CCI bets on factual fare to woo MIPTV

As factual kids fare emerges as a must-have genre with kids broadcasters (see 'Hitting the perfect pitch,' page 96), Toronto, Canada's Cambium Catalyst International Entertainment (CCI) appears to be perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of the nod to non-fiction.
March 1, 2003

As factual kids fare emerges as a must-have genre with kids broadcasters (see ‘Hitting the perfect pitch,’ page 96), Toronto, Canada’s Cambium Catalyst International Entertainment (CCI) appears to be perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of the nod to non-fiction.

Best known for animated shows like Monster By Mistake, CCI will be touting the merits of two new factual series at MIPTV – Todd and Time Blazers. Though CCI has had both shows in the works for well over a year, company CEO Arnie Zipursky says the industry’s shift towards non-fiction didn’t come as a complete surprise. ‘I think you’re seeing the success of reality TV begin to trickle its way down to kids shows,’ he explains.

But far from simply reversioning Joe Millionaire or The Bachelorette for the kid palate, CCI’s shows aim to offer informative, fact-based programming that sacrifices nothing on the entertainment front.

Billed as a Pee-Wee’s Playhouse meets Bill Nye the Science Guy, Todd stars a tween host who races against the clock to figure out the scientific principles that link such disparate elements as a snowflake, a marshmallow and a golden retriever. By the end of that particular episode, for example, he determines how each item transfers heat. To illustrate the principles in action, CCI will use blue-screen and CGI effects to place Todd – or his 2-D animated stunt double – inside dangerous objects like a car engine or a burning marshmallow. ‘It’s looking at science in a really fun, fast-paced way,’ says CCI director of development Kate Horton.

Targeted at the eight to 12 demo, Todd is in development as a 13 x half-hour co-production with Toronto’s Coneybeare Stories (Kratt’s Creatures) and Canadian pubcaster the CBC. CCI is managing worldwide distribution and hopes to pre-sell the series, which is budgeted at US$130,000 to US$166,000 per ep, to broadcasters in the U.S. and the U.K.

History of the mundane ilk is on tap in Time Blazers, a live-action/CGI co-pro with Coneybeare and Canuck kidnet YTV. Targeted at six- to 11-year-olds, Time Blazers examines the genesis of everyday concepts like home security and garbage disposal. In each episode, tween host Shakira teams up with time-traveling duo Sam and Jen to track the evolution of an idea or concept at key points throughout its history.

CCI has already delivered the first 13 episodes of Time Blazers to YTV, which plans to start airing the US$2.6-million series this June or July. As the show’s international distributor, CCI is also hoping to sell Time Blazers into the U.S. and Europe.

While factual represents a new direction for CCI, the company is not abandoning its fiction-based kids programming and will be shopping two new series at MIPTV.

First up is Erky Perky, a 13 x 22-minute co-production with Australia’s Ambience Entertainment. The 3-D CGI show revolves around two hungry, kitchen-dwelling bugs who are constantly questing to reach their holy grail – the fridge. Joined by oddball insect Stinks – so-called because his flatulence often propels him out of danger – Erky and Perky spend most of their time scrounging for food and avoiding tyrant bug Mad Margaret, who rules the kitchen with an iron tentacle.

CCI and Ambience plan to produce Erky Perky, which is aimed at the eight to 11 demo, for US$265,000 an epsiode. CCI will be looking to secure at least one or two pre-sales to broadcasters in North America, Europe or Australia.

On the slightly less malodorous side of CCI’s slate is 2-D animated Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs for kids ages four to seven. Based on a same-name book series by Ian Whygrow, the toon stars a young boy who discovers a bucket of toy dinosaurs in his grandmother’s attic. When Harry cleans the coveted figures up a bit, they come to life in his fertile imagination.

CCI is hoping to land a U.K. co-pro partner for the 26 x 11-minute series, which comes with a per-episode budget of between US$230,000 and US$265,000. According to Zipursky, Harry has already attracted strong broadcast interest in the U.K., where the three-book series is published by HIT/Gullane.

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