March and April were busy months for New York-based Rumpus. The toyco signed with global licensing powerhouse IMG (see ‘IMG breaks into kids entertainment with Rumpus,’ page 32), benevolently took over kids entertainment web portal Zeeks.com, and pitched four pilots in Cannes last month to potential co-pro partners.
‘What we’re able to do,’ explains Rumpus president Rick Mischel, ‘is create one- to two-minute fully-animated pilots in Flash for approximately US$200,000 to US$220,000 per half hour. That gives us a big advantage over a traditional studio.’ Each is developed for a 26 x half-hour format.
Princess Natasha targets kids ages six to 11 with a story that features an exchange student by day, secret agent by night. The hook is that no one knows that Natasha’s also a member of the royal family.
Next is Kung Fu Academy-a real fish out of water story. A 15-year-old boy heading to Switzerland on a ski trip (needless to say, he comes from an affluent family) picks up the wrong ticket at the airport (money does not translate into brains) and ends up in a mysterious martial arts training school. In order to get home, he has to work his way out of the academy, aided by an elderly Sensei. ‘A kids version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ Kung Fu also targets the six to 11 set.
Kappa Mikey skews a little older (around eight to 13), but keeps with the fish out of water theme. An anime show in Japan is plagued by bad ratings, so the show’s producers decide to bring in some big-name talent in the form of Mikey, an American cartoon actor who is supposed to be famous. In reality, Mikey is a bit down-on-his-luck. Still, he has to help save the show as best he can. The hook, says Mischel, is that Rumpus has captured the anime style and imported a very American-looking cartoon character into the mix. ‘The problem is he has to act in anime,’ Mischel says. ‘Hi-jinx ensue!’
Dinoborgs is last on the list. Mischel calls this a classic boys action property about a scientist and his son. Evil aliens send dinosaurs to Earth in an effort to take it over. The father-and-son team outfits dinosaur skeletons with cybernetic parts in order to fend off the intruders. (What else would you do?) Dinoborgs, like Kappa, skews slightly older to the seven to 12 set.
No partners were signed for any of the properties at press time.
Why the move to TV? ‘We are now positioning ourselves as an entertainment company,’ Mischel proclaims. ‘These shows are developed to be our starting point in television around the world. We are no longer an on-line company.’
Well, that’s not exactly true. Rumpus is still interested in the Internet as a separate programming channel, hence its acquisition of Zeeks.com, an ad-dependent kids website that racked up 11 million page views a month. Rumpus-an e-commerce company-doesn’t need ad revenue, but plans to harness the site’s popularity to sell more toys on-line and in catalogs. ‘It provides us with the ability to platform our intellectual properties. And traffic-wise, we are going to be one of the top kid sites on the Net,’ says Mischel.