England’s pubcaster is a tough sell at the best of times. But with CiTV out of the commissioning picture, it’s no exaggeration to say that every preschool pitch in the international marketplace is clamoring to get through the door at the BBC right now. And this market reality makes the recent greenlight that Create Media Ventures and phuuz entertainment scored for Iconicles that much more impressive.
The 26 x 22-minute project was competing with upwards of 600 other hopefuls for CBeebies creative director Michael Carrington’s seal of approval, and according to Greg Payne, chairman and director of Foothill Entertainment (which represents Iconicles for phuuz and has been integrally involved in the development process), the tipping point that pushed the property to the front of the pack was that it provides kids with both a visual language they can use to express themselves and an online platform for doing so.
The property targets kids ages four to six and revolves around a cast of really strong iconic images of various animals, bugs and other types of critters. They all live in different parts of the digital Iconicle world (i.e. Rhino, Hippo and Elephant are denizens of the Wild, Wild Wilderness), and each group has a lead character around whom the action and stories revolve.
In terms of structure, Iconicles is a variety show, so in every episode there will be a nine-minute story (broken up into three parts), a couple of sketch comedy vignettes, an interactive game or activity and song segments. All the components revolve around an age-relevant theme like cooperation/sharing or frustration/self-control, and they’ll be woven together by a live host. Leo is the only human on Earth who knows about the Iconicle world, and he has built a special Iconi-Screen (kind of like the interactive thingie Tom Cruise used in Minority Report to track future crimes) to keep tabs on all the various creature groups.
Iconicles will also live on the web as a virtual collecting game that’s a cross between Pokémon and Neopets. The icons are at the heart of the website’s reward system, and kids can earn new ones by playing games. Then they can be grouped together to generate video stories that yield Iconicles cards (which need virtual pet-type nurturing) once they’re played. Similar interfaces for mobile phones and interactive TV platforms will give away codes that kids can then redeem for icons on the website. Besides this collection function, the online hub is designed to let kids create their own Iconicles, as well as record and share jokes, songs and stories.
Carrington plans to add the show to his fall 2008 schedule, so Create, phuuz and the BBC production team will be working full steam ahead over the summer to find a host, write the scripts and nail down the animated backgrounds and live sets. The bulk of the work needs to be done in the UK, as per the terms of the commission, so Create will take the lead on sourcing and coordinating everything. As far as rights go, BBC Worldwide has a first option on international distribution, but the subsidiary hadn’t exercised it yet at press time.