, the answer to which is announced on the next ep and can be solved on the Mirrorscape Web site for prizes that relate to the episode topic (i.e. instructions for building DaVinci’s flying machine).