A chance encounter between Cartoon Network Europe director of animation Daniel Lennard’s mom and graphic novelist Jamie Smart’s sister at an art show last year turned out to be an incredible stroke of luck for the London, England-based freelance artist. Smart had attracted a devoted fanbase with his two-year-old graphic book series Bear, but he always craved a spotlight on the small screen. And so he used the art show entrée to land two show concepts onto Cartoon’s development slate.
At the storyboard stage in preparation for cutting a three-minute trailer later this year, Bunny vs. Monkey is a Flash toon about two adorable pets who duke it out to control the forest when their owners are away from home. In its initial form, the pitch was simply about two animals that fought incessantly. ‘I watched TV all the time, but I didn’t know you needed a motivation for characters,’ admits Smart. With a little redirect from Lennard, Bunny vs. Monkey went back to the drawing board for some more layering and character development.
Smart is really grateful for Cartoon’s guidance and patience as he gets his feet wet in the art of creating for TV. ‘I was really worried they would just buy the ideas and give them to someone who knew what they were doing,’ he says. ‘But fortunately, they had a little bit of faith in me and were keen to have me involved.’
Smart’s currently working with the Cartoon creative team and hired-gun scriptwriters to hammer out story lines for Mnooji, a high-concept toon Lennard believes could be an international hit. The series focuses on a gizmo that makes toys come alive and develop souls. The show’s protagonist dedicates himself to protecting these fledgling creatures and helping them find their place in the world, but an evil little girl is working against him to keep the living toys all to herself.
Back in Smart’s native medium, Bear is keeping him plenty busy. Created in the style of Tim Burton and intended for the Hot Topic set, the property centers on a teddy bear’s daily struggles to survive the attentions of a conniving pet cat. The quarterly graphic novels have picked up enough steam that SLG’s Monkey Fun Toys is developing a T-shirt and toy line based on the characters for a June rollout.