Now that it has firmly established itself as a global player in the kids entertainment business by padding its infrastructure with distribution and production acquisitions, a licensing arm and a just-announced home entertainment subsidiary, Germany’s TV-Loonland is gearing up to get back into the kids production game with a bang.
Although we may not recognize the name Johanna Spyri, most are probably familiar with Heidi, the Swiss author’s best-selling children’s book (over 100 million copies sold worldwide) that was penned more than 100 years ago. TV-Loonland and Toronto, Canada’s Nelvana (in association with KirchMedia’s Taurus Produktion) announced a deal at MIPCOM to develop Heidi as a 2-D feature film. With a budget of roughly US$5 million, production is slated to start next month for a late 2002 completion. Characters include Heidi as a rambunctious tween, her Aunt Dete, her grandfather and her best friend, the wheelchair-bound Klara. The story line was being hammered out at press time, but it should stay true to the original Swiss fable. An animated TV series is also in early development.
A family sitcom co-pro called Dragons Rock is underway between Loonland, Super RTL and Germany’s GUM Studios. It’s a CGI/puppetry series that’s set in the Middle Ages. The show has prime-time aspirations and stars a dragon named Stanley Hopper, his wife Atracta and their three kids, teenage Zoe and seven-year-old twins Julius and Julia. Atracta is of royal stock, but Stanley grew up in a human village, effectively ostracizing him from Dragon society and coloring the rest of his life with a dry, cynical humor. Production on 26 half hours started this month for a targeted summer 2002 debut. Super RTL owns the German rights to the series, which is budgeted at approximately US$5.5 million, and Loonland will handle distribution to worldwide territories.
Also on the CGI slate is Donner, a co-pro between Loonland’s New York subsidiary Sunbow, Fox Family and Phoenix-based Rainbow Studios. The half-hour Christmas special (budgeted at roughly US$500,000) is slated to air on Fox Family’s holiday branded lineup starting December 1, 2001, with repeats running through to Christmas Day. Donner isn’t like all the other reindeer. Dancer’s name makes sense, as does Comet’s and Cupid’s… but what’s a Donner? His identity crisis falls right before the holidays, and if he doesn’t figure things out, he’ll be grounded for Christmas. Donner is Sunbow’s first U.S. co-pro since relaunching under the Loonland family umbrella a year ago. Salsa will distribute the property in Latin America, with Loonland carrying worldwide rights, excluding the U.S. and Israel, which are covered by Fox Family.
ITV has commissioned Meg and Mog from Loonland and Absolutely Productions out of the U.K. Based on a series of 13 Penguin preschool books that have sold three million copies since the first book launched 15 years ago, the series features three characters: Meg, a witch who can’t seem to get anything right; Mog, her accident-prone cat; and Owl, a seasoned familiar quick with the ‘I told you so’s,’ but just as quick to help out when things look bad. The first series is scheduled for delivery to ITV in late 2002, with a second run of 26 eps to follow in early 2003. Budgeted at around US$3.9 million, Meg and Mog will be distributed worldwide by Loonland, with ITV taking care of TV and video rights in the U.K.