Hoping to expand the reach of sweet-smelling property Strawberry Shortcake into more international markets, L.A.-based DIC Entertainment is working on a localizable live-action format that will be ready for MIPCOM in October.
The project builds on an initiative that DIC’s Latin-American licensing agent EXIM pioneered 20 years ago, when the first wave of toys was heating up in the region. ‘The brand’s staying power has lasted a lot longer in Latin America than in any other region, possibly because the live-action series introduced a different way to relate to the characters,’ says DIC president Brad Brooks. EXIM revisited the show concept last year, funding and creating 36 new half hours, which were pitched to broadcasters at MIPTV.
To infuse the concept with the customizable elements and framing it’ll need to play around the world, DIC and Canadian co-pro partner Collideascope are investing in new scripts, CGI highlights and exclusive songs, bringing the budget up to between US$80,000 and US$120,000 per half hour. Scripts and storyboards are being laid out now, and the format will be filmed and edited over the summer in time for a late 2005 delivery.
Leslie Nelson, managing director of European operations and head of international sales, says she’s in advanced discussions with a Canadian broadcaster and has pitched the live-action concept to the territories where the animated series is airing, including the U.K. and France. She’s also angling to find a home for the format in Japan, a territory that has yet to embrace the Strawberry brand. Although Japan is known for its anime, Brooks says some Asian regions only go for live-action series that can fit into a variety show format.
Strawberry Shortcake untooned is also ideal for smaller-market broadcasters with little money to spend on building or renting sets and filming. These buyers have the option of simply picking up the Canadian or Latin American version of the live-actioner and dubbing the scripts. So far, channels in Indonesia (Pt. Duta Visual), Turkey (Saran) and the Middle East (New Boy) have picked up EXIM’s version.
Nelson says the Canadian format may recruit its cast through a talent contest. Although the marketing plan that such a sweepstakes would necessitate has yet to be hammered out, Nelson thinks this kind of initiative could help build buzz for the show in territories that pick up the format.