Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Isle of Man-based Lough House Animation is in launch mode on a kids entertainment hub called Cartoons-r-us.com that will double as a testing ground for the prodco’s TV pilots. The site, which will be fully open for business next month, is set to feature standard on-line gewgaws like games and jokes, as well as a free Kids Club that puts the wee surfers to work suggesting tweaks to Flash-animated shorts of Lough House’s TV pitches and concepts.
Three projects designed for TV play are slated for preview on the site starting next month. Not typical of what will normally be developed for Cartoons-r-us.com, these are series concepts that have been pitched at markets, developed before the new site existed. Still, play on Cartoons-r-us will ideally provide further exposure and feedback for continued development.
Tool Street Gang is a 52 x five-minute CGI preschool series budgeted at US$2.4 million. The cast of tool characters meet at the tool shed to figure out what they can repair in each episode. Each tool thinks that he or she is the best choice for the job, so even though they have the best of intentions, their competitive antics often result in more problems than repairs. This concept has been picked up by Nick UK for January 2002, and a co-production deal with a Dutch company was in the works at press time.
Hisstories is another CGI series, but for the six to 12 set. Budgeted at US$1.8 million (26 x five minutes), Hisstories is environmentally focused on the interaction between snakes (which are fairly neurotic), lizards (which are pretty cool), mongooses (which are always hungry) and people (who just generally get in the way). No deals have been announced for this project yet.
The Backyard is for kids six to 12 and their families. It’s drawn in traditional 2-D animation (26 x seven minutes, budgeted at US$2.5 million) and takes a look at life in a suburban backyard. The people themselves are incidental and tourist-like in this microcosm dominated by Toby and Puss-dog and cat rivals duking it out for territorial rights.
Two concepts for six- to 12-year-olds in early stages of development are Upside Down Town and Groove Grove. Each is being developed as a three-minute short (budgeted at US$3,500 per minute) and will be ready for on-line debut in the next month. Upside Down Town takes a look at what it would be like to live upside down through the exploits of a bat and a sloth. Groove Grove is a music-based concept featuring a row of houses inhabited by people who represent a wide range of musical interests.
In terms of a business plan, Lough House’s managing director Phil Slattery says profit is not the goal-rather, it’s all about the market research. ‘We’re not expecting the site to make any money,’ he says. ‘It’s a write-off under our marketing line.’ In fact, Cartoons-r-us represents 60% of Lough House’s US$50,000 marketing budget.
After the first month of operation, Slattery figures that initial membership for Cartoons-r-us.com should tally around 1,000 kids. The goal is to get 10,000, a number that Slattery feels will provide a wide enough demographic sample for useful feedback.
There’s no specific plan yet for how Lough House will drive kid traffic to the site, but some ideas that are being bandied about include traditional advertising in kids magazines, search engine listings and promotions through schools. Other ideas will come from the Isle of Man’s government, says Slattery, as a result of its recent initiative to become a leader in e-commerce. The government is holding seminars and other forums to help Isle of Man-based companies grow in that area.