What’s developing in kids production

Arthurian aerobatics?...
February 1, 2001

Arthurian aerobatics?

CITV has committed to 13 half hours of a project between TV-Loonland and the U.K.’s Two Sides TV. The co-pro-targeting kids five to nine-is a tweaked Arthurian legend called The Fantastic Flying Journey based on the same-name classic English children’s book by late naturalist Gerald Durrell. It’s a 2-D animated series budgeted at US$300,000 per ep, in production at Loonland studios for this July.

As its name suggests, Two Sides has two main productions focuses-kids programming and docs. And although it has a number of preschool series under its belt for Channel 4 and Channel 5, this is Two Sides’ first animated project, not to mention its first major international co-production. Co-founders Peter Wrigglesworth and Catherine Robbins have hired John Coates (of The Yellow Submarine, The Wind in the Willows and The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends fame) to be the executive producer on the project.

The series features an older Lancelot-in fact Great Uncle Lancelot to Emma and twins Ivan and Conrad. Together, they undertake a fantastic flight around the world in a flying machine in search of Percival, Great Uncle Lance’s brother.

One small step for man, one giant leap for teddy bears

Everyone had a favorite stuffed animal when they were kids (perhaps even now that they’re adults), but imagine what the stuffed sidekicks of such famous people as Neil Armstrong, Ghandi or Houdini might have been like? That’s what got Siriol Productions out of Cardiff, Wales going. The prodco has a half-hour special exploring the lives of these fictional sidekicks. It’s family-targeted, explains Robin Lyons, managing director at Siriol and producer on the project, but not for anyone too young, he says, reminding that there is an educational and historical element to the project, in addition to the fantasy.

The first half-hour special is called One Giant Leap-pitched at Cartoon Forum last year-and is budgeted at US$600,000, although Lyons suggests that the per-ep price tag will go down when they develop it for series format. It should go into production this spring for delivery sometime in 2002, with initial commitment from S4C and interest from the BBC and ZDF.

One Giant Leap tells the fictional tale of Fidget, a teddy bear who has belonged to various figures throughout history. The half-hour special covers Fidget’s trip to the moon with Neil Armstrong-everything from his centrifugal washing-machine training to being smuggled aboard the Apollo. One Giant Leap will be put together with historical stock footage, live action, stop motion and some CGI. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were made of the right stuff, says Lyons, ‘but our hero, Fidget, was made of the right stuffing.’ Fidget will make further appearances in Siriol productions as he partners up with other historical figures.

Carlton wishes upon a star

Tapping into the music programming trend, Carlton International has developed a younger-skewing tune-centric dramedy (targeting kids five to 10) called STARStreet, set to air on CITV this month. Ë-la-S Club 7, STARStreet features an actual teen band called the allSTARS, launched by the U.K.-based artist management company Byrne Blood, which is also a co-producer on the series. The band hasn’t signed with any record labels yet, but a multi-album deal is reportedly pending.

Carlton’s controller of children’s programs Michael Forte and Gillian Gordon (of Sunny’s Ears and The Queen’s Nose fame) are executive producer and producer, respectively. The 13 x 15-minute series is budgeted at approximately US$200,000 per episode. Carlton handles U.K. and international rights for broadcast, video and licensing, but was looking for merch partners at the U.K.’s Toy Fair last month and at this month’s Spring Fair.

Optical Image sees red

Another U.K.-based prodco with a project on the go is Jellabies creator Optical Image. On its slate is a CGI-animated preschool series Reds Away, based on the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic flying team (precursors to Canada’s Snowbirds or the Blue Angels from the U.S.). The 52 x 11-minute series is in development, budgeted at just over US$2 million. A five-minute trailer is in production to debut at MIP-TV this year.

The series garners authenticity and inspiration from Squadron Leader Tony Cunnane, pilot-cum-PR rep for the Red Arrows. Reds Away has nine characters and offers action, adventure and education with an international backdrop as the team travels the globe.

It really is a neverending story

The popular Michael Endes kids novel The Neverending Story spawned three feature films in the `80s and early `90s, and most recently has birthed a live-action/effects-driven co-pro between Montreal, Canada-based Muse Entertainment Productions and The Movie Factory in Munich.

Thirteen hour-long eps went into production in December, and the first should be completed by mid-summer this year, with the remainder ready by early fall. Muse handles the rights for Canada and France, with Hallmark Entertainment covering the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand; no broadcasters had signed on at press time.

The family-oriented series (tween and up) is being shot in Sony CineAlta High Definition at Montreal’s Ice Storm Studios and is budgeted between US$13.5 million and US$17 million. Bastian, the main character played by 12-year-old Mark Rendall, spends his time between the real world and the fantasy world aptly named Fantasia. The amount of special effects and possible CGI animation that will be used to represent Fantasia and its peculiar inhabitants has yet to be fully determined. The series premise is derived from the book and feature films (although writing hadn’t finished at press time), but differs from the feature film incarnations in that it will focus on contemporary kids issues.

East meets West for Whamo’s new co-pro

L.A.-based Whamo Entertainment has 26 half hours of fantasy action-adventure series Flutemaster in production, co-produced with Hong Kong-based CCTV, China’s State broadcasting agency, and Beijing’s iK Entertainment. The only committed broadcaster at press time is CCTV, but the US$6.75-million 2-D series will be ready for debut in fall 2001. The original concept is part of Whamo’s move to become more involved in series development in addition to its role in international distribution. Whamo has worldwide rights, excluding China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which will be handled by CCTV.

Although a series of adventures that span the globe, Flutemaster-targeting kids six to 12-primarily takes place in Venice, California and features a teenage boy who discovers a 3,000-year-old flute that gives him the power to command mythical creatures and battle an evil sorcerer who wants the flute for himself. The series should have global appeal as well as licensed merch potential, says Fernando Szew, Whamo’s VP of marketing and sales.

The series was created by Barry Glasser, whose credits include Mighty Orbots for ABC, Galaxy High for CBS and Gold Diggers (starring Christina Ricci), a feature-length release by Universal that was recently broadcast on ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney.

Dargaud puts on a circus act

Paris-based Dargaud-Marina and Boulogne, France-based TF1 International, along with EIV in Germany, the Ocean Group in Canada and Hong Kong’s Animated Services, have teamed up for 26 half hours of Swift & the Little Circus. The US$5.3-million series targets six- to 12-year-olds, has finished production, and is slated for French broadcast on TF1 in September 2001.

Although many kids fantasize about running away and joining the circus, young Peter Swift isn’t afforded that choice. Swift’s parents have died and he is taken in by a wandering circus troupe. With only a locket bearing a picture of his parents as consolation, the fearless 12-year-old decides to embrace circus life. What he doesn’t know is that his locket also hides the title deed to the Little Circus, something his diabolical Uncle North will stop at nothing to get.

An original concept for TV, the 2-D animated series is available in English and French, with TF1 carrying international rights, except for Spain, Portugal and Latin America, which are held by Dargaud.

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