UpNext–What’s developing in kids production

Digital Dreams heats up a misfit preschool concept
February 1, 2002

Digital Dreams heats up a misfit preschool concept

Tapping into broadcast demand for older-skewing preschool fare that serves as a programming bridge between toddlers and kids, Korea’s Digital Dream Studios and Ancharac Entertainment have high hopes for Penning, the Tropical Penguin. The back story to the 52 x 12-minute CGI series goes like this: After mistakenly landing in Antarctica and finding a penguin egg, a bunch of aliens assume that the species represents what passes for evolved life on Earth. To see what makes penguins tick, the intergalactic explorers perform some funky experiments that trigger a temperature-related side effect. Simply put, Penning is born hating the cold. Joined by a dysfunctional group of fellow misfits that includes a vegetarian lion and an eagle who thinks he’s a chicken, Penning seeks out environments with much warmer climates than his native land.

Budgeted at US$3.5 million, Penning went into production last month so that the full 52 episodes will be ready for delivery this December. The series has garnered a broadcast deal with MBC in Korea, as well as tentative presale commitments in France and the U.S.

Cosgrove gives CiTV an emotional tune-up

Steering clear of reality-based logic has won Cosgrove Hall a CiTV commission for a whimsical preschool series about the inner feelings of cars, trucks and such. Slated for a spring/summer 2002 delivery, Engie Benjy centers around a boy who fixes vehicles whose problems are not always mechanical in nature. For example, it turns out that buses get tired and need holidays, and that planes thrive on a very active nightlife full of parties and dancing.

The 26 x 10-minute series is a combination of stop motion and CGI, budgeted between US$70,000 and US$75,000 per ep. Preproduction began in June 2001, and the first 13 episodes were completed last month. Producer Bridget Appleby expects Engie Benjy to have broad merchandise appeal, and Cosgrove was starting to hash out a licensing plan at press time.

Decode’s new superheroes teach caring and community involvement

Toronto, Canada’s Decode Entertainment has reteamed with the Dan Clark Company (Brats of the Lost Nebula) and Core Digital (Angela Anaconda) to develop Save-Ums, a preschool series seemingly born out of the 9/11 disaster. The show is set in what’s dubbed as ‘a thinking kid’s action world,’ policed by a group of cute-as-pie heroes who work together to save the day. With an emphasis on intelligent problem-solving rather than kicking villain ass–which is the goal of most superhero-driven story lines–the Save-Ums contend with tamer challenges, such as the baby polar bears forgetting their water wings.

In addition to the action/adventure elements, the series also teaches responsibility. The Save-Ums have pets called Puffs–round little puffballs that need to be tickled, cuddled, bounced and brushed every day.

The series, which can run as 52 x 11 minutes or 26 half hours, is budgeted between US$250,000 and US$275,000 for each half hour. Production just started, and delivery is projected for fall 2002.

Published porcine pals packaged for TV

Hollie Hobbie, the ’60s artist who skyrocketed to merch glory thanks to a line of greeting cards depicting girls in sunbonnets and pinafores and little boys fishing by the lakeside, is poised to strike mass-market gold again. Three decades after her first success, Hobbie penned and illustrated a preschool picture book called Toot & Puddle (Little, Brown and Company), which has since grown into a five-title series that has sold into 12 markets worldwide. The books have also birthed a modest merch program that includes cards, posters, stickers, plush and a board game.

The franchise features two polar-opposite pigs–Toot, a born traveller who thrives on adventure; and Puddle, an introvert who’s happiest at home. Toot sends Puddle postcards and e-mails from abroad to let his homebody friend vicariously experience the wider world.

Toot & Puddle was recently optioned by New York-based Silver Lining for 2-D TV development, and the outfit has hooked up with Millimages to co-produce a Christmas special based on the most recent book release, Toot & Puddle: I’ll Be Home for Christmas, as well as a longer-running TV series. Budgeted at roughly US$300,000 per half hour, both the one-off 30-minute special and the 26 x half-hour series target three- to seven-year-olds. The special, which goes into production this month, is set to bow in Q4 on nets in the U.S. and the U.K. (broadcast deals were being hammered out at press time), with the series likely to follow sometime in 2003. Silver Lining will distribute both TV formats.

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