Green-hued German distribco Peppermint-launched last April-has consolidated its commitment to kids programming by creating a production division called Pepperkids, a joint venture between Peppermint and publishing and merchandising conglom Rubinstein Media out of Amsterdam.
Maurits Rubinstein, managing director of Rubinstein and Pepperkids, is an equal partner in the new orange-emblazoned kids venture, bringing his library of book-based characters to the table, as well as an eye for like-minded ideas that Pepperkids will produce for television. According to Michael Knobloch, managing director of Peppermint and Pepperkids, Rubinstein has the contacts to bring artists and their characters on board. There are children’s illustrators who don’t want their work adapted for TV, he says, but Rubinstein is the one who can bring them in. Rubinstein also has a merchandising arm that will-eventually-develop, produce and bring to retail subsequent merch for Pepperkids’ properties. Currently, though, the division isn’t quite big enough. For now, Rubinstein will target the merchandising opportunities and find retailers or licensors who can get the job done.
Pepperkids has six shows in production for which worldwide sales are open, except for the German rights, which have been secured or are in negotiation for all titles.
Two are co-produced with German pubco Baumhaus: Lena and Paul (26 x five minutes) and Tobi-the little dragon (26 x five minutes). Both are 2-D animated preschool series, based on books and budgeted approximately between US$250,000 and US$300,000 per half hour. Both properties have been merchandised through their published incarnations (35 products for Lena and 14 for Tobi). Lena’s German rights have been secured by KIKA.
Molly & Friends (26 x half hour) is a 2-D preschool series based on the drawings and stories of Dutch artist Fancien van Westering. The series has a budget of between US$250,000 and US$300,000 per ep (produced solely by Pepperkids).
Letters from Felix (26 x 15 minutes), also preschool-targeted, is based on John Patterson’s bunny books, which are sold in more than 40 countries with over 250 merchandised products available. The TV series is budgeted at US$300,000 per half hour and produced by NDF for ZDF in association with Caligari Film and TV-Loonland. Pepperkids shares distribution rights with TV-Loonland.
Flub (26 x five minutes) is a computer-animated 2-D preschool series about a fish that has been washed ashore and doesn’t want to go back to the ocean. It’s budgeted a little under US$250,000 per half hour and produced by Paris-based Animage in association with Pepperkids.
There is also a Japanese title in production called Blue Submarine (26 x half hour), a 2-D and 3-D animated mix for eight- to 10-year-olds being co-produced by Japan’s Gondzo, Bandai and Dentsu. Four episodes of the US$8-million series were originally created and sold to Canal + and Cartoon Network. The subsequent 26 are still for sale in territories other than Germany.
Looking forward, Knobloch feels a move to the Asian market is imminent, since he knows it well through his tenure at BetaFilm as head of international sales. ‘There are 29 countries, and many of those countries-while not well known-do have TV stations. They all have video distribution, and they all buy plush toys for their kids. It’s a small market, but if you add them up there’s a lot of people. It’s a growing market, and if we’re there early, I think we can help them out and make some money.’