Wish Films makes TV dream come true
for picturebook scribe Mick Inkpen’s prize pig
Since breaking out of the Entertainment Rights machine and re-establishing their indie status under the Wish Films moniker 18 months ago, UK producers Will Brenton and Iain Lauchlan have been busily lining their pipeline with preschool projects. And with a CBBC commission secured, it looks like the first to get off the ground will be Wibbly Pig, a charming 2-D animated show for the two to four set based on a picture book series penned by UK children’s author Mick Inkpen.
The pig-starring literary franchise boasts 10 titles from publisher Hodder Children’s Books and has moved roughly two million copies in its home territory. This isn’t the first time Inkpen’s work has been optioned for screen adaptation. In fact, HIT Entertainment continues to benefit from its decision to send Kipper into production in the late ’90s. Given the scribe’s notoriety in Brit entertainment circles, Brenton was quite surprised to find that the rights to Wibbly hadn’t been snapped up. ‘We had a couple of good-chance meetings, and were lucky with our timing,’ he says.
Wish plans to stick quite closely to the style and narrative nature of the books, which trigger a lot of interaction by virtue of the fact that Wibbly poses questions directly to his pint-sized readers. Series episodes will feature an off-camera child’s voice talking to Wibbly, who will answer facing the camera head-on so kids at home feel he’s chatting with them. Although Inkpen tackled some of the scripts for Kipper himself, Brenton and Lauchlan will manage that part of Wibbly’s development, once they’ve agreed on a general approach with the author.
In terms of format, Wish is working on a 9.5-minute episode length for the Beeb, as well as shooting 30-second interstitials designed to bulk the core stories up to the 10-minute international standard. The Borehamwood, England-based studio’s plan is to churn out 52 of these ep-plus-short packages by spring 2009 for between US$5.5 million and US$6 million.
Stories will be split into three camps, the bulk of which will infuse domestic routines that every preschooler can relate to, such as getting dressed or having a bath, with plenty of clowning-around humor (i.e. Wibbly becomes tangled up in his clothes, or loses his bath toys in the suds). The lineup will be rounded out with between 10 and 13 eps that focus on Wibbly’s dreams and imagined adventures, and 10 that center around his porcine friends.
To make sure the project stays on track creatively through development and production, Wish is hoping to bring on just one co-pro partner and then shore up the financing with presales. Brenton says his team is talking to companies in Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Wales to find this essential partner, which he expects will shoulder the animation work. ‘We see ourselves as a boutique production company,’ says Brenton, ‘so one of the challenges we’ve got is to raise financing without giving everything away. We don’t want to become a service provider for everybody else’s long-term potential gain.’