What’s developing in kids production

Aging Australian animatronic elfs-I mean nelfs
What's a nelf? Well, apparently a nelf is a three-foot-tall gnome-like character. If that doesn't help there's two of them on a new series for six- to 12-year-olds called Horace & Tina from France Animation...
November 1, 2000

Aging Australian animatronic elfs-I mean nelfs

What’s a nelf? Well, apparently a nelf is a three-foot-tall gnome-like character. If that doesn’t help there’s two of them on a new series for six- to 12-year-olds called Horace & Tina from France Animation and Monaco-based Daro Film Distribution. Horace is a roguish and feisty 243-year-old character, and his older sister Tina (271) is the romantic type who, more often than not, has to save Horace’s skin when his schemes get out of hand. This animatronic duo (constructed by Australia’s Mothers Art Productions) can only be seen by 13-year-old Lauren Parker, the live-action element whose early teen life is not helped at all by her new stepfather, an irritating stepbrother and a new home with its decidedly strange houseguests.

The 26 x 26-minute series was created and produced by Australia’s Jonathan Shiff (Ocean Girl) and budgeted at roughly US$6 million. Ten Network handles Australian rights, ZDF gets Germany, and Daro and France Animation take care of the remaining international distribution. Horace & Tina debuted at MIP Jr. and is scheduled to air on Ten Network this December.

Wubbies, not Weebles

Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment has taken its first steps into the preschool market with The Wubbies, a small-scale toy property created by John Mokrenko and Christine Usvaltas of Toronto, Canada. The deal with Wubbies World International marks Mainframe’s attempt to broaden its production range and makes the prodco the exclusive production and merchandising partner for the new 26 x half-hour CGI series.

The series is budgeted at US$200,000 per episode-around half of what Mainframe would normally allocate on a series. But according to Dan Didio, Mainframe’s senior VP of development, ‘the licenses [for preschool] just aren’t there to support an expensive series, so we have to find ways to be cost effective in our production.’

Mainframe will probably roll the property out through Europe initially before hitting North America. An idea for what audiences can expect will remain vague until Mainframe secures an international partner, but in a nutshell, Wubbies are small furry characters who live in a world of pretend and play with a young boy named Wilbur Wiggins. The Wubbies should be ready to bow in fall 2001 or early 2002.

A preschool series for cat-loving kids

Honeycomb Animation out of Devon, England has created a new preschool series called Binka, based on creator Rosemary Graham’s own feline friend of the same name. Binka has a larger-than-life personality-and girth, since she manages to get fed by the entire neighborhood.

Binka’s territory consists of three houses whose inhabitants are the source of the pussycat’s portliness. Mrs. Dawson is a kind elderly widow who spoils Binka with steamed fish and cream. The Lockett family has three children with a backyard and a tree for Binka to climb. And finally, there’s Mr. Bolt who works the night shift at the TV station. He gets up late and orders cat food over the Internet. Because he’s always either at work or in bed, his backyard is a little overgrown-perfect for stealthy exploration. Binka’s friends Tango the puppy and Suki the cat help her in her ongoing quest to search out another bowl of food.

The 26 x five-minute 2-D series has been bought by the BBC and is budgeted at US$35,000 per ep. although Binka is set to air in April, at press time, there were no co-pro partners and the distribution details had yet to be finalized.

Whamo secures a show that has teeth

Los Angeles-based Whamo Entertainment has secured the worldwide distribution rights for The Adventures of Coco and Drila, a 26 x half-hour series for three- to eight-year-olds produced by Rodamino Animacio out of Spain. Coco and Drila tells the tale of nine little animals that live with an old shoemaker in a small European village during the Middle Ages. The title characters are two young gators who, with their friends, develop an educational approach to life. They learn that together they can do just about anything, and that they shouldn’t hide things from those they trust.

The US$6.5-million series is currently in production with a hopeful 2001 release (details were pending at press time). Included in the total budget is a one-hour Coco and Drila DTV special for Halloween 2001.

