Nicktoons looking for more action-adventure fare
Nick’s State-side digital channel Nicktoons has inked its first long-form presale deal for multimedia, sci-fi/action-adventure series Skyland. In production at Millimages’ movie studio Method Films and Toronto, Canada’s 9story Animation, the 26 x half-hour show combines 2-D, 3-D and stop-motion animation and is set for a Q3 2005 delivery to Nicktoons, France 2, CiTV and Canada’s Teletoon.
Nicktoons VP and GM Keith Dawkins says Skyland’s unswerving focus on action and its sophisticated style and tone should make it stand out on the diginet, which is dominated by Nick’s silliest and most slapstick-reliant shows, including Catdog, Angry Beavers and SpongeBob SquarePants. Dawkins suggests that he may be looking for more high-octane series to diversify Nicktoons’ schedule, but denies rumors that the channel will become an exclusive outlet for action-adventure programming.
Madeline Levesque, director of original production at Canada’s Teletoon, says she will likely add Skyland to her fall 2005 peak-viewing schedule, which will start two hours earlier next year to run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sesame Workshop repositions its flagship show for Japan
The Workshop has partnered with a consortium of Japanese companies to adapt Sesame Street for Japanese preschool audiences. Made up of TV Tokyo’s broadband arm TX-BB, Odyssey Communications, licensing company WE’VE and advertising agencies Nikkeisha and ADK, Sesame Street Partners Japan will finance production, secure broadcast deals and manage Sesame Street consumer products rights in the region.
Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell says the American version of Sesame Street aired on Japan’s NHK for three decades, but it was mostly watched by teenage girls looking to brush up on their English. He says the new 52 x half-hour series, debuting on TV Tokyo this October, will build on the indigenous Sesame Street content while fostering local issues including space, diversity and, of course, the English language.
In other parts of the world, Bangladesh Sesame Street development has begun training local puppeteers to use special Bengali muppets. Knell says he also expects to announce major co-pro partnerships with broadcasters in both India and China soon.
Doing its bit to settle global strife, the Workshop is developing a show centered on personal tolerance in Northern Ireland, as well as producing a show on respect for Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo.
Four Point’s acquisitions spree pays off
It’s been one month since L.A.-based Four Point Entertainment officially threw its hat into the animation ring by merging with England’s Newscreen Media Group, and the new and as-yet-unnamed production entity has already been awarded its first British commission. BBC and CBBC have signed on the dotted line for 26 half hours of Adventures in Duckport, a 2-D preschool series based on art brand Suzy’s Zoo. Set for a 2005 fall launch, the toon will be scripted by veteran British animator Jerry Hibbert, creative director of Hibbert Ralph Animation.
Stay tuned for catalogue sales news from this L.A. outfit, as Four Point inherited properties from NewScreen’s predecessor the Just Group, including The Jellies, Butt-Ugly Martians and Percy Fisher: Showbiz Penguin. Last year, the growing company also acquired TV veteran Cathy Malatesta’s company Lawless Productions, as well as Skouras Films, the Newstar Group and the Dove Group.
New Zealand’s Weta fires up production on Jane and the Dragon
Lord of The Rings special effects masterminds at New Zealand’s Weta Workshop will soon start working with Canadian animation specialist Nelvana on a highly artistic new series for kids six to 11 called Jane and the Dragon. Weta’s founder Richard Taylor says the 26 x half-hour series will be rendered in CGI, but will have a distinct pencil-drawn look. Based on a 20-year-old bestselling book by Kiwi author Martin Baynton about a 13-year-old medieval girl who bucks traditional gender stereotypes and aspires to be a knight, Jane will be delivered in 2005. Nelvana is courting broadcasters for the series, while Weta is scheduling Jane’s production into a slate that includes upcoming Peter Jackson film King Kong and a Hollywood treatment of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
EM.TV to manage RTV’s kids library
EM.TV & Merchandising has added renowned German animation series including Gnarfs and Roboroach to its sales catalogue through a new deal with Munich-based RTV Family Entertainment. EM.TV now exclusively reps RTV’s entire kids portfolio in international markets outside of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the U.S. and the U.K. Austria’s ORF was the first broadcaster to go through EM.TV for RTV shows, picking up Fairly OddParents, Hugo the Jungle Creature, Roboroach and Tommy & Oscar.
EM.TV has also extended an existing output deal with TPS Jeunesse, which agreed to pick up 520 half hours of new and catalogue programming to air over several years. Meanwhile, Ireland’s TG4 has re-upped its volume contract by four years, which could see the free-TV network broadcast as many as 588 half hours from EM.TV’s library.
Editor’s note: The electronic version of this article has been edited from the original print version in order to correct or clarify some information that it contained.