Up Next – What’s developing in kids production

Take a big whiff of Elephant's Wanganui
March 1, 2003

Take a big whiff of Elephant’s Wanganui

Something stinks in Wanganui, a new 2-D series from London-based Elephant Productions about a family that’s cursed/blessed with no sense of smell. None of the Wifflers were born with nostrils and, therefore, see no need to wash. So Mom reeks of chip fat and cheap perfume, dad stinks of curry and beer, infant daughter Wisteria emits an effluvium of poo and vomit, and eight-year-old son Wanganui puts out a ripe, cheese-like foot stench. Budgeted at US$100,000 to US$110,000 for each of its 13 half hours, Wanganui revolves around the titular character’s ill-fated attempts to blend in despite his condition. In one episode, he goes to the beach and his noxious body odor drives the tide out prematurely, leaving a school of stinky fish high and dry. Another time, he struggles to have fun during his own birthday party when his guests won’t come into his house because it smells.

Targeted at four- to eight-year-olds, Wanganui was originally created by Elephant co-founder and author Jamie Rix as a book series, and the company is currently shopping a treatment of these tomes to a number of British publishing houses. Though U.K. distributor Target maintains a first-look option on all of Elephant’s productions, managing director Sarah Muller says she is looking for at least one co-production partner on the series, which is designed to run as either 13 x half hours or 26 x 11 minutes.

EM.TV raises the curtain on The Emerald City

Putting its two cents into the red-hot fantasy genre, Munich, Germany-based EM.TV & Merchandising is debuting a new 26 x half-hour 2-D/3-D combo series called The Emerald City at MIPTV. Based on a series of books by Russian author Alexander Wolkov that reworks the classic Wizard of Oz tale, the toon tags along with 11-year-old Ellie when she’s magically transported to The Emerald City after boarding a ghost train ride at the local amusement park. She befriends some of the city’s denizens – including The Lion, The Scarecrow and The Tin Man – and in between sojourns back to her own reality, Ellie tries to protect them from the Dark Fairy who constantly harasses them. EM.TV is co-producing The Emerald City with Halle, Germany-based Motion Works and has already pre-sold the show to German broadcaster MDR. Targeted at seven- to 11-year-olds, The Emerald City should come in at between US$290,000 and US$320,000 per episode.

Nelvana logs some couch time with What’s Eating Becky?

Hoping to build on the success of its tween comedy Braceface, Nelvana’s What’s Eating Becky? (13 x half hours) offers another look into the overactive tween imagination. A kind of Ally McBeal for the 10 to 14 set, this 2-D animated series stars ninth-grader Becky Gertrude Books, who’s dealing with a lot of issues. Along with her parents’ recent divorce, Becky’s grades have begun to slide, which means she must attend regular counseling sessions with Dr. Benjamin Wright, Ph.D. It’s during these therapy meetings that Becky launches into her fantastical tales. She’s convinced, for example, that her younger sister is part of a scheme to trade Barbies on the black market in Russia, and also claims that whenever things go wrong in her world, hockey legend Gordie Howe appears in full equipment to give his advice. What’s the truth and what’s her imagination working overtime only the good doctor can determine. Nelvana is currently looking for a European co-production partner for Becky, which is budgeted at US$200,000 per episode, and the plan is to deliver the full series by fall or winter 2004.

Tokyopop mines Kodansha for a new quest-based anime entry

The seemingly endless supply of Japanese anime concepts ripe for North American reversioning is being tapped again by L.A.-based publishing company and production studio Tokyopop. This time, it’s Kodansha’s Rave Master property that’s gearing up to bridge the geographical divide. Based on a three-year-old manga series that has given birth to a line of video games and trading cards from Konami. Rave Master is a 52 x half-hour TV show that regularly garners a four to eight rating in its early-evening slot on Japanese caster TBS.

The 2-D toon stars three young teens whose fates are ruled by a mythical sword. Sixteen-year-old Haru Glory is the only human who can control the ultimate weapon, which is powered up to maximum strength by five jewel-like daggers called raves (each of which adds its own unique power to the mix) that must be collected and inserted into the sword’s base. Haru’s two friends – Ellie, an amnesiac girl whose murky past is connected to the sword, and a bad-ass with a good heart named Musica – join him on exotic quests to unearth the daggers before they fall into the wrong hands. And leading the teen trio is a comical carrot-nosed dog who knows where all the raves are hidden.

Targeting the six to 11 set, the English-language version of Rave Master will be done in spring 2004. Tokyopop is managing international distribution rights outside of Asia for the action/comedy series, which will cost between US$10,000 and US$20,000 an ep to reversion.

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