Premise: The latest project to come out of AG’s two-year-old property incubation offshoot is all about wish fulfillment, and it certainly delivers on the theme from a graphic standpoint. This gorgeous preschool concept was inspired by the art of Japanese silk screening, and its unique fusion of a watercolor palette and crisp, simple character designs makes it stand out from the crowd. Maryoku Yummy, which translates loosely as ‘magical delicacy,’ began life five years ago as a short-lived social expressions line that only ended up yielding one greeting card. But it refused to go quietly into the night, especially when AG CEO Jeff White developed a soft spot for the property and kept pushing internally for further development in other media.
Initially, Maryoku centered around elements of magic, but this approach gave way to the creation of a universe where kids’ wishes are nurtured until they’re ready to be granted. Watching over these fledgling wishes, which take living shape in the underground world of Nozomu, is a group of magical creatures called the Yummy. But wish-sitting isn’t easy – especially for novices Maryoku, Hadagi and Fij Fij, who are at the heart of the show’s storylines. In one episode, Hadagi develops a special bond with one of her charges and panics when the wish starts showing signs of being ready for fulfillment. Instead of helping the wish be granted, she hides it in Nozomu’s many nooks and crannies, and it’s up to Maryoku, an especially gentle and gifted Yummy, to help Hadagi learn to let go of her wishlings.
In addition to developing the animated series with The Hatchery, AGP’s SVP of creative studios, Jeffrey Conrad, has written and illustrated a Maryoku book that Random House will publish in spring 2008. And although the company hasn’t signed any licensing deals beyond this initial category yet, the consumer products team is actively negotiating with potential partners working in apparel, accessories, fancy goods and toys (with a focus on plush). The show’s graphic appeal should attract a secondary tween girl fanbase to the merch program.
Co-producers: Cleveland, Ohio-based American
Greetings Properties and The Hatchery in L.A.
Style: 2-D animation
Format: 52 x 11 minutes (can also be packaged as
26 x half hours)
Demo: Three to five, with a secondary target of tween girls
Budget: Roughly US$350,000 per half hour
Status: Aiming to go into production towards the
end of 2007. The partners are close to locking in a
co-producing broadcast partner, and scripts are being hammered out by writing team Jill Gorey and Barbara Herndon (whose credits include Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys and Sitting Ducks).
Delivery: Fall 2008
A Kind of Magic
Premise: Spotting an opportunity in the sparsely supplied market for animated prime-time sitcoms, Paris-based studio Xilam has conjured up this charming concept about a down-on-its-luck family of misfit fairytale characters who emigrate to the real world in search of a better life.
The show’s protagonist is Tom, who’s small, but not small enough to get into the record books like Tom Thumb. With no magical powers to speak of, Tom has learned to use his street smarts to get by, which qualifies him to help his more challenged family members acclimate to the disenchanted lifestyle they’re trying to embrace. Take his sister Cindy, for example, who has to get used to personally doing chores now that she can’t summon her fairy godmother anymore. And his mum Willow is a good-hearted fairy who has trouble keeping her penchant for ‘fixing’ people’s problems with spells under control. Then there’s Gregore, the 500-pound patriarch of the clan whose ogre-sized physique limits his employment options to brute strength and security jobs that aren’t a good match for his gentle, artistic nature. With such an exaggerated culture shock set-up to play with, there’s no end to the fish-out-of-water scenarios the show’s comedy-driven storylines can tap into, and through it all, Tom works overtime to minimize the havoc his magical family unintentionally wreaks in the real world.
Producer: Paris, France-based Xilam Animation
Style: 2-D Flash animation
Format: 26 x half hours
Demo: Six to 11, and family
Budget: Roughly US$350,000 per half hour
Status: In pre-production. Financing is almost
complete, with Disney France and France 3 on board. At press time, Xilam was in the midst of
locking in an Australian broadcaster and a
pan-regional deal, with an eye to sending the
project into production this month.
Delivery: Fall 2007
Pat & Stan
Premise: These veteran hosts of TF1′s kids block are graduating from the confines of more than 340 gag-driven IDs and interstitials into a much longer format, with storylines that explore a rich habitat and a wider cast of secondary characters. Each episode will start with a small problem that escalates quickly into a much bigger one, before getting resolved in an unexpected way in the end. For example, Pat’s annual bath day rolls around, and he absolutely refuses to get into the tub. So Stan and the rest of his friends come up with elaborately inventive ways to spring a surprise washing on him. But each time, he moves at the last second, and Emily the Mole ends up getting doused instead. Finally, the skies open up and hurl down a good old-fashioned rainstorm that cleans the stubborn hippo up nicely.
Co-producers: Munich, Germany’s TV-Loonland, French broadcaster TF1 and Paris, France-based Mac Guff Ligne (which has produced all of Pat & Stan’s material to date, including a 22-minute special that picked up a 37.9 share of kids four to 10 when it aired on TF1 last fall).
Format: 39 x seven minutes
Demo: Six to nine, and family
Budget: Roughly US$5 million
Status: Going into pre-production. The bible was
introduced to broadcasters at KidScreen Summit, and the project has since piqued interest in the US, Germany and the UK. Buyers are drawn to the project’s longevity, as well as the fact that TV-L has acquired distribution rights to the IDs, interstitials and special, and is selling them together with the series as a brand-building package. The driving creative force behind the characters, Pierre Coffin, is
working closely with TV-L and Mac Guff on every aspect
of the series’ development.
