London, England-based animation house blue-zoo has managed to stake out a little dry land in the midst of the choppy seas of children’s toon production. 2006 has been a breakthrough year. The company’s first series Those Scurvy Rascals garnered a spot on Nick UK, brought home a boatload of British Animation Awards and landed a distribution/merch deal with Jakers! IP owner Entara.
The show is based on a simple and slightly bizarre premise that seems to have worked with kids. Pirates Jolly Roger, Smelly Pete, Sharkbait and parrot Polly set out to find the one thing they desire most-pants! The three-and-a-half-minute episodes feature the CGI pirates trekking the globe in search of underwear, fuelled by a lot of slapstick bumbling and sight gags.
‘It’s not extremely gruesome, but it’s energetic,’ says blue-zoo co-founder Adam Shaw, summing up the series’ appeal.
A full 26-episode season is currently in the works for a October launch on ABC Australia. Shaw adds that its non-verbal and non-specific cultural content should make Rascals a good fit for international markets, as well as mobile and on-line platforms.
blue-zoo has come a long way since its creation in 2000 by four graduates of Bournemouth University’s National Centre for Computer Animation. The team, including Shaw and partners Oliver Hyatt, Tom Box and Nic Sims, got its feet wet animating a series of two-minute shorts for the BBC called Blue Cows. The company then parlayed that experience into service work for Disney, Sky, Cartoon Network and British Airways.
So when the opportunity came to produce Rascals from concept to completion, Shaw dug deep into his early influences to help set the tone. ‘Chuck Jones, Warner Bros., we went back to the basics and then kind of took it a little further,’ Shaw says.
With the Rascals as its steady tailwind, blue-zoo has grown into a 24-employee-strong outfit. Four series are in various stages of development at the prodco right now, including a 3-D half-hour action/comedy being developed with Cartoon Network UK, an in-house short-form production called Sturm and Drang aimed at the six to nine set, and CleverClogs – a preschool series that explores the life of a family of inventors.
Managing the growth of the company has had its challenges, but don’t expect blue-zoo to drop anchor just yet. ‘We’d love to do a movie…would love to do longer form,’ says Shaw. ‘We are going to keep pushing and see where we can go from here.’ GR