UpNext: What’s developing in kids production

Brown Bag hopes to get it right with Ronan Long
January 8, 2003

Brown Bag hopes to get it right with Ronan Long

With a kid protagonist who’s jokingly described by his stand-up comedian creator David O’Doherty as ‘the crap MacGyver,’ Ronan Long Gets it Wrong promises to go long on laughs for Ireland’s Brown Bag Films. The 26 x 11-minute show was spawned by a best-selling Irish book that O’Doherty was inspired to write while working as a kids social worker. The concept centers around a well-meaning boy who comes up with the absolute worst inventions to help his friends with their everyday problems. The Ronan Long Electro-Pyjamas are the perfect example: While the idea of a pair of illuminated jim-jams to facilitate late-night jaunts to the loo is sound, Ronan’s brainwave of sewing Christmas lights onto the garment is not. Besides being rather lumpy and uncomfortable, the retrofitted pyjamas are too bright to afford their wearer any shut-eye at all.

Aimed at an eight to 11 target demo, Ronan will be rendered in 2-D animation for around US$3.6 million.

Hahn’s School for Vampires gets global bites

Animation legend Gerhard Hahn has sunk his teeth into School for Vampires, a 52 x 11-minute tale about a young vampire-in-training with a few issues. First off, as the headmaster’s son, Ollie is under an inordinate amount of pressure to become an über-vamp – the only problem is that he can’t stand the sight of blood. To make matters worse, he’s in love with a human girl named Sunshine who doesn’t believe in vampires, despite the fact that her father is a famous vampire-hunter.

Based on a series of books by German author Jackie Niebesch, School for Vampires is set in a gothic high school in which adolescent bloodsuckers learn the tricks of the trade (neckbiting, sun avoidance, etc.). The series, which targets kids six to 12 and family audiences, sports a cast of supporting characters that includes empowered vampette Gothetta and Ashley, a former student whose curiosity about the sun has reduced him to a pile of ashes.

Hahn Film has closed co-pro deals with Shanghai-based Hosem Animation Studio and MAGMA out of Ireland, and France’s TF1 has committed to a presale. Once underway, the production cycle on School for Vampires should last between 18 and 24 months.

Absolutely offers up a diverse world of legumes in Busy Beans

London’s Absolutely Productions is aiming to introduce the three to five crowd to the bustling world of baked beans in a new 39 x seven-minute series called Busy Beans that’s being co-developed with Varga Budapest. Narrated by resident reporter Busy Bean, each episode of the 3-D CGI show will unfold like a documentary, spotlighting a different Bean each time. However, something always goes wrong to ruin the editorial moment. For example, Diver Bean attempts to show off his underseas prowess for the camera by unearthing a treasure chest from the ocean’s depths, but he can’t get it open once it’s up on dry land. Bean World features more than 50 different kinds of beans, seven or eight of which will be regularly recurring characters that pop in and out of each episode.

Target is on-board as an international distribution partner, although all broadcast rights are open for the US$2.4-million series at the moment.

Octopus’s literary elephant Elton takes to the tube

Hibbert Ralph’s long-format arm HRTV and Octopus TV, the small-screen division of publisher Octopus, have paired up to produce an educational show called Elton – Lost Little Elephant. The 26 x 13-minute series is based on a book by U.K.-based author Alison Morris that was released in Britain, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada last year.

Featuring a globe-trotting elephant who’s on a mission to return a cherished pair of wool socks left behind by his circus-performing cousin Aziz, each episode will be set in a different international city. In each new place, Elton meets someone in a predicament, and helping them out of said jam temporarily distracts him from his larger quest. In Paris, for example, a snail on his way to an annual marathon (annual because it takes a year for the participants to finish the race) is abducted by a chef who’s determined to turn him into escargot. Elton steps in to rescue the distressed gastropod, and then takes him on a whirlwind bike tour through Paris to get to the Eiffel Tower before the starter’s gun fires. Educational components – namely local geography, cuisine, music, etc. – will be woven into the background of the US$2.7-million series, with the goal of bringing them to the fore in ancillary learning products later on.

Lupus and A. Film build from a wolfish one-off

Hoping to ride the coattails of a Christmas special called Little Wolf’s Book of Badness that will air on Channel 4 (the U.K.), WDR (Germany) and Canal+ (France) this holiday season, London-based Lupus Films and Denmark’s A. Film have teamed up to spin off a 52 x 11-minute series that takes up right where the special leaves off.

The overarching story, laid out in a six-book series by British kids author Ian Whybrow that has been translated into 13 languages to date, goes like this: In Little Wolf’s world, badness is the standard by which all are judged, and every cub goes to Cunning College to learn the art of evil from his Uncle Bigbad. But try as he might, Little Wolf just can’t help being good, so when he inherits the school upon Bigbad’s death, he sets out to turn it into the ultimate academy of fun. Circus classes, a made-up alphabet and detective lessons rule the curriculum, and Little Wolf’s younger brother Smellybreff is the school’s first pupil.

With the special completed, Lupus and A. Film expect the series – Little Wolf’s Adventure Academy – to go into production in October 2003, with veteran scribe Andrew Brenner (Maisy and Cramp Twins) helming the writing team. The series will cost US$7.3 million in total, and Channel 4 holds the underlying TV rights (with Lupus securing a first-look option on any future developments of the property).

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