Up Next: What’s developing in kids production

Bali's big-city backdrop speaks to urban preschoolers worldwide
September 1, 2005

Bali’s big-city backdrop speaks to urban preschoolers worldwide

With both parents holding down full-time jobs, a high-rise apartment to call home and the city as his own personal playground, three-year-old Bali is enjoying a decidedly urban upbringing that’s becoming the norm for preschoolers around the globe. And his namesake 2-D animated series from Paris-based Planet Nemo Animation explores this bustling, colorful world through the eyes of its young protagonist.

In one big-city tale, Bali and his dad hit the grocery store, where he watches his father fix the shopping cart’s wonky wheel with a screwdriver. Intrigued, Bali escapes into his fertile imagination, where he saves the day for candy-loving kids everywhere by repairing a broken machine in a lollypop factory. Then Dad jolts Bali back to reality, rewarding him with a lolly of his own for being such a good and quiet boy.

The 52 x 13-minute show is based on a 15-title book series by French author Magdalena, and it has a bold color palette and distinctive graphic style. Moving away from the soft, innocuous music that’s often piped into preschool programming, Bali will feature funkier tunes by Hong Kong pop composer Dick Lee, which should encourage its two to six target demo to dance along with the show.

Status: In production, with delivery set for Q4 2005. Planet Nemo and co-pro partners Subsequence Entertainment in Montreal, Canada and Hong Kong’s Agogo International have already secured presales with France 5, Disney Channel France and three Canadian nets – Knowledge Network, Radio-Canada and TVOntario. Through its Canadian and French connections, Bali has also tapped into financing from the CNC, the Shaw Rocket Fund, Telefilm Canada and the CTF. Julie Fox’s Awol Animation is currently working towards locking in one or two more broadcasters to top up the show’s US$5.2-million budget.

Jumble Jet delivers in-flight entertainment for the next generation of world travellers

What airline do animals use to travel the world? That would be Jumble Jet’s fleet of pastel-colored planes, around which London’s Lupus Films has a created a new 2-D animated series designed to teach preschoolers about the virtues of visiting exotic places.

Each episode centers around a different passenger, following their journey from check-in to disembarkation, and learning about their final destination through live-action cutaways. In one segment, Mr. Koala boards the plane and settles in for a long overseas flight to Mexico to attend his best friend’s birthday party. After he requests a eucalyptus meal from Fifi the flight attendant, the scene shifts to shots of Mexican children wrapping presents and playing with a piñata as they get set for the fiesta. Back in the plane, a mix-up plays out when Fifi accidentally brings Mr. Koala the nice juicy T-bone she meant to deliver to Mr. Dog, who doesn’t know what to make of the pile of fragrant leaves sitting on his plate. After a few seconds of head-scratching, the kerfuffle is put right with a simple meal switch, and the journey continues.

Status: The 52 x 13-minute show is budgeted at US$6.5 million, and HIT Entertainment (the project’s sponsor at Cartoon Forum) is laying the groundwork to come in as a co-production partner. Lupus will be looking for presales in France and Germany, as well as targeting U.S. nets such as PBS and Discovery Kids, and the plan is to deliver the series in late 2007.

Euro comic book artists pool talents for Safehouse Hotel

When Sally and Simon’s parents inherit a sleepy seaside hotel from a distant relative, they’re totally unaware that it’s listed as a safe house on the website for Spies Reunited. But it doesn’t take long for the siblings to cotton on to the strange and secret lives of some of the residents. For example, it’s hard to miss the daily attempts made by two elderly guests (and sworn enemies) to liquidate each other using homemade weapons like combustible slippers and false teeth imbedded with explosives.

Although they try to remain as neutral as Sweden, Simon and Sally routinely get sucked into any number of the many espionage missions being carried out right under the noses of their oblivious parents.

In development at Calon (the new studio recently set up in Cardiff by ex-Siriol Productions managing director Robin Lyons), Safehouse Hotel is the brainchild of two comic book artists – Calon’s own in-house writer/illustrator Mike Collins and Spain’s Jose Luis Agreda. The 26 x half-hour series will be rendered in Flash for US$4 million, and it’s aimed squarely at eight- to 10-year-olds.

Status: Calon is looking for co-pro partners in France and Canada to get the show onto small screens by 2007.

The EBU helps spread roots for tree-dwelling Klumpies

On the heels of revamping its investment infrastructure and expanding its content-hunting parameters beyond kids six to 12, the European Broadcasting Union is hitting Forum ’05 with a new preschool concept in tow. Originally developed by Belgium’s Creative Conspiracy, The Klumpies is about a community of tiny creatures who live in an enormous Pipple Tree. The series’ gentle story lines revolve around four kids who are always first on the scene to solve the problems that crop up in their woodland ‘hood.

In one ep, Ella Klump builds a lifelike papier-maché pipple (the revered fruit of the Klumpies’ arboreal abode) to jazz up her poetry reading at the Great Pipple Festival. But a gang of hungry kids who mistake it for the real thing puncture its balloon center with a fork, and the resulting whoosh of air blows them into the middle of the festival. To teach them not to be so greedy, the townsfolk make the kids buy a real pipple and stand holding it for the duration of Ella’s lengthy reading.

Belgian broadcaster VRT brought the series to the EBU’s attention two years ago, and since then, the org has invested through its TV Development Fund and recruited France’s La Compagnie des Taxi-Brousse as a co-pro partner. Bob the Builder scribes Chris Trendgrove, Diane Redmond and Jimmy Hibbert are on-board as scriptwriters, and Guionne Leroy (Toy Story) is handling animation design.

Status: Development wrapped in May, and a pilot for the 52 x seven-minute CGI series is in the can. The Klumpies will be produced in HD for delivery in 2008, and the EBU is helping the producers generate presales for the US$6-million project in Europe.

BRB fuses Hindu setting with manga action and style

In Khudayana, a new action-adventure co-pro between Spain’s BRB Productions and L.A.-based Al Ovadia and Associates, all hope to save the mystical land of Magesh rests on the motorcycle racing skills of three teenagers. An evil despot has usurped the rightful ruler of the kingdom and now controls a set of magical runes that are the keys to power in Magesh. But he foolishly scatters the runes in hiding places all across the land and challenges all those aspiring to a higher political or social status to root them out in an epic motorcycle race he’s sure no one but himself can win. Enter Khuda, Sita and Chek, the latest progeny in a long line of skilled bikers, who have trained all their lives to compete in such a quest.

Status: This toon-shaded CGI series should speak to boys six to 11 when it wraps in Q1 2007. Two full seasons of 26 x half hours are planned for US$195,000 an ep, and the partners are looking for presales to top up at this point.

Editor’s note: The electronic version of this article has been edited from the original print version in order to correct or clarify some information that it contained.

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