Cool new shows!
Gormiti: The Lords
of Nature Return
Co-producers: Paris, France-based Marathon Media and M6,
along with toyco Giochi Preziosi and Mediaset in Italy
Style: 2-D animation
Format: 52 x half hours
Demo: Five to 11
Budget: US$7.5 million for the first 26 episodes
Financing needs: The Marathon team will be out in full force
at MIPCOM to close as many international broadcast sales
Status: In production
Delivery: The first 10 episodes will start airing exclusively on
Mediaset this month; the full series will be available in fall 2009.
Concept: Building on the toy phenomenon that has taken Europe by storm to the tune of 65 million action figures sold to date, this animated project stars four regular kids who discover a portal to a parallel universe inhabited by a race of mythical creatures that harness the four elements of nature. The peaceful Gormitis are in a constant state of war with the evil Fire Gormitis, and their epic battles cause natural disturbances in the world of humans. Only the kids can put the Fire Gormitis in their place because when they flip over to Gorm, they become all-powerful super-Gormitis.
That’s the action part. But the series’ scripts, penned by Brian Swenlin (who counts Xiaolin Showdown and Kim Possible amongst his many credits), also draw on the comedy that’s inherent in kids playing a monumental role in saving the world and then having to come home and wash the dishes, or being too shy to talk to the cute girl in school. Ah, to be young again!
Tilly and Friends
Producer: Walker Books out of London, England
Style: 2-D animation. An early test using Flash and After Effects came off quite well, but Walker plans to try some other techniques before committing to one.
Format: 52 x 11 minutes at the moment, but the episode length may change to seven minutes during development.
Budget: In the region of US$265,000 per half hour.
Financing needs: Walker is in negotiations with a couple of potential co-producers, so the plan is to secure one as a lead partner first, and then start preselling the series to broadcasters.
Status: Tilly’s creator, Polly Dunbar, is still working on two of the initial six books in the publishing program, so development on the series won’t get underway until she’s freed up in the spring.
Delivery: If the project goes into development on schedule, then it could be delivered in early 2011.
Concept: This project stems from a six-book series written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar, England’s current darling of kids publishing. Walker has published all three of her previous books, including Penguin, which won several prestigious publishing awards last year. What Dunbar excels at is weaving pastel shades together to create rich narrative tapestries, and her simple toddler-relevant stories are presented with great timing and a fresh brand of humor.
Tilly and Friends centers around a little girl and her six animal pals, who all live together in a cozy yellow house. Their co-habitation is peaceful enough for the most part, but every once in awhile a problem bubbles up, and they must collectively find a way to overcome it. Hector the pig, for example, is enjoying a special cuddle on Tilly’s lap one afternoon while the rest of the animals are at play. But when Tiptoe the bunny tries to get in on the cuddle, he starts a chain reaction, and soon all the animals have piled onto Tilly’s wee lap. Poor Hector gets ejected onto the floor and ends up squashed under Tumpty the elephant’s ample derrière. He runs off crying and refuses to be consoled by any of the other animals’ attempts to cheer him up; he wants Tilly and she’s nowhere to be found. The gang finally tracks her down in the arts & crafts room – she’s finishing a gorgeous painting of Hector to let him know how much she loves him, and his good humor is restored.
Walker was so taken with Dunbar’s initial concept that it commissioned six Tilly books right off the bat, a rare commitment from a kids publisher on an untried property. The plan is to roll two of them out in the US and UK this fall and then follow up with the other four next year – two in the spring and two in the fall. Tilly has also generated a healthy number of co-editions with international publishers, so the property is likely to develop a worldwide footprint.
Packages From Planet X
Producer: Cleveland, Ohio’s American Greetings Properties
Style: Currently in development for 2-D animation, but some CGI elements may join the mix, depending on partners’ expertise.
Format: 26 x half hours
Demo: Boys six to 11
Budget: Roughly US$300,000 to US$350,000 per half hour; exactly where it falls in this range will be determined by the final decision on animation style.
Financing needs: In discussions with a few potential co-production partners, one of which is a broadcaster, and meeting with more of the same at MIPCOM. AGP will be looking to lock down its first key partner post-market.
Status: A series bible is complete, and story outlines are in development.
