UpNext – What’s developing in kids production

Zigby co-pro trots towards production
May 1, 2007

Zigby co-pro trots towards production

On the heels of bringing top creative talent Avrill Stark’s studio under its umbrella as A Stark Entertainment, Aussie outfit Flying Bark Productions is focusing on making over a much-loved literary zebra for the small screen. Zigby is the lead character in a series of preschool books penned by Brian Paterson and published by HarperCollins worldwide. Outside its native territory down under, the nine-title franchise is on shelves in the UK, France, Holland, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Japan, Korea and the US, and has sold more than 750,000 copies to date.

The property has piqued a lot of TV interest over the past four years, but never seemed able to get off the ground. With co-pro partners Thunderbird Films (Vancouver, Canada) and BIG Communications (Singapore) on board, and presales to ABC Australia and Canada’s Treehouse TV locked in, Flying Bark subsidiary Greenpatch Production is now well into pre-production on the 52 x 10-minute CGI series. The goal is to deliver it by fall 2008 for US$5 million.

Series director Mark Barnard and his team have spent a year developing the characters and backgrounds, and they’ve got 15 scripts in various stages of completion. Episodes center around Zigby and his best friends McMeer the Meerkat and Bertie the Guinea Fowl, who are supported by a big cast of other eight-year-old animals. The pals live on a jungle island without adult supervision, and navigate their way around problems that crop up by banding together.

For example, when Celine the Hippo goes on holidays, Zigby offers to take care of her prize-winning garden, the jewel of which is a rare purple jungle vine. Eager to please, Zigby, McMeer and Bertie give the garden a good sprucing up, which includes sending a grub they find munching on a leaf back to the jungle. Zigby gets so absorbed in the clean-up that he accidentally overfeeds, overwaters and overexposes the purple vine, which grows out of control. He tries trimming the plant with shears, but that just makes it grow faster, and before long McMeer and Bertie find themselves tangled up in its snaky appendages. Finally, Zigby remembers the little grub, and brings him back to the garden, where the bug whistles for 100 of his friends to come and help munch the vine back down to size.

Cookie Jar visits

Busytown for new tot toon

Cookie Jar Group is going back to the character-rich well of Richard Scarry’s Busytown to cast its latest series Hurray for Huckle. Targeting inquisitive preschoolers, the 2-D animated series revolves around five kid critters who solve the puzzles of life that pop up in their cul-de-sac environs. In one ep, for example, a light bulb happens to go off when Hilda Hippo sneezes on it, and that sends her curiosity into overdrive – Why do light bulbs shine? Why do they go out? Why do they get hot? In search of answers, the wee sleuths inspect the sun through a pinhole projector, disassemble a lamp at the Fix-It Shop and check out the inner workings of a huge sky-sweeping spotlight at the local movie theater.

Hurray for Huckle’s publishing foundation is rock-solid, with more than 150 million copies of Richard Scarry’s books sold worldwide, in more than 30 different languages. That pedigree should go a long way towards attracting international presale interest. Budgeted at US$6 million, the 52 x 11-minute series (designed to air as 26 x half hours) is currently in production and scheduled to air on Canadian pubcaster the CBC this fall.

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