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BRB plays to boys' love of cars with The Secret Life of Suckers
October 1, 2008

BRB plays to boys’ love of cars with The Secret Life of Suckers

Ever wonder about those suction-cupped toys that stare out from the rear windows of the automobiles they’re affixed to? Well, according to BRB Internactional’s latest shorts concept, they lead richer and more active social lives any of us could have possibly imagined from mere decorative car accessories.

The 104 x two-minute CGI series stars a curious and determined round plush doll with a tuft of hair and expressive bobble eyes. He shares the back window of a suburban sedan with a quiet and lethargic toy dog. There’s also Kawaii, a gothic Lolita-type who lives in a shiny black VW Beetle, and hip-hop character MC-Speaker who has a speaker for a head and rolls in a rap star’s Hummer. The potential for the creation of new characters in this comedy targeting boys six to 12 are only limited by the animators’ imaginations.

The human drivers, on the other hand, are faceless and anonymous, but their actions directly affect the lives of the suckers. For example, BRB is toying around with what effect a pile of parking tickets in the back window might have on a sucker’s view of the world, or how a foggy day would impede communication between the the plush inhabitants of different cars.

Carlos Biern, head of co-productions, licensing and new technologies at BRB, says his team is in pre-production with 26 animatics and a battery of more than 50 story ideas. The show is also being outfitted with an upbeat hip-hop score. While the concept is free of dialogue, each character and car has its own theme, as well as characteristic noises and gestures derived from the urban soundtrack.

Biern says the show was inspired by the urban vinyl toys, and BRB plans to roll out a line of specialty toys and figures once the shorts are delivered at the beginning of 2009. So far, Spain’s TV Catalunya has joined the presale parade along with Jetix Europe, which will hold the pay-TV license in Europe and EMEA plus consumer products and home entertainment rights. BRB is handling free-TV sales in Europe and is in talks with several broadcasters on both sides of the pond for first options. The Secret Life of Suckers is budgeted at roughly US$2.5 million.

Greetings, Ertlings

There’s nothing worse than moving to a new city when you’re a kid. But stumbling across dinosaurs from outerspace as you explore your new attic can certainly make the transition a bit more fun. That’s exactly what happens to seven-year-old Macy and her younger brother Mick, who unexpectedly meet a trio of dinos stranded when their spaceship crash-lands on the planet ‘Ert’ (thus Ertlings).

In development at Toronto, Canada’s 9 Story Entertainment, this 78 x seven-minuter targets kids ages four to seven and tags along as Macy and Mick try to explain the more puzzling aspects of life on Earth to the prehistoric visitors.

The trio’s questions reflect the target audience’s tendency to look at the world in a very literal way. For example, the aliens want to know why Ertlings love apricot jam, but hate traffic jams. They also posit that chocolate milk must naturally be produced by brown cows because they’re the same color. It’s up to the kids to sort out the dinos’ perplexing queries, and they often hop into the spaceship, which can travel anywhere on the planet but can’t leave Earth’s atmosphere, to hunt down the answers and get back home in time for dinner.

9 Story optioned the Ertlings concept from Canuck shop Bigstudios, and plans to work it up in a visual style that layers sharp 2-D animation over photo-real, collage backgrounds. Natalie Osborne, EVP of business development at 9 Story, says the studio was looking to fill a gap in the market for action-adventure series targeting the older preschool demo and first saw the project at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2007. Emmy-award winning writer Scott Kraft, who’s penned scripts for episodes of Rolie Polie Olie, is on-board to write on the series. Osborne says the show is ready to go with a budget of US$300,000 per half hour, and she’ll be introducing it to the international market at MIPCOM this month to help lock down international presales and additional co-pro partners. The plan is to start production by mid-2009 and deliver in fall 2010.

Monkey Fist spices up Asian myth with Western flavor

The latest collaboration between Blue-Zoo Productions and Dandy Entertainment, both based in London, is a fresh take on an ancient Asian myth about a monk’s quest.

The series revolves around three martial arts heroes – cheeky and impetuous Monkey, insatiable swine Pigsy and grumpy fish spirit Sandy – who team up to protect the monk of infinite goodness, Tripitaka, as he roams hill and dale in search of a set of mystical, ancient scrolls. The catch is that Tripitaka’s flesh contains the key ingredient to immortality, so his reluctant bodyguards are forever fending off attacks from crafty demons obsessed with living forever. To name just a few, there’s the she-monkey who tries to trick Monkey into falling in love with her, as well as an angry dragon known as the Lizard King, and Dalhan, a demon who rides through the desert on an ostrich devouring innocent travelers.

Blue-Zoo creative director Oli Hyatt says the 26 x 22-minute series will take a much more light-hearted approach to the tale than its source material does. All religious connotations from the primeval folktale have been omitted, and the production will have a distinctly Western slant and pacing to it; Hyatt says the script will zip along comically, much like this summer’s big-screen hit Kung Fu Panda from DreamWorks.