Rock `n Soul: Connected at the hip

In association with Florida-based concept creator The Vibe, California’s netGuru has given birth to a weird new series starring biracial Siamese twins called Rock `n Soul. Soul is the African-American, right-sided half of this quirky. . . duo? He’s a rapper, a fitness fanatic, an ‘A’ student and a smooth operator when it comes to the ladies. Rock-the left-sided Caucasian-is kind of goofy, shy with girls, the only surfer in a mid-western town and is easily roped into pranks. Together these guys clamber through adolescence, learning that cooperation is the method for success.

The 2-D animated series runs around US$200,000 to US$240,000 per episode (26 x 22 minutes) and targets six- to 12-year-olds. The series is currently in production, with animation being done by GuruAnimation’s studio in Calcutta, India. Montreal, Canada-based Avecom has exclusive distribution rights, excluding Europe, South America and Australia, and is still looking for a broadcaster series with hopes of a spring 2001 debut.

Nick and HIT get together again

Nickelodeon and London’s HIT Entertainment have agreed to co-produce an in-house Nick Jr. preschool production called Oswald the Octopus. Nicktoons is producing 26 half hours of the 2-D series, budgeted between US$350,000 and US$450,000. Oswald is scheduled to launch on Nick Jr. next fall, with HIT controlling all international rights, excluding the U.S., which will be retained by Nick. Although Nick and HIT have teamed up before for Kipper, this new co-pro arrangement marks the first time Nick actively sought a partner that could handle global sales for a series created in-house. HIT’s success at selling Kipper and Bob the Builder (airing on Nick Jr. in January) convinced Nick to try out this new scenario.

HIT and Nick recognized what they felt to be strong international appeal in Oswald and its creator, New York-based author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino, whose acclaim is developing worldwide.

Oswald is, as the title states, an octopus who lives in The Big City with his faithful dog Weenie (who looks like a hot dog), friends Daisy (yes, a daisy) and Henry (a penguin). The Big City is replete with weird buildings shaped like birthday cakes, old-fashioned radios and guitars. The accepted mode of transportation is lemon-shaped taxis. It’s a whimsical, quirky world where Oswald is continually thwarted in his attempts to get some ice cream. He can hear the truck. He sees everyone else with a yummy cone. But, à la Polka-Roo or the Trix rabbit, he always manages to just miss it.

A good day for Bad Hair Rae

Bad Hair Rae is a 2-D animated series by Australia-based Fudge Puppy Productions in association with France Animation and executive producer Tim Brooke-Hunt from Australia’s Pacific Vision.

In each of 26 24-minute episodes, Rae and her friends travel the world solving mysteries. These sleuth bits are interspersed with insights into Rae’s past-in one episode, for example, Rae remembers her dad’s attempt to use magical hair oils to tame her crazy locks. Since each ep is set in a different country, the creators use stylized animation techniques as a hook to each particular culture or mythology.

Budgeted at between US$250,000 and US$350,000, the series has been presold to Nickelodeon Australia, with some development funding from the Australian Film Commission. Production of Bad Hair Rae will start this spring, with an approximate mid-2002 completion date in mind.

Why? Why not?

U.K.-based Channel 5 and Ireland’s RTE Television have commissioned the 2-D animated educational preschool series Why?, which will be distributed by Ireland’s Monster! Distributes. The show was written by two preschool teachers. Why? tries to address all those burning questions we wrestled with in our early years. Why do I have a nose? Why do birds fly? Why do I have to brush my teeth? Enquiring minds want to know.

Channel 5 has the English version rights for the series (budgeted at approximately US$23,000 in total). Produced by Brown Bag Films out of Ireland, 24 x two minutes of Why? bowed October 14 and runs twice weekly. The series debuted at MIPCOM and has been sold to TVO and Knowledge Network in Canada, as well as to STV12 in Singapore.

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