Hot on the heels of Granada’s merger with Carlton, Granada Kids has set in motion a plan to infuse its future preschool projects with an American sensibility via a co-pro deal with Little Airplane Productions, the New York studio that produced Noggin’s break-out hand-puppet series Oobi.
Little Airplane founder and president Josh Selig says the partnership with Granada Kids will bring together the best of both worlds, combining Britain’s mastery of preschool humor, movement and style with an American educational sensibility to create a new brand of globalized preschool programming that should work on both sides of the pond.
The first co-pro to come out of the deal, Big and Small, will be wrapped by summer 2005. The 52 x 11-minute live-action/puppet series will feature two lead characters created by Henson’s Bear in the Big Blue House Muppet designer Paul Andrejco. The show’s story lines are all about marrying a pratfall-centric comedic style with lessons on tolerance. ‘It’s really a show about how two characters with very different perspectives of the world manage to get along and overcome their differences,’ Selig says. ‘But it’s also full of really funny moments – like when they try to play leapfrog, which is problematic for Small because he’s so tiny.’
Granada Kids has already presold Big and Small to Carlton/Granada owner ITV, and Little Airplane will work to finalize a similar deal with a U.S. broadcaster.
A second project is currently in development, and it will take advantage of Granada’s partnership with stop-motion studio Cosgrove Hall. Go Baby is a 52 x 11-minute photo-montage toon with characters created by Blue’s Clues animator Jennifer Oxley. It stars a toddler protagonist who depends on viewer interaction to help him do everything from walking to dancing. ‘We wanted to tap into the parental impulses we notice young children have towards their younger siblings, dolls and stuffed animals,’ Selig explains. ‘The idea was to create a series where the preschooler feels a sense of ownership of and responsibility for the main character.’
A Go Baby pilot should be completed by the end of this summer, and Selig has confirmed that presale negotiations are underway with ITV.
On its own, Little Airplane has created more than 50 shorts for Playhouse Disney and Sesame Street since launching in 1999, and it’s currently wrapping a pilot for Nick Jr. called Power Pets. The photo-montage mini-opera stars a young guinea pig, a baby turtle and a duckling who live in a preschool classroom. In the 11-minute pilot, set for delivery this month, the trio works together to rescue a penguin trapped on an iceberg.