Up Next: What’s developing in kids production

Kickback and Cuppa serve up age-right action for preschoolers in Captain Mack
October 1, 2004

Kickback and Cuppa serve up age-right action for preschoolers in Captain Mack

Delivering hero-driven action to preschoolers without bringing bad guys, combat or weapons into the mix sounds like an impossible goal. But model-animated series Captain Mack, a US$3.9-million co-pro from England’s Kickback Media and Toronto, Canada’s Cuppa Coffee Animation, does exactly that. Featuring a pacifist superhero who uses his charisma and friendliness to save his friends from peril, the 26 x 11-minute toon should land in parents’ good books for balancing thrills with pro-social messaging.

While Captain Mack is off releasing rare butterflies back into the wild in one ep, his mechanically inclined cohort Captain Kidd gets to work assembling the Grabber, a little jet engine with protractable metal hands that’s designed to ease life by fetching things. But the over-eager gadget spins out of control, taking off with things the team is using and tickling Captain Kidd mercilessly. When Captain Mack is hailed back from his naturalist outing to save the day, he quickly surmises that the Grabber is just trying to be useful and needs to be given a specific job. So the team recruits the gizmo to help fix the broken aerial on top of Sky Rocket Central.

With a U.K. broadcast deal almost sewn up at press time, the partners are aiming to deliver the series in fall 2005 or spring 2006. Kickback is targeting French, German and American partners to top up the project’s financing.

Watch out for that tree!

George, George, George of the Jungle is swinging in for another TV spin, courtesy of Vancouver Canada’s Studio B and Bullwinkle Studios (a joint-venture company run by New York’s Classic Media and Costa Mesa, California’s Jay Ward Productions). The partners are revamping the classic ’60s toon as a Flash-animated series that’s destined to debut on Canadian net Teletoon in spring 2006. Starring a brave but dim jungle man, the new George takes its inspiration from Disney’s 1997 spin-off movie starring Brendan Fraser. In one ep, George is tricked into capturing his best friend Ape by über-villain Jungle Joe, who wants the primate to entertain guests at his chain of quick-serve restaurants. When George clues in and realizes he’s been duped, he sneaks onto Joel’s private jet and performs a dazzling aeronautic rescue that’s only slightly marred by a tree crash as he and Ape parachute back down to terra firma. Studio B and Bullwinkle are hoping to nail down a few more presales to finance the US$7.8-million, 26 x half-hour series.

The Cookie Jar’s DoodleBops get set to rock the socks off tots

Montreal, Canada’s Cookie Jar redefines the holy trinity of rock for preschoolers in its latest series The DoodleBops. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll give way to fun, dance and sharing in this mixed-media show that combines Flash-animated elements with live action to help young kids appreciate music and other home-centric hobbies. In one of 13 half-hour episodes, DoodleBop Moe doesn’t understand why his bandmates love to read so much, so they compose a song about the imaginative power of books. While they sing, the band makes more costume changes than Cher to help illustrate how reading can take you away to other worlds and adventures, which are featured on a blue screen in the background. Moe seems unconvinced at the end of the performance, but when he’s late for curtain call, the band finds him curled up in the bass drum flipping through a book. Canadian public broadcaster the CBC will debut the US$4-million series as part of its preschool block in early 2005.

Young adventurers battle the elements in Serious Arctic

The third installment of the BBC’s Serious doc franchise sends eight kids to the Canadian High Arctic to research global warming and polar bear conservation. Filmed over four weeks in April, the six x half-hour series chronicles the team’s experiences trekking across frozen terrain in temperatures as low as -50? Celsius and riding out vicious snowstorms that trap them in tents for days at a time. The show is augmented by Serious Arctic Diaries, a four-pack of half-hour segments in which the young adventurers talk about their innermost fears and feelings in personal video messages. Budgeted at roughly US$125,000 per episode and created by senior BBC TV producer Marshall Corwin, Serious Arctic follows 2002′s Serious Jungle and 2003′s Serious Desert. All3Media manages the distribution rights to the series and is securing public broadcasters to air the show in January 2005. Presales have already been signed with V3 New Zealand, Disney Australia and TVB Hong Kong, and a French channel has picked up the rights to the format.

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