UpNext – What’s developing in kids production

Sesame's little Twiddlebugs hope to
February 1, 2007

Sesame’s little Twiddlebugs hope to

make a big impression with preschoolers

Looking to spin out another hit show from its Sesame Street juggernaut, Sesame Workshop is working on a short series based on the little insect family living in Bert and Ernie’s flower box. The Twiddlebugs are set to make the leap from puppet to CGI characters in a 52 x three-minute series that takes viewers on an educational trip through their wee buggy eyes.

In each short, the family grapples with a new problem, like Papa Thomas getting stumped one morning by the riddle ‘What’s long and fuzzy, eats leaves, and has lots of legs?’ As they ponder their dad’s conundrum, little Timmy and Tessie head outside and see a caterpillar for the first time. They initially think it’s a cat, but that diagnosis is debunked when the creature won’t play with a piece of string. The family consults a magazine and finally realizes their new friend Kat is actually a caterpillar ready to blossom into a butterfly.

Like all things Sesame, Twiddlebugs will hinge on a well-defined preschool curriculum, this one focused on critical thinking, problem-solving, predicting, planning and guessing from clues. Budgeted at roughly US$2 million, the series is pegged for delivery in September 2008, and the Workshop team is currently fielding co-pro and presale offers from North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

Animalia teaches kids the ABCs of action-adventure

Based on an illustrated alphabet book written by Aussie author Graeme Base in ’86, Animalia is about to leap off the page and onto the small screen in an adaption from L.A.’s PorchLight Entertainment and Australia’s Burberry Productions. But with a target demo of six- to nine-year-olds, this series goes way beyond teaching the alphabet to explore the farthest reaches of the animal kingdom, where humans don’t exactly rule the roost.

When two kids walk through a dimensional portal in the library, they must quickly learn their place in the wild. In the first ep, they almost become alligator food when a large green gorilla named G’bubu sweeps them into the Animalia library. It’s here that they find a large but unstable Core, which helps the animals communicate. The kids work with its keeper, Livingstone the Lion, to fix it using modern technology, and he’s so impressed that he asks them to stay and solve more problems.

There are 40 half-hour episodes to this CGI show, which is budgeted at US$18.5 million. And it’s scheduled to debut on presale partners PBS, BBC, CBC and Australia’s Network Ten and Nick Australia in Q3 2007.

Sea Princesses shores up a deal in Australia

In what may be one of the most far-flung co-production arrangements in recent kids entertainment history, Southern Star (based in Sydney, Australia), Neptuno Films (Barcelona, Spain) and Flama Films (Sao Paulo, Brazil) are working together on a book-based concept for girls four to seven. Sea Princesses stars three daughters of underwater kings, whose penchant for naughtiness sometimes gets them into trouble. In one of the show’s 12-minute eps, Ester and Polvina are running late for school, and the only way they can think of to get there before the bell is by riding an untamed seahorse. But the wild ride ends in a collision with Turtle King, who loses his crown. So the girls end up being late anyway because they have to stop and help him comb the ocean floor for it, a search that’s made trickier by a mess of lures cast by a land-lubbin’ fisherman.

With a target date of Q3 2007, Sea Princesses has been presold to Seven Network in Australia, and the international partners are courting broadcasters in their regions. The 52-ep Flash-animated series is budgeted at about US$270,000 per half hour, and consulting on the project is Brazilian author Fabio Yabu, who wrote the book series it stems from.

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