Though children’s animation remains its core business, Paris-based toon studio France Animation has started rolling out youth documentary and live-action drama projects in order to diversify its product offering. ‘As a producer and a distributor, we want to build a catalog that will offer broadcasters all genres of programs, from preschool to young adult,’ explains head of development Ma-a Tubiana. Like the company’s animated series, shows coming out of these two streams will be co-produced with international partners. France Animation intends to either initiate the doc and drama projects itself, or be involved very early on in concept development.
The first documentary series on the slate is Aliens Among Us, a 13 x half-hour co-pro with New York-based doc studio Babelfish. Budgeted at US$2.7 million, the project is what France Animation chairman and CEO Giovana Milano calls an `animentary’ because it features a mixture of documentary and 3-D animation. Targeting eight- to 12-year-olds, the show is hosted by a 3-D extraterrestrial named Cosnock, and is made up of live-action segments in which kids talk about how they use technology in their daily lives. Slated for delivery later this year, Aliens Among Us is currently being shopped to casters in France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K.
Next up is Insectoscope, a 65 x five-minute doc series that originated at French documentary unit MC4, which will co-produce with France Animation. An exposé of the bug world, this US$1.1-million project targets the six to 10 set and is done in a style that borders on youth drama. Insects are presented as full-fledged characters, with their own personalities and emotions. Delivery is set for later this year, and the partners are negotiating with broadcasters in Europe and North America.
On the drama side of things, France Animation is co-financing and co-producing two shows with Australia’s Jonathan M. Shiff Productions, the prodco behind Ocean Girl and Thunderstone. Milano explains France Animation’s involvement in these projects: ‘We do not interfere directly with production, but bring money and work on the creative process.’ Currently in production is Horace and Tina, the 26 x 26-minute family series centering on a 13-year-old Canadian girl who develops a strange relationship with two animatronic puppet creatures called nelfs while visiting Australia. The series has been presold to Ten Network in Australia and ZDF in Germany, and delivery is skedded for April 2001. Worldwide distribution is shared between Daro Films and France Animation, which handles French-speaking territories, Italy, Asia, North America, The Netherlands and Scandinavia.
Also presold to Ten Network and ZDF is Cyber Girl, a special effects-laden sci-fi action series that stars a young mutant girl who’s banned from her planet for having too many emotions. Endowed with supernatural powers inherent to her species, she escapes to Earth and lives a double life. First episodes of the 26 x 26-minute series will debut at MIP-TV.
Despite its intention to add one or two docs and dramas a year to its 600-hour animation-heavy catalog, France Animation still plans to churn out three toons annually. In addition to series that are currently in production, such as The Adventures of Marco and Gina, a co-pro with the EBU that’s due out in summer 2001, the company is in development on next year’s animated projects. Leading the slate is Kidding Around, a 52 x five- and one-minute short series for five- to 10-year-olds that features jokes narrated and illustrated by kids. TV4C has signed on to co-produce the US$2.7-million series. Next up is Lola and Her Sisters. Created by Piruli Movies, this half-hour sitcom targets young adults with a story line about a single interior designer who hits the ripe old age of 35. Rounding out the lineup is Cosmoso, a 52 x 13-minute intergalactic adventure series co-produced with Canada’s TVA International. France Animation is looking for additional international partners for all three series, which are pegged for completion in 2002.