Pubcaster trio banks on
August 1, 2008

Pubcaster trio banks on

dirtgirlworld to green up their skeds

A three-minute ‘Speed Pitching’ session with a CBeebies buyer at KidScreen Summit was all it took to get the ball rolling on dirtgirlworld, a plucky eco-series for four- to seven-year-olds about fun in the garden. Created by Mememe Productions’ Cate McQuillen and Hewey Eustace, the concept that started out as a home-produced CD of guitar-based pop songs exploring the great outdoors has been commissioned as a multiplatform series by ABC Australia, CBeebies and the CBC, with Toronto, Canada’s Decode Entertainment on-board to co-produce.

Working with a ballpark budget of US$10 million, Hackett Films out of Sydney, Australia is in full swing on a 52 x 11-minute animation/live-action hybrid that blends photo montage imagery and 2-D animation, and Eustace is busy writing more songs for the music-centric episodes. The creative duo behind the project also invited writer Hugh Duffy (whose credits include The Doodlebops, Caillou and Rolie Polie Olie) to come work Down Under and pen scripts on their homestead, the ‘Middle-of-Nowhere’ Australian setting that inspired the concept in the first place.

Strongly encouraging kids to ‘go get grubby,’ each ep centers around a day in the life of Dirtgirl, who leaves no bug unexamined and no mud puddle undisturbed in her quest to explore every inch of her backyard. Beyond Dirtgirl’s daily adventures, which include following ants to see if they have eyelids and searching for dinosaurs in her potato garden, each episode also has an underlying environmental message. For example, Dirtgirl grows her own food, collects rainwater and creates her own energy with pedal power. And McQuillen has a segment planned in each show that teaches kids how to grow food in their own gardens, on their verandas or at school, so it’s all about giving viewers real ways to get involved in the global environmental crusade.

Viewer participation is even more strongly encouraged in the dirtgirlworld online community, which invites kids (a.k.a. the Greenthumbs) to send in reports about their garden triumphs that will be integrated into the show. McQuillen is aiming to launch the website before the show debuts on all three channels in September 2009, to cultivate an early fanbase and ignite kid interest in gardening. The hub will also offer green tips for parents, including lists of local farmers’ markets and free-cycle depots.

Decode Enterprises is managing distribution and L&M rights worldwide, excluding the UK (which will be handled by BBC Worldwide) and Australia (Mememe plans to cover its own turf).

Apartment 11′s format-friendly In the Real

World takes tweens on hair-raising adventures

As YTV fights to keep the upper range of its audience from migrating on the Canadian dial to adult reality shows, Apartment 11 Productions’ latest project for the broadcaster tackles the genre in an age-appropriate way that should keep them tuned in and inspired. In the Real World is a live-action adventure show that sends 18 spunky 12- to 14-year-olds across North America to compete in a series of challenges that range from doing movie stunts in Hollywood to rappelling down a mountain in British Columbia.

Sporting a low budget of roughly US$256,000 for each of its 13 one-hour episodes, the series is shooting now for delivery later this year and will air on YTV in early 2009. Apartment 11 has cast Canadian stand-up comic Sabrina Jalees, well-known to Canadian kids from stints on MuchMusic’s younger-skewing shows Video on Trial and Stars Gone Wild, to lead contestants through the challenges and oversee the elimination process of the competition.

Borrowing a page from reality format hits Survivor and The Amazing Race, the winners of each challenge will earn rewards and the opportunity to make strategic decisions impacting the fate of their rivals. The grand prize for the winning contestant will include a US$15,000 education fund and one of four vacation packages: a week of downhill skiing in Europe; a week of shopping in New York City; tickets to the Stanley Cup finals; or a Hawaiian surfing holiday.

Apartment 11 certainly knows its way around kids reality formats, with award-winning genre entries such as Mystery Hunters and Prank Patrol in its portfolio. And although the kick-off cycle of In the Real World is confined to North American locales, studio president Jonathan Finkelstein says global distributors are already keenly interested in international versions of the series, whose universally appealing challenges and experiences should show well in territories across the world.

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