Delivery: Q1 2010 if production starts by year’s end.
Concept: What kid doesn’t love a good mystery – especially one that involves large doses of out-of-this-world gadgets and creatures? AGP likens this sci-fi comedy-adventure series to Men in Black, but in a town with a population of 3,093, and it’s a pretty apt description. The project stars 13-year-old Milo, whose sedate small-town life changes drastically when strange packages marked cryptically with the letter ‘X’ begin showing up at his door. Each one contains a different gadget – a black hole box, a laser pen, chewing gum that causes fire-breathing, etc. – and they all lead to mayhem.
When box #362 arrives, for example, it seems to contain a modest-looking magnifying glass. But when Milo and his friends start fooling around with it, they discover that the lens makes everything actually become five times larger. They get a huge kick out of using it to make their muscles bigger until they’re totally deformed, and then they move onto magnifying things around the house. But the real fun starts when they try to reverse their big-up experiments. In fact, Milo’s crew is usually so busy trying to reverse the havoc wrought by the packages’ contents that they never stop to wonder where this strange stuff is coming from in the first place.
Silly Bitty Bunny
Co-producers: Paris-based Planet Nemo Animation and Montreal, Canada’s Carpediem Film & TV
Style: 2-D animation
Format: 78 x 3.5 minutes. Designed to be packaged to fill a full slot or run as one-offs to pad loose broadcast schedules.
Demo: Three to five
Budget: Around US$200,000 per half hour
Financing needs: The partners have almost secured broadcasters in their respective home territories, so the goal at MIPCOM will be to lock down another two prebuys.
Status: In active development. Planet Nemo has completed some animation tests to demonstrate pacing and character movement. A number of story synopses will be ready for MIPCOM, and a contracted writer is working on a couple of scripts to move the project closer to pilot phase.
Delivery: Spring 2010
Concept: Based on a much-loved book franchise from Hachette that goes back 15 years and ranks among the top three preschool publishing properties in France, Silly Bitty Bunny (Petit Lapin Blanc in its native language) is all about the novelty of life as a kid. The animated shorts star a young boy rabbit who keeps a box of mementos from all his first-time experiences. In each episode, he pulls out a keepsake and relives the memory attached to it. So an ice cream shop menu reminds him of the time he ordered 23 different flavors on a single cone and couldn’t eat it fast enough (it being a hot summer day) to get to his favorite scoop – apricot – at the very bottom. So when his dad jolts him back to reality with an offer to go get a cone, Silly Bitty Bunny resolves to be less ambitious about his order this time around.
With financing coming together nicely and a narrative structure in place that gives the property richer stories and introduces a little drama, Planet Nemo producer Frédéric Puech is looking forward to testing Silly Bitty Bunny’s consumer products potential. Hachette has released roughly 40 book products over the years, but never moved the property into other categories, so it’s open season for a toddler-skewing L&M program. And because the title character is such a strong iconic graphic, Puech thinks this program will play well in many European and Asian territories – even without the added push of a TV presence.
Producer: Toronto, Canada’s House of Cool Studios
Style: Flash animation, with CGI robots
Format: 26 x 11 minutes
Demo: Boys six to 12
Budget: US$300,000 to US$325,000 per half hour
Financing needs: House of Cool is showing the project to buyers for the first time at MIPCOM, and the goal is to bring in a lead broadcaster fairly quickly after the market.
Status: Scripts are in development in-house, and the studio is looking for an experienced story editor to oversee that part of the process. House of Cool plans to produce Roboyo as a storyboard-based project; given the amount of pre-production work it’s been doing lately, the company has plenty of storyboard artists on staff to handle the work.
Delivery: Fall 2009
Concept: On a mission to come up with the mother of all robot concepts to impress his four-year-old son, House of Cool president Ricardo Curtis knocked out this idea about a boy who can summon any kind of robot imaginable with a special whistle he finds in his toybox. He floated the concept by his team at a ‘germ session,’ (a weekly all-team meeting at which every House of Cool staffer is expected to share some kind of business-enhancing idea) and it caught on amongst the creative core that started working it up into what it is today.
