While the once-mighty domestic market struggles to find a new identity better suited to today’s business realities, its strongest supporters seem poised to bolt. Warner Bros. president of domestic TV distribution Dick Robertson announced that the company will be pulling out of the market next year, claiming that while NATPE still plays an important role in facilitating international TV sales, it has lost its domestic purpose. While there may be some truth to this claim for studio-level heavies, many mid-size kids industry players fared well in the scramble to provide for a sudden influx of new programmers that need kids TV fare–fast.
Most notably, Discovery Kids, Noggin and the BBC’s diginet Cbeebies were on the receiving end of a lot of pitches, and tongues were wagging about the future plans of 4Kids after the news broke that the company had leased the Fox Kids Saturday morning slot.
Aiming to increase tween content until it comprises half the net’s total lineup by April, Noggin has gotten involved in a co-production with Sesame Workshop, CBBC in the U.K. and ABC Australia. Two Down Under (working title) is a coming-of-age live-action series about a wealthy suburban teen from the U.S. and a working-class British girl from a dysfunctional home. The pair is transplanted from their respective homes to a funky veterinary clinic on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. Noggin also acquired New Zealand-based South Pacific Pictures’ Being Eve via distributor Fireworks International.
In other Fireworks news, the London-based company’s production unit Fireworks Entertainment is developing a live-action project for Nick called Cameron Cruise, which FE president Adam Haight describes as ‘Sixth Sense for kids.’ This deal fits into a larger agreement between Fireworks and Nick for the development of two or three series–with Fireworks International possibly picking up territorial sales rights to some of Nick’s movies in exchange.
The BBC has struck a deal with global distributor Egmont Imagination for a quirky little project from London-based prodco Pesky called The Adrenalinis. Pencilled in for a debut on Cbeebies, the 2-D Flash-animated interstitial series (10 x 2.5 minutes) features three Eastern European circus performing brothers. They speak a made-up language called Rendoosian and attempt to perform all kinds of crazy stunts for the show. Like Wile E. Coyote, the Adrenalinis have seemingly amazing constitutions and always survive the disasters that ensue.
Nelvana popped up as a big NATPE player this year, with a number of international sales (Beyblade to Teletoon France; Sausage Factory to TV2 in Denmark, TPS Cinema in France, MTV in Italy and Sky in the U.K.; The Fairly Odd Parents to Antena 3 and Nickelodeon in Spain, Fox Kids in Latin America and France 3; Cyberchase to Teletoon France; Taina to France 3 and Disney Italy; and Braceface to Channel 5).
The Canadian toon powerhouse and Japan’s Kodansha have cemented their relationship by announcing a new three-year partnership deal. The agreement gives Nelvana first-look rights to co-produce or handle worldwide distribution for all Kodansha projects, with the stipulation that at least one co-production come to fruition during the three-year deal term.