UpNext – What’s developing in kids production

Eric Rohmann's prize-winning Rabbit and
April 1, 2007

Eric Rohmann’s prize-winning Rabbit and

Mouse play eureka with Nelvana

Armed with a couple of 2003 Caldecott Gold Medal-winning book characters, Nelvana is hoping to teach preschoolers to approach problems more creatively with its latest project My Friend Rabbit. The 26 x half-hour toon stars Mouse and Rabbit, Eric Rohmann’s celebrated literary duo, who indulge their curiosity about absolutely everything and get into comical predicaments as a result.

Each half-hour episode is made up of two 11-minute stories that always start with novice postal workers Rabbit and Mouse picking up a delivery at the post office. It’s a new object every time, and this framing kicks off the ‘what-for’ conjecture that sees them dream up crazy uses for each gadget before they figure out what its actual purpose is.

For example, a stand-up bicycle pump intended for Tip the Squirrel (who needs it to blow up her inner tube so she can swim in the waterhole without getting her hair wet) is imagined to be a pogo stick (but it doesn’t bounce), then a height-measuring device (but the handle keeps sliding down on the folks being measured) and even an elaborate drinking straw (but it blows rather than sucks). By logical deduction, Mouse and Rabbit eventually cotton on to what it’s supposed to do, and then they use it to inflate Boola the Hippo until he levitates and has to burp his way back down to Earth. Capping each story off is a 45- to 60-second interstitial called ‘The Big Picture,’ which features real kids coming up with even wackier uses for the thing at hand.

Featuring a 2-D animation style that stays true to the book’s linocut images with heavy black outlines and uncluttered backgrounds, the show doesn’t rely on a lot of dialogue; instead, visual humor à la vintage Looney Tunes keeps the plot ticking along, with lots of music and sound effects to entertain the ear. My Friend Rabbit was in pre-production at press time, and Nelvana was just finishing off scripts and assembling a crew in preparation for heading into production. The plan calls for the show (budgeted at roughly US$250,000 to $300,000 per half hour) to debut as part of Qubo’s NBC Saturday morning block in fall 2007, before rolling out in Canada on Treehouse TV in ’08.

Amberwood’s Rollbots picks up speed

After a year and a half of careful development with Canadian kidcaster YTV, Amberwood Animation’s CGI action-adventure series Rollbots is about to spin into production to make it to air by fall 2008. With a hefty budget of US$10 million for 26 half hours, Rollbots is about a race of round robots who have arms and legs that retract into their otherwise perfectly spherical bodies. They live harmoniously in Flip City, which features an intricate network of rollercoaster-like tracks for getting around, and a trade-based tribal hierarchy for getting things done.

Series hero Spin is an orphan struggling to find his place amongst the community’s 11 tribes. He hangs around the periphery of the CopBots’ world of law enforcement, and these tough and grizzled crime-fighters take him under their wing as a rookie because he’s the fastest robot in the city and a high-rolling daredevil to boot. Spin tags along while the CopBots work to keep the peace, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s organized crime afoot. A spooky SpiderBot called Vertex is on a mission to locate and pilfer 12 mysterious artefacts, and as is revealed over the course of season one, Spin’s roots and destiny are all tied up in this over-arching storyline.

Rollbots targets kids six to 11, with a primary focus on 10-year-old boys. The series is based on an original concept dreamed up by Michael Mulligan, who used to work at the Ottawa, Canada-based post house that polished up Amberwood’s Hose Houndz preschool toon before he moved to Victoria, Canada to concentrate on building his web programming business. Scripts are in the works under the guiding hand of story editor Vito Viscomi, whose animation credits include Studio B’s Being Ian and Yakkity Yak. Amberwood is in discussions with pan-European nets and US broadcasters for presales, and the project’s toyetic nature has also led to early talks with toycos.

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