BBC picks up Loonland's Middle Ages reincarnation
April 1, 2002

BBC picks up Loonland’s Middle Ages reincarnation

In development since 1999, TV-Loonland’s Metalheads (previously known as Tiny Knights) is finally kicking off this month with a BBC greenlight. The dark comedy for kids ages six to 11 will be the first project to cycle through Loonland UK, and TV-L’s animation studio Telemagination will take the creative lead.

The 26 x 11-minute series (budgeted at US$3.9 million) pokes fun at the dark underbelly of the Middle Ages through the antics of five unlikely candidates for knighthood. Bullheaded Liddy refuses to let her gender stand in the way of her becoming a courtly hero, and she convinces her four non-noble friends to keep her company at Metal Heads Academy for aspiring knights. Many farcical scrapes ensue.

On track for delivery to the Beeb in summer 2003, Metalheads will be distributed internationally by TV-Loonland.

Zodiac dials up a futuristic Flash series for tween girls

Making the most of Flash’s affordability, Toronto, Canada’s Zodiac Media is using the software to render a new 2-D series for girls ages nine to 11 called Xenon High. The 13 x half-hour project is budgeted at under US$150,000 per episode and should be completed in late 2003 or early 2004. The show has garnered Canadian broadcast interest, but no deals had been inked at press time.

Set in the year 2500, Xenon High takes place in a boarding school that is multicultural in the interplanetary sense, counting aliens, robots and humans among its student body. Sick of wasting their time following useless advice from archaic robotic counselors, three human teens decide to create the Xenon Bella, a super teen-problem-solving computer. Acting as an anonymous rescue unit, the trio then swoops in (literally, wearing rocket-powered thingamajigs) to implement the computer’s proposed solutions and save the teens in trouble. Oozing zits, obsessive crushes, failed tests and secret admirers are just a handful of issues the Bellas have to deal with.

Aussie dramedy melds Malcolm in the Middle and Friends

Everyone has a best friend, a buddy who’d stick by you no matter what–but what happens when you have more than one? Or worse, what happens if you have two that can’t stand each other? Australia’s Cox Knight Productions explores that very scenario in a Malcolm in the Middle-esque live-action drama series for the five to 15 set called Worst Best Friends. In one episode of the 13 x half-hour show, Roger’s best friends Dusting and Millicent are required to kiss in a school play. The sworn enemies can’t stomach the idea, and both of them turn to Roger for help–yet again putting him in the middle of their feud.

Budgeted at US$2.5 million, Worst Best Friends is being financed by presales to Network Ten and Optus Television in Australia and to CiTV in the U.K., with additional financial assistance coming from the Australian Film Finance Corporation. Production started last month for delivery in early 2003, and the Australian Children’s Television Fund will manage worldwide rights.

Studio B hits on a spooky toon niche

Triggered by broadcaster requests for scary kids programming à la Scooby-Doo, Vancouver, Canada’s Studio B has teamed up with Westport, Connecticut-based Smart Kids Publishing to develop Into the Shadows to air in Canada on The Family Channel in fall 2003.

Based on a series of four books by kids author Kathleen Duey that were originally published in 1997, the 2-D animated ‘safe scare’ show is designed to help kids deconstruct their fears. Budgeted at US$300,000 for each of 26 half hours, Into the Shadows stars a pair of eight-year-old twins who have a knack for feeding off of each other’s imaginations. In one ep, for example, the two kids get really spooked listening to the strange gargling and grinding noises emanating from their dentist’s office while they sit in the waiting room. As they finally walk through the doors for their appointment, they run smack into a toothless mad scientist. They rush back down the hall, running for their lives through the dark passages of his underground lab, when a skeletal hand drops onto their shoulders… but it’s just the receptionist asking them not to run in the hallways. Whew!

A Canuck production trio taps into aspirational sports

Identifying a need for sports programming for kids, Toronto, Canada-based prodcos Breakthrough Entertainment, Run With Us Productions and Fraser-Hecht Communications have started preproduction on a tween-targeted series called Kids World Sports. New York-based Clear Channel Entertainment (which owns around 1,000 radio stations and 19 TV channels in the U.S. and promotes live entertainment events) will help finance the series and facilitate U.S. distribution, in exchange for an undisclosed rights share.

The 26 x half-hour show is a showcase for kids whose involvement in sports has enabled them to overcome obstacles–whether they be financial, cultural, familial or physical in nature. The athlete lineup runs the gamut from an age-challenged 15-year-old snowboarder who is so good he’s featured in a PlayStation video game and is trying out for the Olympics, to a six-foot-seven basketball player from England who’s being scouted by an NBA scholarship scout. Live-action segments are interspersed with animated sketches starring the show’s host Switch and his dog, who interview the remarkable kids and find out what they had to do to get where they are.

Set for a Q1 2003 delivery, Kids World Sports carries a low per-episode budget of US$125,000 and has been picked up by CanWest Global in Canada and Washington PBS affiliate WETA. Breakthrough is distributing the property internationally, in association with Clear Channel.

The Legacy of ACTF’s Network Ten dramedy

An Aussie show that got its start right here in KidScreen by stepping up to the plate as our very first Virtual Pitch is in the final throes of production this month. A live-action dramedy for kids five to 12, The Legacy of the Silver Shadow is the product of a partnership between the Australian Children’s Television Fund and indie co-producers Ponderosa Productions and Darestar.

The 13 x half-hour series stars a ’50s superhero called Silver Shadow, who has been preserved as a digital recording for decades. Four modern-day teens accidentally reactivate him just in time to prevent his archenemy’s 14-year-old granddaughter from completing the monomaniacal family plan to take over the world. Comic relief comes from Silver Shadow’s inability to cope with the cultural and ideological changes that have taken place since his heyday. Legacy is set to air on Network Ten later this year.

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