What’s developing in kids production

Radical Sheep hands in a new preschool concept
Graceful handelopes roam across fields of fingers while streams of hair flow over mountainous knee caps in 50 four-minute episodes of Land O' Hands. The preschool series from Toronto's Radical Sheep plays out...
October 1, 2000

Radical Sheep hands in a new preschool concept

Graceful handelopes roam across fields of fingers while streams of hair flow over mountainous knee caps in 50 four-minute episodes of Land O’ Hands. The preschool series from Toronto’s Radical Sheep plays out the parable-like adventures of Bungle, his family and his friends, shot entirely in body-part-mation. Digital shots of nostril cavities, elbows, hands and hair comprise both the backgrounds and most of the indigenous creatures from a fanciful rendering of Canada’s prehistoric badlands, and the main characters are tiny finger puppets made out of foam latex. Robert Mills, co-executive producer, producer, director, script editor and designer, loves the opportunity to ‘play with these new tools that allow us to be our own desktop television studio and keep the budget down.’ The series runs just under US$700,000 and will be delivered to Canada’s YTV in early November, likely for a January debut.

Mills and his partner John Leitch came up with the simple concept that YTV’s Paula Parker picked up for Canadian tot service Treehouse TV, which was in need of more preschool programming. The show originally skewed towards six- to nine-year-olds, but Radical Sheep made some changes and developed it for preschool. What was initially a simple concept has become a little more laborious, but as Mills says, ‘it’s a really neat idea.’

Cromosoma’s dino roadshow and Pipsqueak sports tutorials

Barcelona-based Cromosoma has a 2-D/3-D series in the works called Tom, a tale about a three-story-high dinosaur from a faraway land, who can’t find his way back. The 26 x 26-minute toon targets kids ages eight to 12, who join the ‘dinosaur with a big heart’ in his globe-trotting attempts to find his home. Cromosoma will be handling the production end, and so far the only co-pro partner is rights-owner Barcelona-based publishing company Norma Editorial. They are still looking for other co-production partners to help fund this US$6-million series, which is slated to go into production in 2001. Tom is based on a book of the same name by David Torres, who first published the story in Spain in 1994. There are currently four illustrated books available.

Another new series produced by Cromosoma, with co-pro partner Hong Kong-based Animation Enterprises, is Pipsqueak Plays Sports. The 52 x three-minute short educational series aims to introduce preschoolers to popular sports via the adventures of host Pipsqueak. This 2-D animated series has a US$11,000 per-episode budget, with a number of broadcasters lined up. For the educational cable system, TV Escola and MultiRio will broadcast to Brazil, with Ilce Mexico covering Mexico and Cl@se covering all of Latin America. Distributors include: Young Future Entertainment covering all Arabic speaking countries; T&T covering Italy; CDC distributing to Latin America, the U.K., the U.S., Austria and New Zealand; with Cromosoma handling the rest of the world. The series is set to air in Q3 this year.

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys meet Ponderosa

Australia-based Southern Star and German production company ndF have teamed up on Outriders, a US$4-million live-action series targeting kids ages eight to 13. The 26 x half-hour drama, which focuses on a group of kids who live and work on a horse farm, is currently being filmed in Berlin, with some scenes to be shot on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. Calling themselves the Outriders, the young ‘sleuths on horseback’ confront danger to solve all sorts of mysteries, and encounter adventure and intrigue at every turn. Australia’s Nine Network has licensed the series, with some funding being provided from the Australian Film Finance Corporation. Southern Star Kids will distribute the series internationally, and it’s expected to air in May 2001.

Harvey does freaky for Weird Stuff

A Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for kids is how Harvey Entertainment president and COO Rick Mischel describes the company’s new edutainment show Weird Stuff. Targeted to kids ages six to 11, each of the 26 half-hour eps will delve into the freakiness of historical, natural and supernatural phenomena. But instead of Jack Palance hosting, Harvey’s classic characters, including Casper and Baby Huey, will chaperone kids through educational segments on subjects as diverse as the history of witches to an African elephant that paints US$3,000 masterpieces.

Weird Stuff, which Harvey is co-producing with U.K.-based Big Cat Productions at a budget of US$150,000 per ep, will feature 3-D animated characters introducing live-action footage to each of the episodes’ three segments. Though Baby Huey and educational TV may not be a connection most people are quick to make, Mischel believes that since kids know Harvey’s stable of characters, they will be more inclined to watch an educational program starring them. Harvey has yet to sell Stuff to any broadcasters, but Mischel will be pitching all 26 of the eps this MIPCOM, and expects to have the first 13 shows completed by January.

Monty Python meets South Park, and Roger Rabbit meets The Jeffersons

Canada’s Sextant Entertainment Group’s hellacious prime-time animated entry has received a commission from the BBC. Thirteen half hours of Aaagh! It’s the Mr. Hell Show have been slotted for BBC2 come January 2001(most likely for a 9 p.m. or later slot, according to Thomas Howe, president of Sextant International), and the show has also been presold to the Comedy Channel/CTV in Canada.

The sketch comedy centers on Mr. Hell, who represents the devil in everybody. Damien-his son-is half angel, half devil and was raised by an angelic mother. All Damien wants is a normal father-son relationship (whatever that is), but that’s not easy when your father is Mr. Hell. The 2-D animated show is co-produced with U.K.-based Peafur Productions (budgeted at approximately US$400,000 per ep), and, according to Howe, this Monty Python meets South Park series will appeal to anyone ages 14 to 49. (Editors note: But we all know which end of the demo lusts for South Park. . . )

Also in the family sitcom demo with a strong youth angle is The Rumfords, a series revolving around a CGI-animated family moving into a live-action neighborhood. The toons and the flesh-and-bloods don’t always get along, neither completely trusting the other. The Rumfords and nontoon neighbors alike try to reconcile their mutual uncertainties through 13 half-hour eps. An interesting element of the plot concerns the adopted daughter, a flesh-and-blood who’s not wholly convinced that she isn’t a toon herself. The Roger Rabbit-esque premise (budgeted at approximately US$500,000 per ep) has been presold to Paxnet in the U.S., with a hopeful spring 2001 airing.

Neptuno has a cow

Neptuno Films hits Cannes with Connie the Cow in tow, a 52 x seven-minute animated series directed by Joseph Viciana (The Ugly Duckling and The Three Bears) and budgeted at US$250,000 per ep.

A 2-D (in-house) preschool program evidencing some new color techniques, Connie the Cow (currently in production) relays the world of animals and plants through its nosey title character. Connie’s dairy cow mum knows a lot about nature, being the nurturing, advice-giving parent, while her dad fulfills sexual bull-stereotyping as the brawny and reliable type. The cast includes: Sam, a pathologically lying rabbit; Yum-Yum, a bird so fat he can’t get off the ground; and Nyac-Nyac, a piranha who is hankering to catch fish friend Oh-Oh (not eat, just catch, this is for tots!). The series will launch at MIP Jr. this month.

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