In one episode, for example, Monkey and his cohorts are plagued by a demonic nit that causes extreme itchiness wherever he lands. After Pigsy fails in his attempts to get rid of the unwelcome visitor with myriad shampoos and combs, Monkey shrinks down to the size of a flea to battle amongst Pigsy’s coarse bristles.

The CGI toon’s quirky aesthetic owes much to the 2-D principles of squash-and-stretch animation and snappy character poses. Hyatt says the studio also made a point of designing the characters with a graphic edge, so that they will translate well to video games, a product category that’s vital to success with the six to 11 crowd the show aims for. Though plans for interactive gaming ‘of all sorts’ are still in development, Hyatt says a theatrical script is complete and will be ready to go once the TV series gets off the ground.

Blue-Zoo and Dandy are working with a budget of around US$12,000 per minute of animation, and Jetix Europe sponsored a pilot that was presented last month at Cartoon Forum in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Hyatt is hoping the development relationship will lead to a broadcast sale down the road. Meanwhile, the prodcos are working towards delivering the series in early 2010, and Hyatt is also in the market for additional co-production partners.

A lion named Leon aims to make kids roar with laughter

Positioned as a Road Runner for the 21st century, TV-Loonland’s latest pick-up from Studio Hari (the Paris-based outfit that created slapstick short series The Owl) is CGI laffer Leon. This one takes place against the barren landscape of the African savannah. The show’s namesake is a seemingly fearless lion who plots tirelessly to hunt down everything that crosses his path. And that’s where the laughs start because it turns out that Leon’s hunting skills are more like those of a lazy housecat than a wildcat, and he’s beset by an unending string of bad luck.

In one sample episode, Leon is in hot pursuit of an ostrich and winds up getting pummeled by the chick that unexpectedly hatches from his prey’s egg. In another story, the hunter becomes the hunted when an amorous hippo falls head over heels in love with Leon and shamelessly chases him around the savannah.

TV-Loonland is overseeing international distribution and merchandising rights on the property and has brought pubcaster France 3 on-board as a co-production partner. Olivier Dumont, MD of TV-L, says the 52 x three-minute eps have a budget of US$2.9 million, with delivery set for mid-2009. And like its classic Looney Tunes predecessor, Leon’s short-format episodes are designed to be dialogue-free, but they rely heavily on visual gags. Despite the absence of speech, Leon will still have a distinctive voice – the studio has been amping up the sound design to balance effects and noises with the music.

Now greenlit by France 3, there are 12 scripts heading into pre-production. At three minutes, the eps are slightly longer than most shorts, but Dumont says the quality of the CGI will work well for distribution on mobile, which the company has in its crosshairs. He’ll also be taking the property to Brand Licensing Europe at the beginning of October to jumpstart an L&M program, and expects plush and apparel will be a natural fit for the feline-centric animated offering.

Captain Biceps’ big series to strong-arm small screen

A lot of guys would like to boast that they have the biggest pipes in the known universe, but none would come close to the arms of Captain Biceps, the star of Paris-based Futurikon’s new comic book cum TV series for the six to 12 set. This 78 x eight-minute series is a co-production with France 3 and TPS, and its action-comedy stories center around the brawny, but not-so-brainy superhero who fights to save the universe from a legion of Super Bad Guys led by Doctor Nuisance. The tiny antagonist has two goals, to squash Biceps and then annihilate mankind.

Luckily, Captain Biceps has nerdy sidekick Genius Boy by his side to apply academic logic to any sticky situations that arise. The one force that Captain Biceps cannot stand up to, however, is his mother, Carmina. While the muscle-bound hero fearlessly chases bad guys, he shakes in his boots when his mother demands that he pick up his dirty socks.

Ultimately, it’s Captain Biceps’ wacky ideas combined with Genius Boy’s clever strategies that win the day against his foes. In one episode, for example, Absorbman, who has the incredible power to turn into anything he touches, steals a substance called megadime that’s harder than diamonds. By touching it, Absorbman becomes indestructible and sets out to rob all the banks in the city. With his sheer strength now trumped, Biceps decides to throw a cake at his nemesis, and Absorbman turns into a slab of the light and fluffy dessert. The villain’s fate is sealed when all the kids in the area then rush over to gobble him up.

Futurikon’s marketing manager, Caroline Blin, says the budget for the 2-D animated series is US$8.6 million; it will be the studio’s featured property at MIPCOM in a bid to drum up more presales. The series is in production now, and Blin says the first 26 episodes will be delivered by October 2009. The original comic books were created by well-known French duo Zep and Tebo. Captain Biceps’ four volumes have sold more than 300,000 copies in France and have been translated for sale into Spain, China and South Africa.

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