Distributor: Paris-based Marathon International (33-1-53-10-9100)
Producers: Marathon and French broadcaster TF1
Format: 52 x 26 minutes
Style: 2-D animation
Some current broadcasters: ABC Family (U.S.), TF1 (France), ProSieben (Germany), Mediaset (Italy) and TV Tokyo (Japan)
Marathon’s secret weapon brandishes a comedy/action blend and girl appeal
Very few kids shows can claim ‘global product’ status before they hit the airwaves. But with presales to France’s TF1 (which picked the series up in two minutes flat, according to Marathon Productions managing director Vincent Chalvon-Demersay), Fox Kids Europe, Fox Family in the U.S. (now ABC Family), the U.K.’s Channel 4 and Mediaset in Italy, Marathon’s Totally Spies! has certainly earned that particular distinction.
Sales have continued to roll in for the 2-D espionage adventure, with Pokémon’s Japancaster TV Tokyo picking it up for its 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning slot starting July 6. And all this broadcast support has laid the groundwork for a comprehensive European licensing program that’s scheduled to start rolling out in Germany and the U.K. in September. (Search ‘Totally Spies’ at www.kidscreen.com for more info.)
There are two primary reasons for the 52 x half-hour property’s lightning-quick success. The first is that it’s ‘a true combination of comedy and action,’ says Chalvon-Demersay, who co-created Totally Spies! with David Michel, adding that ‘many producers aim for this blend, but don’t get the right balance.’ Described as Clueless meets Charlie’s Angels, the show stars three Beverly Hills teen girls who become entangled in an international spy game after inadvertently setting up house on top of WOOHP’s (World Organization of Human Protection) West Coast headquarters. The org’s leader decides to put the girls to work rather than risk them spilling the beans about the doings of their underground neighbors, and the spy trio learns to juggle top-secret missions with normal high school life.
Totally Spies!’ second appealing characteristic is that it seems to be fulfilling an ever-elusive broadcast goal for the channels that have picked it up: the show is bringing in girl viewers ages six to 12 without alienating boys the same age. The series gets particularly equal girl/boy play in Europe, says Chalvon-Demersay, a claim demonstrated by Totally Spies!’ number-one finish with four-to 14-year-olds of both sexes in France for the week of April 22, 2002.
Although it’s been doing very well on ABC Family since Disney acquired the Fox Family assets, Totally Spies!’ future on the new net is a little less certain since its programming execs are actively packing the kids lineup with boys action shows. But Chalvon-Demersay believes that Spies! still fits into that strategy: ‘It’s all a matter of promotion,’ he says. ‘For instance, in France, where TF1 wanted the show to appeal to both genders rather than just girls, the marketing campaign focused on the action and gadget elements of the show.’
Other State-side mediums are more eager to get a piece of the property, with Marathon fielding an offer from a major U.S. studio interested in producing a Totally Spies! feature film.
Barbie in The Nutcracker
Distributor: London-based Entertainment Rights (44-208-762-6200)
Producer: Vancouver, Canada’s Mainframe Entertainment
Format: 75-minute TV movie
Some current broadcasters: Mediatrade (Italy), Seven Network (Australia), Super RTL (Germany), TV2 (Norway and Denmark) and SBS (Korea)
Distributor: Toronto, Canada-based Decode Entertainment (416-363-8034)
Producer: Decode, in association with C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures
Format: 65 x half hour
Style: Cut-and-paste CGI
Some current broadcasters: ABC Family (U.S.), Teletoon (Canada), France 3, Super RTL (Germany), Channel 4 (U.K.), Fox Kids UK, ABC (Australia) and Cartoon Network Japan
Distributors: London-based Egmont Imagination (44-207-761-3693)/Australia’s Southern Star (61-2-9202-8555)
Producers: Egmont, Southern Star and China’s Shanghai Animation
Format: 26 x 13 minutes
Style: 2-D animation
Some current broadcasters: Discovery Kids (U.S.), TVO (Canada), ABC (Australia), ARD (Germany) and Fox Kids UK