Gullane bolsters its book base...
March 1, 2001

Gullane bolsters its book base

At the end of January, Gullane Entertainment agreed to acquire U.K.-based David and Charles, an award-winning children’s pubco known for its extensive library of innovative picture books, in addition to its output of 50 to 60 kids publications a year (Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs won the 2000 Sheffield Children’s Book Award and the 2000 Norfolk Children’s Book Award; Secret in the Mist received a Bronze Smarties Book award in 1998).

‘This is not a revolutionary change,’ says Charles Falzon, president of Gullane Entertainment. ‘The company is always looking to acquire companies that will enhance its current abilities and footholds in the entertainment market.’ What this partnership does, he stresses, is provide more publishing strength, allowing Gullane to develop more kids properties, as well as enhancing the properties it already has (like Thomas the Tank Engine and Art Attack). Additionally, says Falzon, it gives him access to ‘the cream of the crop from David and Charles’ early on in development, facilitating international property growth through Gullane’s production and distribution operations. Subsequent publishing projects will come under the Gullane Children’s Books imprint.

The first book property to come out of the deal with a rosy TV series future is Sammy and the Dinosaurs. Gullane has worldwide licensing and merchandising rights, and is distributing the preschool property worldwide.

Sammy is a six-year-old who finds a box of dusty old dinosaurs in his attic. Magically, the dinosaurs come to life.

Toronto-based Catalyst, Gullane’s Canadian production arm, is producing 26 to 52 11-minute episodes, depending on pending partnerships. Budgeted at US$465,000 per ep, the series will be a 2-D/3-D mix, and Gullane is looking for an Asian studio to co-produce. At press time, no broadcasters had committed to the project.

Book-based Blobheads

Along with a slew of Canuck product from out of the icy North comes Toronto-based Decode Entertainment’s The Blobheads. Another book-based property (by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell from the U.K.), The Blobheads is being developed as a CGI and live-action mix à la Roger Rabbit. Co-produced with C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures (Decode’s partner for Angela Anaconda), the property’s story starts when Billy Barnes finds three aliens in the toilet.

Intended for the eight to 12 set, the series is being filmed with a new Sony 24-frame digital camera, lending seamless integration to the live-action and digital elements.

You’d think that aliens were enough trouble, much less aliens found in your toilet. Think again. Billy’s baby brother Silas has just come on the scene, and Billy’s parents treat him like he’s a king. Coincidentally, so do the Blobheads, because it turns out that Silas is really the Most High Emperor of the Universe. Talk about your over-achievers.

Decode handles worldwide distribution for the US$325,000 to US$350,000 per-ep series (26 half hours), with production starting this fall for a hopeful spring 2002 delivery.

Curious Whiteblack?

Last January, Canada’s Mainframe Entertainment announced that it had secured the rights to Whiteblack the Penguin, the last undeveloped book property from Curious George creators Margaret and H.A. Rey. Together with U.S. pubco Houghton Mifflin (which reports that there are 100,000 copies of the book in print in the U.S.), Mainframe is developing this curious penguin for DTV, feature film and TV. Similar to Curious George (apart from the obvious species difference), Whiteblack leaves Antarctica on a quest to experience the world outside of his frozen home, with the intention of coming back and telling all his friends what he’s learned.

Although it’s still early in the game, Dan Didio, Mainframe’s senior VP of creative affairs, was willing to say that the project budget will be in the usual ballpark of US$4 million to US$6 million for DTV, US$15 million to US$20 million for feature film and around US$375,000 to US$425,000 per episode for TV (with 13 to 26 half hours projected). Didio says Mainframe is currently looking for a writer who can flesh out a bible for the property, which will target kids six to eight and their parents.

Didio doesn’t know if Whiteblack will be CGI, or a CGI/cel mix, but stresses that the property’s style will stay as true to the book’s aesthetic as possible.

A real fish out of water story

Larry Fishbird is half fish and half bird. His friend, Otto Octobubby, is half human and half octopus. New York-based Babelfish (which is half babel and half fish?) is developing 26 half hours of The (Mis)Adventures of Larry Fishbird, a 2-D animated original TV concept created in-house by Miles Roston.

It’s the year 2050, and crossbreeding has been taken a little too far. Humans, machines, animals and even buildings are crossbreeding like crazy (Penny Lane is half human, half road; Larry’s parents are a pelican and a cod). Larry and his buddy Otto are the first hybrids in a derelict neighborhood, together trying to make their way in a world full of prejudice. Talk about multicultural problems.

Budgeted at between US$250,000 to US$300,000 per-ep and targeting the eight to 11 demo, the series is very early in development. Partners and production will depend on how the property is received at MIP-TV next month, but for now, Babelfish controls all rights and distribution.

TV series by Jake

Taking statistics suggesting that North American kids need to incorporate more physical activity into their day-to-day routines to heart, DIC Entertainment, Jake Steinfeld’s Body By Jake Enterprises and L.A.-based Tony Thomopoulos’ Productions have come up with Camp Jake, an animated series in development for kids ages six to 12 that is being touted as FCC-friendly in its educational and entertaining message. Twenty-six half hours try to combine an interest in physical fitness with humor by featuring a summer camp for rebellious kids that need to get in shape (both mentally and physically).

Camp Jake kids aren’t the best athletes, and they continually get humiliated by the jock-filled camp across the lake, but they learn through Jake’s inspirational messages that even if they don’t win, they can’t ever give up.

The US$250,000 to US$300,000 per-ep series is rendered in 2-D, but will most likely be mixed with live-action interstitials featuring Jake himself. DIC handles worldwide distribution for the property, which should be ready for delivery in Q1 2002.

I’ll huff, and I’ll puff. . .

So when this little pig went to market, I’ll bet you didn’t realize it was going to NATPE. And what a time it had, according to Marie-Christine Dufour, VP of communications for Montreal, Canada-based Ciné-Groupe. The Three Pigs-developed by Ciné-Groupe and Toronto’s Red Rover Studios-is a tween-targeted 2-D comedy series featuring a cool 15-year-old country pig who shacks up with his big-city cousins.

Development on the 26 half hours has been completed, but financing has yet to be confirmed. So although there was a lot of interest in the US$8.5-million to US$9-million property at NATPE, no broadcasters had signed on at press time. Still, if all goes well, says Dufour, production should commence this spring. Ciné-Groupe will handle worldwide distribution.

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