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TeamTO finds the funny in global warming
Paris-based TeamTO and partners Tinkertee and Nexus Factory are putting an inventive twist on the latest spate of green programming aimed at inspiring eco-consciousness in this generation of kids. While their new CGI series Plankton Invasion (78 x seven minutes) intends to impart ecological info to its tween target audience, it avoids giving moralistic lectures on doing one's part to save the Earth. Rather, the show uses off-beat humor and parody to make its point. You see, the main characters are tiny marine zooplankton out to encourage global warming as opposed to curb it.
July 27, 2009

TeamTO finds the funny in global warming
Paris-based TeamTO and partners Tinkertee and Nexus Factory are putting an inventive twist on the latest spate of green programming aimed at inspiring eco-consciousness in this generation of kids. While their new CGI series Plankton Invasion (78 x seven minutes) intends to impart ecological info to its tween target audience, it avoids giving moralistic lectures on doing one’s part to save the Earth. Rather, the show uses off-beat humor and parody to make its point. You see, the main characters are tiny marine zooplankton out to encourage global warming as opposed to curb it.

Three microscopic anti-heroes form a crack special-ops team of plankton agents whose mission is to carry out Operation Global Warming. They have a direct four-part strategy – torch the planet, melt the polar ice caps, drown all land masses and then rule the world. Captain John C. Star, a wee starfish pyrotechnician that can regenerate from the neck down; tiny squid Sergeant Pulpo Kalamarez armed with a talent for IT and a flatulence issue; and jellyfish Dr. Anna Medusa make up the trio. Little do Star and Kalamarez know that Medusa is in fact a double agent secretly plotting to sabotage the invasion team and defy her father, its leader and number-one baddie, Supreme Commander Francois Medusa. Human Earth advocate Mr. Kyoto, meanwhile, serves as the foil for the squad. Otherwise, homo sapiens maintain a peripheral presence in the series, and are often only seen shamelessly lending a hand to accelerate the onset of global warming.

Every episode depicts a new attempt to carry off the invasion, which of course never succeeds. While full of parody, each ep is built around environmental truths. For example, the fact that the methane gas contained in cow farts may be responsible for as much as 40% of the greenhouse effect is used to yield some laughs and insight. The plot lines also incorporate valuable information about pro-enviro initiatives being instituted around the world such as Green Wave algorithms, which are used to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions in big cities.

With a budget of US$9.8 million, production will start as soon as Canal+, which came on-board last year, gives the greenlight. In the meantime, the property already has a following online. Originally developed as a web-based mini-series, the concept has evolved into an online community at www.planktoninvasion.com with a fanbase that spans 60 countries. Visitors are invited to write jokes based on real environmental issues – the best of which are made into short webisodes. TeamTO is also developing an educational website to complement the enviro facts presented in the TV eps.

Teen emotions get toon treatment
For every kid who wouldn’t mind getting by in life with a little Road Runner-esque boost of speed or strength comes Cartoon Gene. The live-action 26 x half-hour series with a big dose of CGI effects follows the extraordinary life of a human teenage boy who just so happens to have a little extra cartoon DNA kicking around his insides. The laughs come when Gene discovers his body erupts with a variety of toon-like reactions, exaggerating his average teen anxieties to the nth degree. Often to his horror, the boy’s emotions are expressed like those of classic cartoon characters – visible CGI exploding hearts betray his unrequited crushes, his eyes bulge out of his head like over-inflated beach balls when he gets excited and his arms and legs melt to putty when he’s in distress. If that weren’t enough, Gene also has to worry about his butt making honking noises and his eyebrows crawling around his face.

Gene’s genetic make up, however, is no fluke. His Mom, Kitty, is a computer-generated video game star built in the vein of Lara Croft with a day job that revolves around her celebrity status in the gaming world. Fittingly, Gene’s dad is a game-obsessed computer whiz who serendipitously created Gene’s mother 15 years ago while developing a new kind of virtual reality gizmo. He turned Kitty into a living cartoon character who could exist in the real world.

In one episode, Gene finds he can hear low and distant sounds due to his suddenly over-sized ear. His best friend, Amanda, makes him promise to stop eavesdropping, but he can’t help hearing things that pique his curiosity, like smooching sounds coming from the faculty lounge and two of Amanda’s friends talking about her. A dilemma develops as Gene has to find a way to tell Amanda about the gossip without letting her know he broke his promise.

The series is Montreal, Canada-based Galakids’ original concept created by Louis Fournier and Natalie Dumoulin and directed by Adam Weissman, whose past credits include iCarly, Zoey 101 and Drake & Josh. The series is budgeted between US$9.5 million and US$11.3 million and London’s Cake Entertainment is co-producing the pilot, in association with Teletoon Canada, CTF and the Shaw Rocket Fund.

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