Delivery: Between Q1 and Q3 2008
Premise: The brainchild of Spanish writer Eladio Ballester, who also did the scripts for Danny and Daddy, The Gloops is about a family of aliens on their way to Earth. These space travelers have long since transcended from speech to mind-reading, and their communication takes place in thought bubbles. Since intergalactic travel can take some time, they while it away playing simple guessing games designed to teach them about life on the planet they’re going to. For example, a ‘meow’ might ring out in the UFO, and each family member tries to produce the image of the creature that makes that sound in their thought bubble. Same goes for a siren and a bark. Once they’ve guessed all the noises, the images come together in a funny, incongruous vignette (i.e. the cat chases the ambulance, which chases the dog).
Neptuno’s director of international operations, Roberto Mitrani, says he’s been fielding a lot of interest from broadcasters aiming for toddlers with very short shows that repeat the same simple learning structure every time. The Gloops delivers on these needs, and its CGI animation style allows the characters to move more slowly, making it easier for a toddler to keep up with the on-screen action and jibing with the concept’s anti-gravity setting.
Producer: Neptuno Films, based in Barcelona, Spain
Format: 104 x three minutes
Demo: Two to four
Budget: Right now, it sits at US$140,000 to US$150,000 per half hour, but that range may come down a bit. The cost is low because repetition is high – the series centers around the same few backgrounds and characters throughout – and because it doesn’t contain any dialogue.
Status: At least 50% of the financing will be raised in Spain, and Neptuno is looking to secure presales in France, Germany, Italy and Canada. Once deals in two of these territories are signed, the project will head into full production.
Delivery: The plan is to deliver the first 52 eps in spring 2008 and finish off the balance by year’s end.
The Mr. Men Show
Premise: Roger Hargreaves’ classic Mr. Men and Little Miss characters have got an army of devoted fans in the parent/grandparent bracket, so this redux should have no trouble making the acquaintance of today’s kids. But the coolest aspect of the project is undoubtedly its dynamic structure. Staying true to the sketch comedy genre it plays in, each episode is a mash-up of five longer-form sketches between one and five minutes long, four 10-second silent shorts in the vein of Charlie Chaplin, and a voiceover intro à la Little Britain. The way they’re delivered, broadcasters will be able to use these 300-plus sketches across any platform they choose (be it on-air promos, broadband, mobile phones) to seed the market for the show and keep buzz up once it’s airing. Customization at its finest!
Episodes are themed around a broad concept, so a ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ show, for example, might open on Mr. Scatterbrain’s first day as an air traffic controller, with a quickie interstitial in which Miss Daredevil buzzes his control tower, followed by a longer sketch about Mr. Grumpy’s disastrous and short-lived career as a flight attendant, rolling into another short about…well, you get the picture.
The show also stands out in the preschool market with its staunch commitment to comedy over curriculum. The yuks all hinge on physical gaffes, with an emphasis on incongruity, and exec producer Kurt Mueller says the ‘Mr. Noodle’ segments on Elmo’s World exemplify this formula. But he expects Mr. Men, with its almost limitless animated canvas, will be able to push the boundaries of absurdity even further.
Producer: London, England’s Chorion
Style: 2-D Flash animation in a classic UPA style
Format: 15 x 11 minutes
Demo: Upper end of preschool, roughly four to seven
Budget: US$275,000 to US$300,000 per half hour
Status: In production, with a co-production deal in the final stages at press time.
Delivery: Starting in Q1 2008
I Was a Teenage Dinosaur (working title)
Premise: Having spent the past couple of years grinding out girls content (Trollz, Horseland, Cake, Dance Revolution) to feed into the Secret Slumber Party CBS block it co-owns with KOL, DIC is switching gears with this decidedly boy-skewing action-adventure romp. With a design that’s influenced by comic books, the show is based around five teens who stumble into the middle of a major lab accident involving primordial goop that empowers them with the ability to morph into dinosaurs at will…well, sort of. Actually, they don’t have that much control over the transformation process to begin with, which is where the toon’s comedy elements come in. Every time a teen emotion bubbles up to the surface, so does a pesky reptilian feature. So getting through a date without scaling up before the goodnight kiss is a skill the characters still have to learn.
At the same time, a dangerous prehistoric reptile posing as a wealthy businessman (I’m looking at Donald Trump in a whole new way these days) is on a mission to accelerate global warming and bring back the Mezozoic era so dinosaurs can rule again. The only thing standing in his way are the show’s five stars, led by their wise paleontology teacher.
Producer: Burbank, California-based DIC Entertainment
Style: 2-D animation with some CGI enhancements
Format: 26 x half hours
Demo: Six to 12, drilling down to a core eight to 12 fanbase
Budget: US$250,000 per half hour
Status: In development, with international presales on the MIPTV priority list. This show will be fast-tracked through production to make it to air in the fall, and it is slated to debut in KOL’s Secret Slumber Party block on CBS.
Delivery: Fall 2007
My Big Big Friend
Premise: According to a 2004 study conducted by psychologists at the University of Oregon, 65% of kids up to age seven have spent time with an imaginary friend, and they’re usually aspirational entities kids would like to emulate in real life. In sync with this insight, Breakthrough has come up with a series concept about a group of imaginary friends who help their kid buddies work on developing parts of their personalities.
Shy little Yuri, the toon’s protagonist, is pretty lonely until the arrival of Golias, an enormous blue elephant who comes to life when Yuri draws his picture on his bedroom wall. With bravado as oversized as his girth, Golias teaches Yuri to work past some of the fears that hold him back from doing the adventurous things he’s always wanted to do. Yuri shares the secret with his friends Doris (who’s a bit rude and bossy sometimes) and Matt (who gets tongue-tied talking to people), and before long, there’s a kind, sensitive giraffe and a chatty kangaroo on the scene, too.
Producer: Toronto, Canada-based
Style: 2-D animation
Format: 78 x seven minutes
Demo: Four to six
Budget: US$300,000 per half hour
Status: Early development
Delivery: Fall 2008
With files from Emily Claire Afan (firstname.lastname@example.org)