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Hot Talent: Skaramoosh charts a course for creative waters

From its humble beginnings as a two-man operation, London-based animation house Skaramoosh quickly evolved into a go-to studio for such A-list clients as Disney and the BBC. But it was the company's high-quality CGI animation work on Discovery's ground-breaking documentary Raising the Mammoth that really put Skaramoosh on the map.
October 1, 2003

From its humble beginnings as a two-man operation, London-based animation house Skaramoosh quickly evolved into a go-to studio for such A-list clients as Disney and the BBC. But it was the company’s high-quality CGI animation work on Discovery’s ground-breaking documentary Raising the Mammoth that really put Skaramoosh on the map.

Since then, its list of clients has grown to include Fox Kids Europe and Nickelodeon, though its most recent job was Disney Channel UK commission The Spooky Sisters, a 12 x five-minute, Flash-animated short series that launched last month.

But just over a year ago, the studio decided that it was high time it began creating its own properties. ‘If you’re doing client-based animation projects, you’re really only as good as your last piece of work, and you don’t have any ownership,’ says Skaramoosh’s commercial director Alison Warner. ‘If you’re a work-for-hire studio, that’s great. But it’s equally great to have something you can nurture and grow, and obviously from a commercial standpoint, it makes more sense to try and own the rights.’

With that in mind, the prodco hooked up with author/illustrator Kate Veale to do a series based on her preschool book property Mr Moon. Warner says Skaramoosh is within arm’s reach of signing a co-production partner for the 52 x 11-minute series, which is budgeted at US$219,000 per half hour. Mr Moon follows the moon as he travels through space in a rocket, at times forgetting his nighttime duties. The series is rendered in digital 3-D, but has hand-painted backgrounds, which Warner says gives the animation a highly textured feel.

At last month’s Cartoon Forum, Skaramoosh introduced another original production, this time targeting the five to nine set. Swashbucklers is a 26 x 11-minute co-pro with London’s Dandy Productions that follows the adventures of a band of pirates. Warner estimates the budget for the 3-D CGI series, which is based on a book series of the same name by quirky author/illustrator team Marc and John, will fall in the range of US$250,000 to US$300,000 per half hour. As an added bonus, all the show’s music has been provided by Madness, a ska/pop group popular in the U.K. during the ’80s.

And Skaramoosh doesn’t draw the line at animation. The studio is also producing a 13 x 15-minute, live-action series featuring U.K. scientist Ben Brown, who tours the country with an inflatable planetarium teaching kids about science. Budgeted at US$70,000 to US$80,000 per ep, Earthed highlights Brown’s wacky attempts at answering kids’ science questions like why feet stink.

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