Freaky Frankenbike Patrol
Premise: While the market abounds with pitches that are chock-a-block with high-tech gadgets and gizmos, the team behind this original concept is going back to an old-school symbol of kid independence: the bike. Freaky Frankenbike Patrol centers around a gang of middle-schoolers who fight suburban boredom by tricking out their trusty two-wheelers, ducking a crew of teen toughs who troll the streets in a ’70s-era airbrushed van, and exploring a mysterious network of underground tunnels snaking beneath the neat-as-a-pin town above.
A hyperactive latch-key kid named Joey is the leader of the Freaks, and his need for speed sometimes gets him in trouble with local law enforcement. In one ep, Joey is collared by Officer Testosteroni for racing off without his helmet and sentenced to community service at the town’s animal shelter. While doing time, Joey bonds with another rebellious outsider – a ferret who’s been mistakenly caged with the dogs. He decides to let the furry misfit out for a run, but it takes off on a tiny bike stashed in its cage, and Joey has to hunt the critter down before the shelter catches wind of the break-out. Searching for the ferret in the tunnels leads Joey to an underground hangout for lost pets, and he must convince its denizens to follow his bike back up to the surface and reunite with their loving owners.
Creator Dave Skwarczek first pitched Freaky Frankenbike Patrol to PorchLight SVP of animation Fred Schaefer at KidScreen Summit 2006, and the project was quickly put into development when Jetix made an offer for it right after MIPCOM that same year. Programming SVP Marc Buhaj says Jetix was drawn to the physically active nature of the show’s central theme, and also the storytelling scope derived from its dual positioning as both a character-driven ensemble comedy and an action-adventure vehicle. And with Andy Rheingold (head writer on Skunk-Fu! and Codename: Kids Next Door) attached to the project, FFP’s scripts should more than deliver on expectations.
Co-producers: Chicago, Illinois-based Eat Your Lunch, L.A.’s PorchLight Entertainment and Jetix Europe
Style: Mostly Flash-animated, with some elements rendered in CGI and then output to Flash. The
painterly design work on FFP comes from
California graphic artist Michael Fleming; this is
his first animated series project.
Format: 52 x 11 minutes
Demo: kids eight to 12
Budget: roughly US$250,000 per half hour
Financing needs: One more co-pro partner and international presales.
Status: A short animation test is done (check it out at http://eatyourlunch.com/stuff/frankenbike2.html), and scripting is well underway.
Delivery: late 2009 or early 2010
Badly Drawn Roy
Premise: Turning its regular MO of putting real kids into animated shows upside-down, JAM Media is expanding a dryly funny 22-minute short film it made purely for kicks in 2006 into a full-fledged series. The original one-off mockumentary about an animated boy born into a live-action world (viewable online at www.jammedia.ie/badlydrawnroy) is currently racking up a lot of awards on the film festival circuit. And when it was accidentally entered into the MIPCOM Junior screenings last year, the unanticipated interest it drew from broadcasters convinced JAM to expand the story to carry a series of eps all based around the theme of what it’s like to be different.
Creating more scope for narrative, the studio’s in-house writers have moved Roy to a new town, opening the door to a whole new community of people just waiting to be astonished by his animated qualities. Although Roy usually tries to fit in with the crowd, it’s his sub-conscious reactions and innate behavior that give him away. No one else turns blue when they’re sad, for example, or shoots steam from their ears after eating spicy food. In one story that’s under construction, a rich and cantankerous distant relative of Roy’s is dying, and he can’t seem to conceal the dollar signs that insensitively eclipse his eyeballs when he thinks about his impending inheritance. Roy’s family begs him to show actual grief at the funeral, but he overdoes it in true cartoon style and floods the chapel with a veritable tsunami of tears.
Producer: JAM Media out of Dublin, Ireland
Style: Each ep will be shot and edited in HD live action first, imitating the handheld style of documentary filmmaking. Then hand-drawn 2-D animation elements will be dropped in later using digital compositing techniques.
Format: 15 x 26 minutes
Demo: kids eight to 12 and family
Budget: US$5.7 million
Financing needs: A commissioning broadcaster, and then presales and distribution advances to top up to 100%. JAM expects to be able to tap into Irish funding bodies and tax incentives to raise 25% of the budget.
