IS it becoming de riguer for all-animation nets to dabble in live action? Having watched Cartoon Network get into the game with its first live-action MOW Re-Animated, the success of which laid the groundwork for a live-action Ben 10 movie that aired on CN this past fall, Teletoon Canada is following suit.
The channel has teamed up with Toronto-based studio Fresh TV to turn the prodco’s hit 2-D toon 6Teen into a 75-minute live-action movie that could air as soon as Fall 2009. Currently in production on season four of the animated sitcom about mall culture, Fresh is concurrently developing a script for the flick and will look to start casting it later on this year. Seed money from Teletoon and a grant from the Canadian Television Fund are fuelling the project.
It’s early days yet in the writing process, but the key challenge, of course, is to write a story that raises the stakes from a typical series episode. ‘In the show, the characters have mini-transformations every episode, but they always land in the same spot,’ says Fresh TV executive producer and writer Tom McGillis. ‘In the movie, they have to start as one thing and change into something else. That begs the question, ‘Are we writing a prequel to the series or transforming the series into something completely different that the live-action characters will become?”
As the team gets to work on this crucial bit of identity construction, McGillis and 6Teen co-creator, Jennifer Pertsch, will be scouring North America in search of young Canadian actors who embody the physical traits and essence of the animated characters to help bring the concept to life on screen.
In the meantime, Fresh is also working on a heavy production slate of new animation for Teletoon’s upcoming schedule, with 26 eps of Total Drama Island sequel Total Drama Action and a one-hour TDI special due to air this fall. The channel is also prepping animated dramedy Stoked, another character-driven sitcom about five teen surfers.
Creating programming that satisfies the hard-to-please tween demo has become something of a specialty at Fresh. ‘One thing we really like about the company is its writing,’ says Teletoon’s director of programming, Caroline Tyre. ‘Fresh scripts are fun, intelligent and smart. They’re not slapstick or physical comedies, which are for younger kids. They really know how to nail an older skew.’
McGillis attributes getting in with the 12-year-old target by paying close attention to their world. Besides regular home and school visits, he and his team watch everything kids watch on TV, read teen mags and make a point of listening to teen conversation on the subway. Fresh also recently partnered with Toronto-based youth marketing firm Youthography for some more formal research into the market segment.