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Animating with Wreckless Abandon

'We consider ourselves the Rankin-Bass of the 2000s,' says Mark Bannon, CEO and executive producer for Wreckless Abandon Studios. The East Granby, Connecticut-based company works in high-quality 3-D CGI, clay animation, and stop-motion production for the commercial and entertainment industries....
February 1, 2001

‘We consider ourselves the Rankin-Bass of the 2000s,’ says Mark Bannon, CEO and executive producer for Wreckless Abandon Studios. The East Granby, Connecticut-based company works in high-quality 3-D CGI, clay animation, and stop-motion production for the commercial and entertainment industries.

Bannon and his brother Michael-executive VP and creative director-started Wreckless five years ago as a work-for-hire commercial studio. While not ignoring its revenue-producing commercial projects, such as an 18-minute video for Lego Denmark touting the release of its updated classic line this March, the big picture for the Bannon brothers includes specials and series for TV and video.

A Freezerburnt Christmas has finished production and characterizes the pinnacle of the Wreckless production efforts. ‘There’s been nothing like it since [Rankin-Bass's] Rudolph,’ Mark Bannon pitches. The high-quality clay-animated Freezerburnt is a half-hour Christmas special about ice cream truck driver Freezerburn and his attempts to save Christmas from an evil villain. Suitable for all ages, the original special-with an estimated initial budget falling in the US$1 million range-has several offers on the table from U.S. broadcasters and distributors, but no deals had been signed at press time.

Galaxy Soup (13 x half hour) is an original stop-motion series created by Wreckless stop-motion designer Doris Santos (who used to work for Will Vinton Studios and Disney). Targeting kids ages eight to 15 and based in an intergalactic trailer park, this riches-to-rags story stars various extraterrestrial outcasts. It’s in development, budgeted at US$450,000 per ep. Similarly, stop-motion animated Vultureville (13 half hours for six- to 12-year-olds, also by Santos) is budgeted at US$450,000 per ep and features a preteen heroine called Violet. Adolescence is a rough ride for this spunky chick, as it is for most kids, but in this case Violet’s a vulture-a fact of life that makes the equation. . . interesting. Mark Bannon (who handles the marketing for all the Wreckless properties) says he’s in talks with potential partners-both international and domestic-for these two.

Listen to your Mother is a 13 x half-hour co-production effort in development with New York-based hothouse Listen to your Mother. This clay-animated comedy series is also budgeted at US$450,000 per episode but targets a prime-time family audience. ‘It is adult-oriented,’ explains Mark Bannon, ‘but it’s not a South Park-there’s no real sex or violence.’ No broadcasters had signed on at press time.

The Potter-esque A Frizzle Christmas is in production for Christmas 2002 or 2003. This high-end stop-motion special (one hour, for all ages) is budgeted (internally) at US$1.2 million, but the prodco is looking into celebrity voice talent for voiceovers and music, factors that could drive up initial budgetary figures. Frizzle is a Nordic Christmas tale brimming with wizards and sorcery.

The appeal of this medium for Wreckless’s Bannon brothers is that they can bring their art form-what Michael Bannon calls the synthesis of traditional stop-frame with CG imagery-to life ‘with feature film production value at series budgets.’

In terms of audience appeal, Michael Bannon feels that the medium ‘transcends typical demographic constraints,’ suggesting that it feels more real, while at the same time dealing with fantastic scenarios. ‘These characters actually exist in three-dimensional space, not merely in a 2-D representation of three-dimensional space. The suspension of reality is non-existent because it is real and it looks real.’

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