What’s Developing in Kids Production

Carefree Capers pairs unique crayon style with stories penned by a working French clown
May 1, 2008

Carefree Capers pairs unique crayon style with stories penned by a working French clown

Professional clowns are skilled at observing minute details in life and then exaggerating them for comic effect, which makes French children’s performing clown Catherine Le Guen the perfect narrative guide for Paris-based Sansoucis Productions’ new preschool series Carefree Capers. Each episode of the 26 x five-minute project focuses on a zany little event that spices up the life of one of its 10 farmyard animal stars.

Recent retiree Archibald the horse, for example, is out for a leisurely stroll through the meadow with Harriet the cow one day when he notices something is not quite right with his vision. He spies a beautiful daisy and leans in to take a sniff, but when he does, the single bloom magically turns into two right before his eyes. And when Archibald turns to Harriet for help, he finds her standing with a mysterious doppelganger who seems to have appeared out of nowhere. The puzzled horse trots off to consult with barnyard brainiac Paulette the hen, who quickly discerns the problem and plunks a pair of eyeglasses down on Archibald’s snout, putting an end to his double vision forever.

Le Guen’s charming stories are strengthened by a crayon-like visual style created by award-winning French illustrator Caroline Desnoëttes, whose children’s books are published in France, the US, Japan and China. Desnoëttes drew the characters and settings by hand before they were rendered in Flash, and a special software was developed in-house at Sanscoucis to give the animals a rounded look as if they are in relief. A child’s voice narrates the stories, and the voiceover scripts incorporate whimsical rhymes set against a background of simple melodies with a bossa nova rhythm that’s punctuated by live barnyard recordings.

Julie Fox, who represents the property through her company Awol Animation, says the first 13 eps have been delivered in French, and the second 13 will roll out this summer, along with an English translation of the first 13. Presales for the first season, which is budgeted at roughly US$4.6 million, include French broadcaster Canal+, Disney Channel Japan and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel. Fox is in the market for co-pro partners for top-up financing and hopes to eventually complete a full 104 episodes. She is also in negotiations to secure a publishing partner to roll out a book program in tandem with the series.

Orsum Island builds towards fall delivery

Pineapple Squared Entertainment has combined live-action cinematography with CGI characters in its first adventure/comedy series for seven- to 12-year-old boys, The Adventures of Orsum Island. Helmed by David Mitton, David Lane and Michele Fabian-Jones, industry colleagues who have worked together for 20 years, the London-based company has spent the last two years developing a proprietary pipeline and software plug-ins that marry the motion-capture technology used to create the characters with live-action footage in a high-def format.

Gearing up for a fall 2008 delivery, Pineapple now has two complete episodes, four in various stages of production, 13 scripts written, and a plan for the full 26-ep run to be in the can by mid-2009. Now that the production process has been refined and a base of CGI assets established, the team is able to pump out an episode in 3.5 weeks, and the cost of production is pegged to come down from the US$450,000 to US$550,000 per-ep average the first six installments have come in at. Fabian-Jones expects that pricetag to drop by half for the second six eps, and then decrease again by a third for the remainder of the series.

The show is set on a lush, fantasy island and centers around a shipwrecked teen named Kobi who becomes embroiled in a battle between good and evil forces that are vying for control of the land. Along the way, he buddies up with the daughter of Master Ming, leader of the good dynasty. And upping the comedy quotient in every stand-alone ep are two reptilian characters, Monty and Fidget, who serve as the show’s straight-man and clown double act.

To build the Orsum brand and drum up excitement for its TV debut, Pineapple has launched a free interactive online game. Promoted in UK-based teen magazines, the site gets 13,000 unique hits per month and offers prizes such as laptop computers loaded with episodes to gamers who compete to collect points on the site. Fabian-Jones says Pineapple is giving out limited branded products that won’t compete with a licensing and merchandising program that it’s planning with Toronto, Canada-based licensing partner G2.

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