Status: In development. A pilot script and some animation tests are in the works.
Delivery: December 2009
Premise: A triple-threat boasting gorgeous design work, a talented comedy script-writing team and a premise that’s tailor-made for gaming extensions, the latest toon from Robotboy creator Jan Van Rijsselberge seems poised for big things. And the partners are confident enough in its potential that they’ve already sent the project into production.
Questers is set in a medieval world that’s fallen under the evil rule of the Duke of Prunes, who seized control of the throne after shrinking the queen-in-waiting down to a mere nine inches with a magic spell. A trio of kids team up with a chivalrous but haplessly inept knight to ferry the mini-monarch to the Land of Gnarly, where they hope the Crystal of Gawain will reverse the curse and restore her height. But their only guide is an enchanted book they filched from Prunes, and the adventurers spend most eps deciphering its codes, maps and riddles – and saving Sir Roderick from himself – as they move one step at a time closer to their destination.
The show is described as a cross between Lord of the Rings and Scooby-Doo because its comedy and epic adventure elements are pretty evenly weighted. In ‘Nevercross Bridge,’ the Great Book of Magic leads the band of travelers to an ominous bridge that’s littered with some very life-like wooden statues. Turns out Prunes has cursed the passageway, and the statues are the petrified remains of folks who’ve failed to outwit a pair of brainiac beavers guarding the bridge. One by one, the questers try to come up with an unanswerable question to stymy the critters, and one by one, they are woodified. And then finally, William, Sir Roderick’s clever young page, comes up with a stumper that breaks the curse and brings the statues back to life.
Co-producers: Paris-based Alphanim, Mondo TV France (a subsidiary of Italian company Mondo TV) and the European Broadcasting Union
Style: 2-D animation
Format: 52 x 11 minutes
Demo: kids six to 12, with a core target of eight to 10
Budget: US$10.6 million
Financing needs: EBU broadcasters already on-board include France 3, Rai (Italy), RTP (Portugal), RTBF (Belgium), TSR (Switzerland), NOS (the Netherlands) and VRT (Belgium). The partners will be catching up with the rest of the EBU’s member channels at MIPCOM and at the next EBU Youth Group meeting later on this month to try and bring them in on the project. There is also still room for a pan-regional network to get involved.
Status: A first storyboard is done, and additional scripts are being hammered out by a team of writers working under story editor Peter Saisselin (Zombie Hotel). Britain’s David Ingham (The Secret Show) and Richie Conroy (Norman Normal) are just two wordsmiths contributing to the group effort.
Delivery: end of 2008
My Neighbour is an Evil Genius
Premise: This espionage-led action-adventure toon was the winning concept to come out of an internal film competition Cosgrove held in early ’07 to encourage team creativity. Model animator Steve Boot is the mastermind behind the show, which centers around Kirk Carter and a rather sinister boy who moves in next door. As it turns out, Viktor Strange is an evil genius bent on world domination, and he spends his time inventing minions like laser-shooting robots and modified vampire vegetables to help him achieve it. Kirk is wise to his neighbor’s endgame, and with the rest of the town hoodwinked into thinking Viktor is a sweet, innocent boy, it’s up to him to stop the madness any way he can.
Producer: London, England’s Cosgrove Hall Films
Style: Earmarked for production in Toon Boom Harmony, Cosgrove MD Anthony Utley describes this show as 2½-D because it will take advantage of the software’s multi-planing and focus-shifting capabilities to deliver a style that’s not entirely flat.
Format: 52 x 10 minutes
Demo: seven to 11
Budget: about US$8.1 million
Financing needs: Cosgrove is hoping to lock in a co-producer at MIPCOM and will be talking to Corus-owned Nelvana first since the two companies have worked together in the past on Roger to the Rescue and since the Canuck studio has experience producing in Toon Boom Harmony. If Nelvana comes in and brings a Canadian broadcaster and funding with it, then the plan is to go after presales and distribution advances. Utley thinks pan-regional networks like Jetix and Cartoon Network may be interested in the show, as well as CBBC in the UK.
