UpNext–What’s developing in kids production

Buffy the Animated Vampire Slayer
June 1, 2002

Buffy the Animated Vampire Slayer

Gearing up to introduce Buffy to a whole new generation of viewers, 20th Century Fox Television and Joss Whedon, creator of the live-action original, are in the thick of production on a 2-D animated redux of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With a whopping budget of US$600,000 per episode, the 13 x half-hour project should look really slick when the first episode is ready in Q4.

The concept behind the tween-skewing project is to give Whedon an outlet for both telling the stories that take place between the episodes of the live-action show and using a wider overview of Sunnydale as a backdrop. Set in year one of the Buffy franchise, with the cast heading into their sophomore year of high school, the new toon will also allow for more innovative monster creation and the exploration of story lines that the live-action cast quickly grew too old for–like Buffy’s first babysitting gig, for example.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Animated Series is currently cycling through preproduction at Whedon’s L.A. shingle Mutant Enemy. Executive producing the show with Whedon is Jeph Loeb, who created the animated series Seven Little Monsters (based on Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are) and has written titles in such comic book series as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.

Built-in underwater play value highlights Mike Young Productions’ new preschool offering

L.A.-based Mike Young Productions has started preproduction on a CGI series called Dive Ollie Dive that targets the middle-range preschool demo of three- to five-year-olds with characters whose intrinsic functions naturally add play value. For example, Ollie is a submarine, joined by Deep Sea Diver Dan (sort of a Bob the Builder of the sea) and Docker the Crane.

Since curriculum is paramount to securing a broadcast deal for any new preschool show, Mike Young Productions has brought on an early childhood development expert to help the in-house team weave lessons about social relationships, community and environmentalism into the show’s story lines. In one ep, for example, Suzie Seaplane warns everyone that a storm is brewing, but some folks choose to ignore the heads-up, and havoc ensues when the storm hits. It’s up to Ollie and Docker to find everyone and safely clean up all the damage the storm has caused.

Ollie is being developed as a 26 x half-hour series, but each ep can also be broken down into three seven-minute segments for nets that prefer a shorter format. Mike Young Productions has almost locked down a domestic broadcaster, and is considering strong offers from Nick in the U.K. and Australia. Set for a spring 2003 delivery, Ollie carries a budget of US$300,000 per half hour.

Atomic and Hairy Dog fire up a flame-deficient dragon

Atomic Cartoons has signed a deal with Adrian Raeside of Hairy Dog Productions to develop a 26 x half-hour animated series based on Raeside’s trio of Dennis the Dragon books, the first of which (Dennis the Dragon, written by Raeside’s late mother) was published in 1994 by Doubleday after a limited Canadian run in 1967 and 1977 as The Lucky Little Dragon.

The two Vancouver-based studios are ready to take the fully-developed series into production just as soon as a co-production partner steps up to the plate.

Set in a world where humans and dragons strive to peacefully co-exist, the 2-D show will center around Dennis, a dragon with a low boiling point…literally. He can barely cook a chicken with his less-than-fiery breath, which makes him the butt of many jokes. Given the cold shoulder by his own kind, Dennis befriends two young humans, and the unlikely trio sets about solving the many environmental problems that arise in their human-dragon community.

Heavy on sight gags, Dennis the Dragon is aimed at six- to 12-year-olds and carries a per-episode price tag between US$300,000 and US$350,000. Atomic partner and co-founder Trevor Bentley says there’s been a lot of interest from Europe and Asia, and he expects production to fire up in January.

Cornerstone gets into originals by retelling Greek legends

Three-year-old service company Cornerstone Animation is taking a stab at original production with a new TV project called Ye Gods! The Tales of Brave Ulysses. Rendered using Cornerstone’s proprietary Flash-based software that combines traditional animation and digital tech, the 26 x half-hour series will look like a classic ’50s toon with enhanced production values. Its cost-effective model, meanwhile, will bring the per-ep budget down to between US$275,000 and US$300,000.

While Ulysses is still in development, Cornerstone co-founder and chief creative officer Larry Whitaker says the show will feature an elderly Homer telling a class of toga-clad kids tales of when he was a young scribe recording epics like The Iliad and The Odyssey. Given that it will ride the line between education and action-adventure, Whitaker feels that Ulysses would perform best in an early-evening family-friendly slot on a net like Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or PBS.

Based in Glendale, California, Cornerstone Animation has worked on projects including The Tigger Movie, Return To Neverland, The Little Mermaid II (DTV), 101 Dalmations II (DTV) and the upcoming VeggieTales spin-off DTV series Larryboy.

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