UpNext-What’s developing in kids production

October 1, 2006


A lot can happen to an owl in 60 seconds.

The Germany-based TV-Loonland and Parisian Studio Hari’s co-pro The Owl takes its cue from Looney Tunes’ Wile E. Coyote. The 52 x one minute CGI dialogue-free series shows its wide-eyed title character enduring an unending string of hilarious mishaps.

In a sleek and vibrant digital environment, each episode opens with the bird minding his own business on his perch. In the pilot ep, the pink protagonist eyes a colorful caterpillar climbing up said tree. The owl coyly watches the furry intruder before attempting to eat it, only to lose the ensuing struggle – and an ear. Things go from bad to worse when a section of the tree comes loose and flattens the feathered creature like a pancake. The physical humor is aiming to strike the funny bone of a broad demo, including core kids and their parents.

TV-L and Hari are betting the one-minute format makes The Owl ideal for cross-platform distribution, but the pair will also have traditional terrestrial broadcasters in its crosshairs at MIPCOM. The producers are fielding early interest from broadcasters in Italy and South Africa, but first want to nail down a French broadcaster in order to fully secure the US$509,000 budget for the entire series. If all goes according to plan, the one minute eps should be delivered by June 2007.

Intergalactic instant messenger

When a message has to be delivered with lightning speed to the far corners of the galaxy, the name Rocket Boy should come to mind.

The concept for Rocket Boy and Toro came from South Korea-based prodco Imagestone and was acquired by U.K. post-production house The Village before eventually finding a home with London’s Cosgrove Hall, which has put the 52 x 11 minute 2-D animated series into development.

The young teen rocket-headed hero and his sheep sidekick Toro are the flat-out fastest forces in the galaxy that lies 1,000-million light years from earth. But, with great speed comes great responsibility. Rocket Boy along with his friends – wiseman Grandpa Sat, possible girlfriend Chrystella, and Vector, a free-spirited inventor – must do battle with the evil Dr. Square and his not-so-loyal sidekick Trash.

In one episode entitled ‘Baby Blues’, Trash deposits a fake baby equipped with a tracking device on Chrystella’s doorstep. Rocket Boy and Chrystella take to parenting the faux infant before a collision between faithful Toro and the ‘baby’ reveals the evil plot. In the end, Dr. Square’s dreams of capturing the quick courier are foiled, yet again.

The US$6-million action-comedy series is targeting the five to eight set and should be ready by the middle of 2008. The BBC is already onboard, but Cosgrove also has its eyes on foreign markets and is actively seeking out international broadcast deals.

Prehistoric fantasy unbound

Based on a famous French comic books published throughout the 1970s, Rahan from Paris-based Xilam is an action-adventure fantasy series that tells the tale of a courageous prehistoric teenage warrior who desires to bring peace to a fractured land.

Aimed at boys seven to 12 years old, the 2-D animated show will be spiced up with some CGI effects. Featuring wizards, sorceresses, and ancient Queens, Xilam’s hoping to capitalize on the continued popularity of the fantasy genre as well as the original comic book’s established fan base.

In the pilot episode, the title character is being followed by a hairy creature that steals his supplies. Upon being captured, the creature – Ursus – says he is really the spirit of a cave bear trapped inside a ridiculous-looking furry figure. Ursus comes off as quite the annoying chatterbox at first, but ends up endearing himself to Rahan. The newly matched odd couple then meets up with Thetya, a blind Neanderthal woman who has amazing powers and no need for their protection. In fact, she rescues Rahan when the chief of a rival clan attempts to steal his cherished ivory cutlass.

Budgeted at US$9.1 million, Xilam has deals with France 3 and Rai in Italy and is in serious discussions with a German broadcaster for the first 26 half hours. The target delivery date is the beginning of 2008.

Girl and fire-breathing friend

Ping and Pong is Novel Entertainment’s new 26 x 11-minute preschool series starring four-year-old Ping and her fire-breathing best bud Pong. Traditional 2-D animated sequences are set against CGI backgrounds to showcase the grandeur of the island setting. Ping lives with her mother and grandfather and is often led into adventure by her trusty red ball, Bounce. The series aims to use simple storytelling to explore age-appropriate concepts.

In the ep entitled ‘Remember,’ Ping is playing on the beach with her friend when a dolphin finds a bottle in the sea. She opens the bottle to find a song, a picture of a young girl and a stone from the Island of Many Pebbles. After discussing the items with her friends, Ping decides to place three of her own things in a bottle and cast it into the sea. Throughout the episode the concept of memory and identity are investigated with a child’s sensibility.

U.K.-based Novel’s been in discussions with possible partners, but no deals have been inked as of yet to help secure the US$3 million budget. Armed with a short trailer, Novel will be shopping Ping and Pong around Cannes with the aim of landing enough presales to start production. If all goes well, eps could be ready by Fall 2007.

Hip-hop hippo

The director of the Disney animated-classic The Lion King has turned his attention to TV with the new Flash animated series The Adventures of Hippo-T Hopp.

Famed director Rob Minkoff and his L.A.-based Cinemation production company hatched the concept, and Germany-based RDF Television has partnered up to produce the 52 x 11-minute series.

The concept revolves around a highly successful hip hop star, Hippo-T Hopp and chronicles his climb to international stardom and celebrity, focusing on his battle with his arch nemesis Ton Def, a less successful rapping toad.

In one episode, the rapping hippo and his posse perform in the West Indies and discover a map to the Lost Treasure of Bling Bling. Unfortunatly, rival Ton Def finds the map too and beats our hero to the bounty. But, little does Ton Def know that the treasure is guarded by stone statues that come to life. The statues, like just about everyone else, prefer Hippo-T Hopp’s music and let him grab the sought-after bling.

Targeted at boys and girls six to 12 years old, the series will rely on the heavy use of original music and sly pop culture references in an attempt to lure this savvy audience. Budgeted at US$10-million for the entire series, producers are looking to woo major international broadcasters as well as hatch a full multi-media and merchandising program. The tales of the rapping hippo should be delivered by spring 2008.

What about now?

Canadian children’s TV specialists Sinking Ship Productions has partnered up with fellow Canadian Cellar Door Productions and Washington, D.C.-based National Geographic Kids’ Entertainment to produce a global adventure show aimed at preschoolers ages three to six.

Are We There Yet? is a title that will ring familiar to any parent who has ever taken a road trip with their kids, and this show will go one better than the car trip and take viewers on global adventures. Focusing on seven-year-old Molly and her five-year-old brother Sam, the live-action reality-based 39 x 7-minute show will feature a different exotic locale every third episode. In the first three eps, Molly and Sam are in Mexico where their first order of business is to interact with sea cows and dolphins. After that they learn how to play an ancient Mayan sport, and in the final episode shot in the Central American country they attend a street festival and gleefully destroy a piñata.

The show will stress the values of inclusiveness and cultural awareness and producers have already struck a deal with Canadian kids net Treehouse TV. However, international distributor Nat Geo is not stopping there and believes the nature of the show makes it a good candidate for international sales. The series is budgeted at US$1.7 mllion and is expected to bow in March 2007 .

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at


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