Although he seems to be a normal and unassuming lad, Roboyo is actually the youngest member of a prestigious family of spies; but the spy gene behind their professional specialty skipped his father and compounded in him instead. So the whole family is watching Roboyo’s development closely in anticipation of his superspy future – no one more so than his grandfather, who is the mastermind behind the robot-hailing whistle. It doubles as a high-tech monitoring device, you see, and it’s also an instrument for challenging his grandson’s ability to get out of sticky situations.
Every time Roboyo summons a robot to his rescue, Grandpa sends one that is completely ill-equipped for the task. So when the boy calls for a super-strong robot to help him vanquish the school bully, he ends up with a bot that doesn’t speak English. Roboyo has to find another way to communicate his commands, and ends up using a mix of sign language and TV slogans in the end.
Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare
Producer: Sydney, Australia-based SLR Productions
Style: SLR is working on finding the right 2-D animation program. It’s done a test using Flash/CGI hybrid Anime Pro, which is great for capturing watercolors.
Format: 52 x 11 minutes
Demo: Four to seven
Budget: Between US$225,000 and US$250,000 per half hour
Financing needs: French-speaking Canadian broadcaster TFO and Germany’s Ki.Ka have pre-bought the series, and SLR needs one more international presale, an Australian broadcast commitment, and a distribution advance to move the project into production.
Status: Four scripts are completed, as well as an animation test, which is viewable online at www.slrproductions.com.
Delivery: The plan is to head into production in February ’09, so delivery
will start that October and continue until July ’10.
Concept: It’s hard to believe the rights to this 15-year-old perennially best-selling preschool book were still up for grabs when SLR executive producer Suzanne Ryan visited Walker Books on another pitch in April ’06, but the publisher and author had turned down every party that had previously made overtures. And it was a lot of parties, from companies the size of Disney to the indiest of indies. Why’d they fail? Their treatments messed around with the book’s woodland setting and protagonists too much. (No clothes on the hares, please, and you can’t move them into town either.)
But the challenge is that the original picture book, which is basically just a one-upmanship contest between father and son about who loves who the most, doesn’t have much content and doesn’t suggest any avenues for story development. So Ryan really had to push her team hard to come up with a narrative concept that supports 52 eps and stays in the book’s setting.
The result is a conceit that sees Little Nutbrown Hare branch out on his own and go on little adventures of discovery every day, accompanied by a host of forest-dwelling friends his own age. SLR has also created a few adult characters to chaperone these quests in lieu of Big Nutbrown Hare, who weaves back into the episodes towards the end. A sample story begins with Little Nutbrown running off to watch the bees make honey. Curious, he dips his paw into the hive and finds out that honey is very sticky when everything in the environs sticks to him. He comes home covered in grass, twigs and bugs, and he and Big Nutbrown Hare have a good laugh at how ridiculous he looks. Then they try a taste and discover together that honey is also quite yummy.
Co-producers: South Korea’s Enemes and Toronto, Canada-based Nelvana
Format: 26 x 22 minutes for now, although eps may be developed to break down into 52 x 11 minutes.
Demo: Boys six to 12
Budget: Somewhere between US$250,000 and US$275,000 per half hour.
Financing needs: Nelvana is looking to sign a Canadian broadcaster, while Enemes taps into Korean government funding. The pair will then explore various work split scenarios to define the terms of the co-production.
Status: In very early development. Nelvana hired freelance writer John Derevlany to flesh out the concept, characters and potential story ideas. The next steps will be to develop synopses and assign an art director.
Delivery: Spring 2010
Concept: This latest project to come into Nelvana by way of Irene Weibel’s worldwide scouting remit as VP of international has just gone through the first phase of development, so there’s still plenty of room for directional adjustments. Working with a rough concept and character designs from Enemes, writer-for-hire John Derevlany has worked up a story map that centers around five immature superhero brothers trying to save the pastoral valley home they share with humans from a growing army of supernaturally strong demons called Saps. These baddies each have the rare ability to amp up one of the less desirable emotions or traits in mankind’s repertoire, leading to mass forgetfulness, laziness, cowardice, etc.
Each episode will have three components: an adventure story that sees the team foil another enemy plot to ravage the Symbion Valley; a character comedy featuring one or more of the Skull Kids; and the further development of a series-long mission to collect all the Saps so each Skull Kid can reach his full superpower potential.