IN time for her 25th anniversary as a publishing property, Angelina Ballerina is getting a large-scale creative makeover that HIT Entertainment hopes will endear her to girls who wouldn’t know a jetée if it kicked them in the face. Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps will bow in fall 2009 on co-producing broadcasters PBS Kids (as 40 x half hours) and Nick Jr. UK (as 80 x 12 minutes), featuring a new three-dimensional CGI aesthetic and an editorial conceit that’s designed to take the sprightly mouse way beyond the world of ballet that’s always been her comfort zone.
HIT’s EVP of production and programming, Lenora Hume, explains that Angelina is transferring to a performing arts school so that she can study a wider variety of dance genres, including modern, tap, jazz, classic and cultural specialties such as flamenco and African. At the Camembert Academy, eight-year-old Angelina has to adjust to being away from home and make a whole new set of friends – experiences that will likely resonate for many kid viewers who’ve faced the same challenges.
The revamp project is in the early stages of being scripted, and the HIT team is working closely with author Katharine Holabird and illustrator Helen Craig to stay true to the original ethos of the books they created 25 years ago.
Visually, executive producer Karen Barnes explains that working in CGI will allow HIT’s production partners at SD Entertainment to animate more dance moves because the 3-D characters can turn 360 degrees. To make sure it strikes the right note of authenticity, HIT has brought in representatives from the American Ballet Theater, a long-time promotional partner on the property, as production consultants to review all of the show’s movements and ensure that they are not only accurate, but also age-appropriate so kids will be able to replicate the characters’ steps at home.
Hume expects the two series to co-exist in the market as an upstairs and downstairs version of Angelina, and she says several broadcasters HIT has pitched expressed interest in running both the 39 x 15-minute 2-D animated classic episodes and new CGI series side by side.
Once the show has had some time to build its audience, HIT plans to roll out an extensive licensing and merchandising program in 2010 that will take the property beyond its specialty retail and publishing roots into the mass market. At press time, the company had begun to talk to potential partners about its plan to lead with extended publishing and home entertainment programs in Q4 2009, building towards the launch of toys (including plush), figurines and games & puzzles, and then social expressions and apparel later on.
To keep interest in the property aflame while HIT readies the new TV vehicle, Holabird and Craig are embarking on a national book tour later this year that will distribute Angelina-themed activity kits and coloring sheets at each stop, as well as raffling off Angelina DVDs. The Angelina book series from Penguin Young Readers Group currently includes 60 titles in 18 languages, and a 25th anniversary commemorative edition will roll out this fall.