Status: Still in very early development, and this is by design. Utley wants to leave room for a logical co-production work split, and he also anticipates any partner Cosgrove picks up for the project to help shape the concept to suit their territorial sensibilities. The goal is to bring a one-minute animatic to MIPCOM.
Delivery: fall 2009
Toby’s Toy Circus
Premise: Although there’s not a lot to see on this project yet (stop-frame’s high cost prohibits much testing in development), its charming, well-crafted premise and stories deliver the kind of gentle warmth preschool buyers go nuts for. The namesake star of the show is a shy seven-year-old who transforms into a circus Ringmaster when he touches a button on his magical carousel nightlight. But this isn’t any ordinary circus – the performers are Toby’s toys, which come to life and band together to put on a Big Top extravaganza at the end of every episode. There’s toy robot Thor, the resident strongman; Giddy the painted horse, who takes a break from the round-about tedium of the carousel to perform as a trick horse; and Jango the wind-up one-man band, who jazzes up the acts with music.
Episodes usually center around a challenge that threatens to prevent the show from going on, like when Jango loses his wind-up key and fears that he won’t have enough juice to perform. Panic abounds until Jango and Toby step in and show the toys that anyone with a little rhythm and imagination can make music.
To wrap his head around the concept, Target’s director of children’s and family programming, Oliver Ellis, went into two UK schools that run weekly circus classes, bringing in actual circus performers to teach kids acrobatics, juggling, tightrope-walking, etc. The teachers gushed about how empowering the experience was for the children involved, and when literacy rates in one of the classes was measured by researchers at the University of Exeter, it was discovered that reading comprehension and writing skills in the circus class were 80% better than a control group of kids not taking part in the special curriculum. Looking to spread the experience beyond schools, the website for Toby’s Toy Circus will feature video tutorials teaching circus tricks.
Co-producers: London, England’s Target Entertainment and Komixx Entertainment, a new company headed up by former Ealing Animation creative director Richard Randolph, ex-Cosgrove Hall art director Bridget Appleby and writer Andy Yerkes.
Style: stop-frame animation
Format: 52 x 10 minutes
Budget: US$150,000 per episode
Financing needs: The partners are hoping to secure a UK commission to put an animation test into production, and then the plan is to top up with presales.
Status: A bible, one script penned by Yerkes (best-known for his work on Bear in the Big Blue House and Pocoyo) and several story outlines are in the can. Target is planning to commission another script out-of-house to try another writer’s voice in the mix.
Delivery: late 2009
Premise: Want to see what can happen when a Korean-American co-production hits the right groove? Look no further than The 7Cs, a stunning new CGI entry whose cinematic animation quality will knock you out. And with hotshop Man of Action (coming straight off of doing Ben 10 with Cartoon Network) running development on the project, this one should have what it takes to travel internationally.
When young Will Gamble accidentally awakens an ancient enchanted sword that leads him to a majestic tall ship buried in his backyard, his life turns upside-down. In the blink of an eye, he and his sister Cece find themselves embroiled in a seafaring adventure in the Bermuda Triangle, where a crack in the space-time continuum has been trapping everything from pillaging pirates and WWII flying aces, to robotic marauders from Mars and dinosaurs. Will recruits a motley crew of the Triangle’s strange inhabitants and attempts to find a way out.
The 7Cs is also being developed for simultaneous production as a feature film, so assets and workload can be amortized between the two projects.
Producer: Seoul, Korea-based SAMG Animation, co-developed with L.A.’s Man of Action Studios (the creative shop behind Cartoon Network’s Ben 10)
Style: high-end CGI
Format: 26 x half hours
Demo: kids seven to 12
Budget: US$375,000 to
US$400,000 per ep
Financing needs: SAMG’s top priority is to partner with a co-producing broadcaster in the US, and the plan is to run pre- and post-production out of the States, while the Korean studio shoulders the production work. The company has mined private and government production funds in order to bring more financing to the table and hopefully retain Asian rights. All other territories are up for grabs. A couple of proposals are under review, but no deals have been signed yet.
Status: The project will be well-represented in MIPCOM pitches by a solid bible, a glossy booklet showcasing the basic concept, characters and art, a 22-minute script and a 2.5-minute trailer.
Delivery: fall 2009