Partnering up on kids production

Since it began developing and co-producing original series in 1991, Canal J has gained a reputation for being a dependable partner, willing to collaborate with terrestrial channels to get projects financed and underway. Today, the channel's rights catalog amounts to more...
March 1, 2001

Since it began developing and co-producing original series in 1991, Canal J has gained a reputation for being a dependable partner, willing to collaborate with terrestrial channels to get projects financed and underway. Today, the channel’s rights catalog amounts to more than 1,000 hours.

Roughly 90% of Canal J’s total budget is dedicated to programming, with 60% of this channeled into acquisitions and 40% into animated and sitcom co-productions. According to the latest survey from French audiovisual funding institute the CNC, Canal J put more money than any other French kids broadcaster into animation produced in France in 1999. The channel invested in 46 hours of animation, including series like T’Choupi (13 x five minutes, Les Armateurs), Papa Beaver Stories (52 x seven minutes, GMT) and Archibald the Koala (26 x 13 minutes, Millimages), for a total investment of US$1.3 million. Canal J had first-window rights for most of the eight series it put money into that year. In 2000, Canal J injected US$1.4 million into some 60 hours, including comic book adaptations Titeuf (78 x seven minutes, France Animation, France 3, Editions Glenats), which launches April 4 on the channel, and Cedric. This 52 x 13-minute series about the daily adventures of an eight-year-old boy is co-produced with Dupuis Audiovisuel, France 3 and RTBF. Budgeted at US$5.6 million, Cedric will first air in September on Canal J, with Dupuis Audiovisuel handling international distribution.

Next on deck is Martin Mystère, a 40 x 26-minute comedy-adventure co-pro with Marathon, M6 and RAI in Italy that’s currently in development. The animated series is based on same-name Italian comic book series starring a sleuthing teenage couple that investigates paranormal phenomena. Also on the slate is a sci-fi toon series created by Futurikon. Canal J will also continue to mine books and characters from the Hachette Editions publishing universe that’s part of Lagardère group.

‘We are currently developing four to five 26 x half-hour projects in which we have invested 15% to 20% of the programs’ total budgets,’ confides Canal J director of programming Pierre Belaisch.

Canal J is also diversifying its live-action portfolio. The channel is currently co-financing live-actioner Door to Door, a 26 x 26-minute family series initiated by Canadian company Telescene. Created by Alan Silberberg, this comedy offering is a co-pro with Canada’s Vrak.TV (previously Canal Famille), Paris-based Tele Images and likely France 2. Budgeted at US$7.3 million (20% of which comes from France), the series features Sam, a joint-custody kid who calls on imaginary animated characters from his early childhood to help him deal with the confusion of having two homes. Shooting on Door to Door begins this spring for a fall 2001 delivery. International distribution will be shared by Tele Images and Telescene.

Light entertainment formats like magazines are crucial to defining channel identity, says Belaisch, and will continue to be a focus on the 2001 slate. Though it has abandoned expensive in-house productions, Canal J is currently co-producing three light entertainment formats with local producers. Faut que ca Saute (Canal J/Image et Compagnie) is a 15-minute cultural magazine for seven- to 12-year-olds about sports, video games, music, cinema and books. Airing daily at 6:50 p.m., the show is a cocktail of news, reports and short on-the-street segments with real kids.

On Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m., Pas d’quartier (Canal J/Studio1) is a 26-minute game show that’s shot in a different French town each week. Five young contestants must find clues that will allow them to break into a safe full of gifts. As for the monthly prime-time special IAPIAP (Canal J/Du Jamais Vu), the 52-minute series showcases kids who excel at a skill-whether it be sports, music, cooking, etc.

In terms of shorts, Canal J is co-producing three series: Jean-Clode, Prince of Modern Times, a 65 x one-minute offering about the adventures of a stuffed puppet frog who thinks he’s a superhero (Canal J/Pendant ce temps-la); C’est Toi qui Vois, a daily 90 x one-minute series of kids portraits filmed by children themselves (Canal J/V Only); and Candid Cameras, a 90 x two-minute format co-produced with Tele Images in which kids play videocam tricks on adults (budget US$140,000).

In output deals, Canal J has signed with Marc Du Pontavice’s Paris-based prodco Xilam to acquire at least one original 26 x 26-minute series each year, such as the new half-hour cartoon series Rapido. As part of its Animax deal with Columbia TriStar, Canal J will pick up Jackie Chan Adventures exclusively in France, as well as a new season of Max Steel for September.

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