When rumors began circulating that a live-action Batman TV revamp was going to resurface with the original actors from the ’60s show, the very thought sent freelance animator Steven Daye into a creative spin. And with the help of Nelvana’s FunPak project, many of the hilarious situations he imagined the aging crime-fighter landing in morphed into an interstitial series called The Manly Bee.
The 2-D toon concept centers around a 92-year-old retired superhero who was such a skilled crime-fighter in his heyday that he drove virtually every villain out of Seaside City. But 50 years later, evil mastermind Doc Zombie has come out of hiding and is trying to reclaim his former infamy. Each episode looks at how the nearly blind and often forgetful Manly Bee keeps this baddie in check, while still finding time to squeeze in his afternoon naps.
Nelvana picked the concept up in 2003 after putting out an open call for pitches to all of its employees. The initiative yielded more than 200 ideas, and the studio zeroed in on 10, which were developed and rendered as five x five-minuters. All of them aired on Canadian kidnet YTV over 13 weeks last spring, and then viewers were invited to vote on-line for the one they liked the best. Manly Bee was the hands-down crowd favorite, and Nelvana is now looking into handling international distribution for the property.
The short series also scored big last fall at the Nicktoons Film Festival, where animation mogul Butch Hartman, creator of The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom, took an instant shine to Daye and hired him to work on storyboards for his two hit shows. And based on that connection, Nickelodeon also signed him up to work on a new preschool series that’s in development to air on Nick Jr. in Q3 2006.
Working out of his home office in Peterborough, Canada (Editor’s note: Also my hometown, this friendly little burg is an hour and a half Northeast of Toronto), Daye now has three animated comedies in pre-development, and he plans to start shopping all of them around to producers and networks in the near future. Two of the pitches are for kids seven to 12, and just like The Manly Bee, they’re inspired by the old-fashioned ‘wild and zany’ cartoons that Daye himself used to watch as a kid.