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Something’s brewing at Cuppa Coffee

'Gordon will do for giraffes what Babar did for elephants,' explains Mike McGowan, creator of Gordon Giraffe, the newest product percolating out of Toronto, Canada-based Cuppa Coffee Animation. 'About tall tales and long-necked adventures,' the preschool property is one of two...
April 1, 2001

‘Gordon will do for giraffes what Babar did for elephants,’ explains Mike McGowan, creator of Gordon Giraffe, the newest product percolating out of Toronto, Canada-based Cuppa Coffee Animation. ‘About tall tales and long-necked adventures,’ the preschool property is one of two new concepts McGowan and Cuppa Coffee president and series executive producer Adam Shaheen are taking to MIP-TV this month. The 26 x 11-minute toon stars a two-year-old giraffe (around six in human years, says McGowan, although Shaheen looks skeptical) whose extreme exuberance, coupled with his gangly stature, makes him a bit of a handful. The show’s art is grounded in watercolor sketches and then poured into a digital format to work in 2-D animation.

Playing to the opposite end of the kid demo spectrum is Cinema Sue, an original Shaheen concept skewing to the nine to 13 set that’s being written and developed by McGowan. This 13 x half-hour offering has an edgier, teen-mag look. Slick. The idea has Sue moving between her real world and a fantasy film world where she goes when reality is too hard to handle (à la HBO’s Dream On). Cuppa is toying with Cinema Sue’s style, contemplating dabbling in rotoscope and traditional cel animation.

Shaheen and McGowan have been working together on and off for the past year, starting with Henry’s World, a co-pro with AAC Kids and TV-Loonland. At press time, a Canadian broadcaster was in the final stages of committing to the show, which is about a boy who travels to alternate realities after eating his mother’s mushy carrots. Another of the duo’s collaborations is I Spy, co-produced with Scholastic and set to air on HBO early next year. The series features Spyler, a toy that has come to life and embarks on Indiana Jones-like adventures with Yikes, his faithful wooden black dog.

Since opening up shop in 1993, Cuppa Coffee has established itself as an innovative player in the kids animation field, packing product like Clever Trevor, a one-off 2-D/3-D combo that aired last summer on Cartoon Network. Trevor was the first TV property written and created by Cuppa Coffee, and Cartoon has come back to the table, negotiating for a second pilot that should determine the series potential.

Shaheen is trying out what is, for him, a different financing model with Gordon and Sue; Cuppa Coffee is picking up the entire development tab for both properties so it can present more complete and enticing property concept packages at markets. In terms of production budgets, Gordon runs between US$250,000 to US$300,000 per ep, with Sue coming in slightly higher at US$300,000 to US$325,000.

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