Up Next: What’s Developing in Kids Production
FX revs up toy-powered Bumper King Zapper
With a healthy dose of cars and action, Bumper King Zapper (26 x half hours) may be the most testosterone-fueled boys series to chug along in recent memory. A Korean co-pro between FX Digital 3D Animation Studio, character company Daewon, Korean broadcaster SBS and toyco Sonoking, it may also set a new high-water mark for properties that boast the most obvious embedded toy application. Set in 2034, Bumper King Zapper centers on Tyon, a young boy from the poor side of town who dreams about competing in the Bumper Cross, a popular remote-control racing circuit. But before he can reach the Bumper King championships, Tyon will have to prove his mettle against several foes, including child prodigy Jebio and series villain Jamakhan, who is driven to win at any cost. Targeted at the six to 12 demo, Bumper King Zapper is currently in production for a per-episode cost of US$200,000. FX is scouting for North American and European broadcasters for the CGI series, which will debut on SBS this September.
SIP satirizes green-think with its new toon The Tofus
Putting a modern gloss on the classic family sitcom, Paris-based SIP Animation’s The Tofus aptly skewers the granola-munching righteousness of the eco-hippie archetype. Co-produced with Montreal, Canada’s CinéGroupe, the 2-D animated series focuses on brother-and-sister team Chichi and Lola Tofu, who try to lead normal tween lives despite the radical pro-environmental leanings of their peacenik parents. But as each episode unfolds, their efforts ultimately prove fruitless.
For instance, Lola’s parents won’t allow her to buy a hip new pair of sneakers because it would mean the needless destruction of rubber trees; likewise, the stench emanating from the Tofus’ network of composts is so noxious that it draws the ire of a neighboring family, whose son Lola is desperately attracted to.
Budgeted at US$230,000 per ep and targeting the six to 12 set, the 26 x 22-minute series is the brainchild of Fabrice de Costil and Bernard Victor, who previously created kid-targeted interstitials for France 2. SIP has already presold the series to France 3, CiTV (U.K.), Teletoon Canada and Fox Kids Europe, which claimed merch rights and a first window everywhere except the U.K. and France.
Luminous spotlights the dark side in Mutant Moments
With Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings sating the market’s appetite for wizards and wands, U.K.-based Luminous Pictures is betting that kids ages seven to 11 will be in the mood for something a bit more macabre. Enter Mutant Moments – a pitch-black kids comedy (26 x 11 minutes) that Luminous is co-producing with Vancouver, Canada’s Atomic Cartoons and TEVA Studios out of Paris, France. Created by author/creator Alan Kerswell, the series delves deep into Roald Dahl-meets-Lemony Snicket territory with twisted tales about murderous cheerleaders and girls who bond with severed heads. Each ep in the Flash/CGI series will consist of separate segments, hosted à la The Twilight Zone by the sufficiently creepy J. Arthur Friendsy. Stylistically, Mutant Moments will reference Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, says Luminous producer Peter Lewis, who pegs the budget at between US$3.5 million and US$4 million. Luminous and Atomic are currently shopping the show to broadcasters, and the two partners expect to begin production by January 2004.
Fast-food yuks get super-sized in Ciné Télé Action’s Fries with That?
The plight of minimum wage workers serves as the backdrop for Montreal, Canada-based Ciné Télé Action’s new live-action tween comedy Fries with That? The 26 x half-hour series, which CTA is producing in association with Canadian kids broadcaster YTV, follows the ups and downs of a group of high-schoolers doing time at a local burger joint called Bulky’s. But the teens are much more interested in goofing off than in mastering the fine art of flipping patties, which is an endless source of frustration to the ambitious assistant manager Ben, who has designs on fast-tracking Bulky’s corporate ladder. Ciné Télé Action is initially producing an English-language version of Fries, which is budgeted at US$2.9 million and will debut on YTV this fall. CTA holds all international rights to the series and was focusing on selling it to broadcasters in the U.S., Europe and Australia at press time.
Silly Goose winds up The Wumblers
Hoping to provide an alternative to curriculum-laden preschool fare, Silly Goose’s The Wumblers aims to teach kids values rather than the ABCs. The US$5-million, 2-D toon (26 x 11 minutes) stars a race of benevolent rubbery beings that sprout from watermelons in all shapes, sizes and hues. The overriding goal of each episode is to teach kids tolerance, says Laura Wellington, property creator and president of Fort Hill, New Jersey-based Silly Goose.
In the pilot, protagonist Bertram is about to turn five, the age when Wumblers change into their permanent color. The problem is his color isn’t the same as his parents, which causes him a great deal of anxiety until mom and dad explain that it doesn’t matter what color he is. The Wumblers, SG’s first series, has attracted the interest of Britain’s Peak Entertainment (which will handle worldwide distribution and licensing) and an as-yet-unnamed Korean toon studio (which will oversee production). Wellington, who has been developing the property with the aid of industry vets such as ex-Lyrick producer Martha Lipscomb and child psychologist Bob Abelman, expects to deliver the series by 2004.
Battle of the Planets coming in for another TV landing
Banking on ’80s nostalgia, Sandy Frank Entertainment is dusting off cult anime series Battle of the Planets. The New York-based prodco has teamed with Vancouver, Canada’s Ocean Productions to re-purpose 105 of the old Gatchaman episodes from Japanese studio Tatsunko, upon which BOP is based. The series, which originally aired in North America from 1978 to 1983, follows the adventures of a ragtag team of teens (G-Force) who battle against intergalactic evil. SFE plans to focus on TV sales this fall once existing distribution deals with Hearst (international) and Turner Broadcasting (U.S.) – the latter of which repackaged the series under the G-Force moniker – expire. SFE will produce the 52 x half-hour series (and possibly a 90-minute feature) with new scripts, music and voice talent.