Up Next – What’s Developing in Kids Production

BRB develops Papawa on the back of decades-old comedy troupe's stylings
October 1, 2007

BRB develops Papawa on the back of decades-old comedy troupe’s stylings

On the brink of celebrating its 35th anniversary, Madrid, Spain’s BRB Internacional is producing an animated concept that has connections to well-known Iberian physical comedy troupe, Tricicle. The comical mishaps and characters that make up the fibre of Papawa are reminiscent of classic toon sitcoms Tom & Jerry and The Pink Panther.

Geared to kids six to 10, this HD cut-out toon is set on a reverse Fantasy Island, where visitors from all walks of life come for some much-needed relaxation. But the quirky native inhabitants, 15 monster-like creatures that each possess a unique ability (Wiwi is elastic and can stretch beyond human norms, and hyperactive Aka-Aka can actually come apart and then reassemble himself), also have a knack for turning holiday dreams into nightmares. Each of the series’ 104 seven-minute eps center around a different island visitor, ranging from banal everymen like policemen and bankers, to fantastical beings such as vampires and aliens.

In one story, a disillusioned superhero tired of helping people all the time steals away to the island paradise in search of a little me-time, only to be pestered incessantly by the Papawians, who insist on putting his superpowers to the test all day long. Like Tricicle’s act, the islanders don’t speak in comprehensible dialogue; however, they have their own peculiar language that involves repeating words the vacationers say in a weird Hawaiian-sounding dialect.

Working with co-pro partners Screen 21, Televisio de Catalunya and French production studio 2 Minutes, BRB has completed three episodes and plans to wrap production this year. To bring in the 30% to 40% still needed on the US$5.8-million series, the partners are looking to lock in international presales at MIPCOM.

Shaftesbury cops plea on new live-action comedy High Court

With hit tween dramedy Life with Derek into its 4th season and airing in 15 territories around the world, Toronto, Canada’s Shaftesbury Films is looking to make the formula work again on High Court, a developing live-actioner about in-school justice. And given that Derek’s Canadian broadcaster Family Channel is on-board to air the new show, history already seems to be repeating itself.

Inspired by an article profiling a real-life student court, co-creators Jeff Biederman, Jeffrey Alan Schechter and Jeff King began scripting this tween comedy about a fictional one at Harrison High that hears cases concerning petty school issues such as dress code violations and allegations of cheating. Of course, the action often spills out beyond the courtroom and into the personal lives of several ninth-grade students. ‘One of our inspirations was Night Court,’ says Suzanne French, VP of children’s and family at Shaftesbury. ‘It’s more about their lives and what’s going on with them behind the scenes.’

The series centers around Josh ‘Coop’ Cooper, a smooth-talking teen who serves as the court’s defense attorney. Other regulars include Josh’s younger sister, a teen prosecutor, a judge and bailiff team, and an easy-going music teacher who oversees the proceedings. French says the teacher role was written in after initial audience tests revealed that kids were wary of a wholly teen-run judiciary system that could fall prey to misdirection and abuse of power.

Shaftesbury has a 10-minute demo cued up that explains the concept and showcases the cast, and the studio’s writing team is hard at work on scripts that will go into prep in December to shoot in January. The budget for the first 13 half-hour episodes is US$4.3 million, and the company has inked a presale with ABC Family in the US.

Lifeboat Luke charts new Irish co-pro course

It’s appropriate that the makers of Lifeboat Luke, a show about a plucky little lifeboat trying to stay afloat in choppy waters off the coast of Ireland, are navigating some uncharted territory of their own – namely setting up the first commercial animation shop in Northern Ireland. But taking the trailblazing one step further, veteran producers Alastair McIlwain and Richard Morss who both worked at Banjax and co-founded Pepper’s Ghost, are aiming to balance funding and production between the two Irish nations.

The pair have financed the lion’s share of this 52 x five-minute CGI series, which rings in at US$2.6 million, through a combination of private investment and funds from the Northern Ireland Screen Commission, the Irish Film Board and the Broadcast Commission of Ireland. Based in Holyhead County in Northern Ireland, the project-dedicated company LTL Production is shouldering scripts, design, boards, animatics and scene prep, before handing the baton to Dublin’s Kavaleer Productions to complete the CGI animation and London’s Monster Distributes to run international sales.

The show is the rebirth of a 2-D animated preschool concept that McIlwain originally drew up back in the early ’90s and then shelved when he got waylaid by other commercial work. Now, some 15 years later, picking up the thread of the project again has meant starting from scratch with CGI style and a faster-paced script to meet the needs of an older four- to seven-year-old target.

The story itself is packed with action as Luke and his friends in the magical seaside town of Donaghdoo steer their way out of comical mishaps and adventures. The show is currently in production, with 13 episodes available now, another 13 slated for completion by year’s end, and 26 more in the pipeline for April 2008. So far, orders have come in from Irish broadcaster RTE and US HD channel Animania.

Music label eschews dialogue for sounds and tunes in toddler toon Uki

After dipping its toe in the children’s entertainment industry with a successful kids music compilation, Belgium record company ARS Entertainment – responsible for the ubiquitous ’90s dance hit ‘Pump Up the Jam’ – is jumping all the way in with a new CGI preschool series that debuted at Cartoon Forum last month. Backed by Belgian TV channel CGTM, Uki is a co-pro with New Canaan, Connecticut-based design company Top Floor out of the US and Belgium’s Creative Conspiracy (creator of CGI preschool show The Klumpies).

Aimed at young preschoolers ages two to three, the show’s spritely insect-like star explores his outdoor world with the same eagerness and amazement of a toddler, waving and winking at viewers to make them feel like they’re part of the adventure. Secondary characters including woodland creatures and the sun and moon help Uki navigate the new world without impeding his full-throttle mission of discovery.

Keeping the focus on the action, Uki doesn’t have any dialogue – the characters make distinct sounds, though, and a soundtrack melody plays each time they appear. Each five-minute ep features a two-minute story, beefed up by games, puzzles and bumper animation. The initial blueprint calls for 26 shorts, although that order could be bumped up to 52 if broadcast interest is strong enough.

M6 sponsored the project at Cartoon Forum, and ARS needs to raise another 50% in financing to get the US$1.7-million CGI series into production.

9 Story leads with time traveling father-son duo

What kid wouldn’t love to find out what their parents were like when they were kids? Not many, hopes Toronto, Canada-based 9 Story Entertainment, which is bringing animated action-comedy Bash Boyz, about a 16-year-old boy’s adventures with his 13-year-father, to MIPCOM in search of presales and co-pro partners.

The unlikely age difference between the two protagonists is the result of a UN-sponsored time-traveling mission to save the world from power-hungry tycoon Zack Lomax in the year 2055. The send-off, however, goes awry and sends 16-year-old Rick Bash back in time instead of his scientist father, Doctor T.J. Bash. Rick ends up stranded in the bygone era of his dad’s pubescence and befriends Zack Lomax as a teenager. Now, to change the path of history, father and son must contend with young Lomax before he grows up and starts building his evil empire. Along the way, Rick balks at taking orders from his younger whiz-kid dad, making for some great character dynamic-driven comedy.

9 Story will debut a two-minute promo reel of the 26 x 30-minute show, budgeted at roughly US$350,000 an episode, at MIPCOM. The studio hopes to send Bash Boyz into production in the spring, aiming for a fall 2009 delivery.

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