Having made its mark in the production industry with work on high-profile animated series such as Peep in the Big Wide World and Skyland, Toronto, Canada’s 9 Story Entertainment is heading deep into the wilderness with its first-ever foray into live-action programming. Think of Science Channel’s Survivorman, add kids, and you have the basic concept behind the 13 x half-hour series that marks the studio’s first step into the reality realm.
‘We figure we can logically extend our brand into live action, provided that it’s character-driven,’ says 9 Story CEO Vince Commisso, adding that the company’s need for growth could not have been met by increased animation output because of the genre’s escalating costs. ‘If we plan on doing more animated shows, I think we start to get into diminishing returns,’ he says. ‘And we want to keep our quality at a certain level.’
Enter the more cost-effective avenue of reality TV and a partnership with Les Stroud, survival specialist and well-known TV personality. Stroud has agreed to be the on-air host, and while it’s still too early to pin down all the details, Survivorman: Kids Edition will pit teams of three to six kids ages 13 to 15 against each other in competitions that put their survival skills and instincts to the test. You can expect 9 Story to make good use of Canada’s vast wilderness as it plots its location-shooting strategy.
The kids reality genre has taken a beating in the press lately, with controversy flaring up over child labor issues and on-set conditions during production on CBS’s Kid Nation. But Commisso says Survivorman: Kids Edition is built on the premise of kids being guided through nature’s challenges, not being sacrificed to them. ‘We want to create a sense of skill based on teamwork,’ he says. ‘Obviously, the kids will be supervised and never put in any peril.’
Admittedly, live action is a little harder to export than animation, but Commisso believes the project will attract buyers based on the strength and originality of the concept. 9 Story is bringing Survivorman: Kids Edition to MIPCOM in hopes of raising financing and keeping the project on track for delivery by September 2009. And the Cannes-bound team is aiming to load their suitcases with two or three other new live-action concepts as well.