Up Next: What’s developing in kids production

Spellbound's Koala Brothers say g'day to their first Christmas special
October 1, 2005

Spellbound’s Koala Brothers say g’day to their first Christmas special

To extend its signature property and create opportunities for themed merch and extra airtime around the holidays, London, England’s Spellbound Entertainment is working on a one-hour Koala Brothers Christmas special that will be ready for delivery in November.

When their little penguin friend Penny gets injured, Frank and Buster bundle up and make the trek north to Antarctica to bring her back to Australia. But the timing of their return trip gets fouled up and they can’t see the house in the dark – let alone the landing strip. Luckily, the brothers’ quick-thinking wombat pal Ned remembers at that moment to turn on the outdoor Christmas lights, creating a beacon that guides the weary travelers back home safely in time for the holiday festivities.

A slew of broadcasters have already signed on to air this US$600,000 preschool special, including the BBC, Playhouse Disney in the U.S., Germany’s Super RTL, Discovery Kids Latin America, TV2 Norway, TV2 Denmark, ABC Australia, Sweden’s TV4 and TVO and the Knowledge Network in Canada.

Wilbur moooves preschoolers into reading

Have you ever heard of the livestock literarti? Meet Wilbur, an eight-year-old calf who loves reading so much that he entertains his barnyard buddies by recounting his favorite stories. The force of Wilbur’s imagination is so strong during these impromptu recitals that he’s able to transform his farm environs – and sometimes even his friends – to illustrate whatever tale he’s telling. For example, in one episode, Romeo the Rooster becomes the lead character in a fable about a crazy clucker who refuses to eat anything but popcorn. Romeo is so inspired by the chicken’s decision at the end of the story to start trying new things that he himself resolves to take a new chance every day.

A co-pro involving Mercury Filmworks, Chilco Productions and EKA Distribution out of Vancouver, Canada, as well as Discovery Kids and the CBC, Wilbur is budgeted at roughly US$5 million. The 26 x half-hour series will be rendered using a mish-mash of techniques, including 2-D animation for the storybooks and Shadowmation (which merges puppetry and CGI animation) for the characters and backgrounds. The CBC’s international sales division will be looking to shore up presales in Australia, the U.S., France, Italy and the U.K. at MIPCOM, and the show is expected to bow in October 2006.

The Devil meets his match in Jimmy Two Shoes

Apparently, even God’s track record is marred by the odd logistical foul-up – like when über goodie-goodie Jimmy arrives at the Pearly Gates and gets redirected to Hell by mistake. But Jimmy’s indefatigable good cheer and optimism prove to be the ultimate weapon against the Devil, so the snafu actually ends up helping good triumph over evil, if in a roundabout way.

Episodes center around Lucifer’s attempts to crush Jimmy’s happy-go-lucky spirit through nasty pranks. In one show, for example, Jimmy develops a crush on Heloise, a seemingly sweet girl-next-door type who has an evil, murderous side (she is in Hell, after all). And the Devil eagerly sets the pair up in hopes that the relationship will crash and burn, leaving Jimmy miserable and wallowing in depression. But Heloise ends up warming to her date’s kindness, and it works out all right for them in the end.

This Canuck co-pro from Breakthrough Entertainment and Teletoon targets 10- to 12-year-olds with slightly more sophisticated and ironic story lines. At US$4.2 million, the 26 x 11-minute series is in early development for a Q2 2007 delivery.

High-concept kidlit series Amos Daragon jumps from the page onto the small screen

In boys action news this month, Montreal, Canada’s Spectra Animation and Galaxy 7 out of Paris have teamed up to work on a high-octane mixed animation series for late 2007. Amos Daragon is based on a series of books by Bryan Perro that has sold 500,000 copies in 18 countries (including Japan, Germany and France) since rolling out in 2003.

The concept is set in a mythical world and centers around a patient 12-year-old whose pure heart is put to the test when he sets out on a quest with other do-gooders to help the less fortunate. In one episode, a young necromancer’s premonition leads the group to a once-vibrant village that has recently been deserted by its yak-farming inhabitants. When Amos and his crew finally find the villagers, they’re being held captive by Loki, the god of chaos and disorder. He and his evil henchman are trying to mutate the yaks’ genetics and bring back an extinct race of Ice Cyclops to serve in their army. Amos and his friends enlist the powers of earth, wind, fire and water to fight off the evil spirit and free his prisoners.

This 2-D/CGI series consists of 26 half hours and is targeted squarely at boys eight to 12. Spectra is currently shopping the US$8-million project around to U.S. broadcasters.

Korean trio makes over a popular Asian drama series

In Seoul, Korea, three companies have gotten together to make a 2-D animated kids version of a popular live-action historical drama called Dae Jang Guem (Jewel in the Palace). The adult-targeted series has aired in most Asian territories, and its season finale helped Korea’s MBC score a peak rating of 57% earlier this year. Based on these numbers, the pubnet decided to commission a younger-skewing revamp from 2-D animation studio Heewon and 30-year-old toyco Sonokong.

In Janggeum’s Dream, Jang is a young culinary apprentice trying to rise through the ranks and become the palace’s head chef during the Choshun Dynasty. But on her way to compete in an important cooking contest, Jang witnesses an assassination attempt on the king’s life. The would-be murderers escape, but not before vowing to return and kill both the king and Jang. As any of you who have tried to make a soufflé know, cooking requires intense and undivided attention, and the last thing Jang needs as she vies for top chef status is a death threat to worry about. Luckily, a royal bodyguard is always around to protect her from harm – leading to some kick-ass fight scenes that should keep boy viewers glued to the set.

The 26 x half-hour series is budgeted at US$3.9 million and will be ready for delivery in December 2005. Seoul-based distribution company Helinix will be taking it around to the same Asian broadcasters that aired the original live-action drama, and Sonokong is working on a soft goods merch program that should be in place by the end of this month.

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