It might be hard to believe, but one of the hottest pitches to hit last year’s MIPTV was hastily hatched a mere six weeks before the event. Adam Shaheen, founder of Toronto, Canada’s Cuppa Coffee Animation, decided his catalogue needed something other than traditional half-hour series, and that’s how playful monkey Bruno was born.
Starring in a 50 x one-minute interstitial series, the 2-D animated primate discovers and plays with colors, learns to count, and explores the parameters of physical movement. One segment sees him bouncing three different colored balls, while in another, he learns to skip rope with two crocodiles. Brian Cant, a mainstay of British children’s television, narrates each episode.
Despite the general consensus that broadcasters aren’t ‘into interstitials,’ word-of-mouth about Bruno spread so quickly in Cannes that Shaheen estimates he and his colleagues met with more than 55 buyers on the first day alone. ‘We were almost hospitalized – we had no inkling that Bruno was going to be that popular,’ he says.
A few months after MIP, Cuppa Coffee locked in an 80-country deal with Nickelodeon (which started airing the shorts earlier this month), airtime on Israel’s Baby TV, and a TV and merchandising deal with Japan’s OLC Entertainment.
The immediate success of the Bruno interstitials has motivated Cuppa to build the concept into a full-length series, which Shaheen will start pitching at MIPTV in March. Structured more like a variety show, the series’ 26 half-hour episodes will highlight a basic running theme peppered with learning points. Guest characters from the shorts – including blue bunnies and purple penguins – will be fleshed out in the series, which is budgeted at US$275,000 per ep and scheduled for delivery in January 2006.
Meanwhile, a slow and steady rollout of Bruno consumer products is planned for later this year. Shaheen held onto ancillary rights in every territory except Japan, and he’s in discussions now with top-tier home entertainment distributors and manufacturers covering categories including bags and apparel.