Not everyone’s going to make it to Stavanger, Norway for this year’s edition of Euro animation showcase Cartoon Forum, so we’re previewing some of the more promising projects being pitched at the event
Millimages explores artificial intelligence
Call it a study of artificial intelligence run amok, if you will. Paris-based Millimages’ Me and My Robot centers around Chip, a homemade robot built by brainy student Eugene. The boy assembles the machine from a variety of salvaged and inexpensive parts in order to gain admittance to the prestigious Zygote Foundation for robotic research and development. The twist is that an improbable accident renders Chip with a conscience and the mechanical miracle becomes a friend to Eugene.
Rather than springing to life as an evil genius that plots to rule the world, this robot is fun-loving and naively believes he completely understands humans. However, because Chip thinks he knows everything about human feelings, his curious nature and desire to help set off a string of minor disasters for Eugene and his friends, Maya and Joseph.
It falls on Eugene, then, to keep Chip’s exuberance under wraps. If, for example, Mr. Nikils, the odious headmaster at Zygote, discovers Chip’s incredible abilities, he will exploit the bot for personal gain. There’s also the likelihood that Chip will be taken away from Eugene and paraded around like a sideshow freak, if he doesn’t simply wind up getting dismantled in the name of research. Moreover, Eugene would lose his friend.
To hide his true nature and prevent such calamities, Eugene asks Chip to pretend to be a rather dumb robot (something he has no trouble doing) that runs on software without a soul. Compounding this challenge is the fact that Eugene has to cope with the intrusive attentions and weasely tricks of another student – Wince, the son of the world’s most-renowned and influential robotics manufacturer and patron of Zygote.
Being developed with France 3, which is sponsoring the series at Forum, the 52 x 13-minute core-kids toon has a budget slated at US$8.6 million and a delivery date of 2011. Millimages MD John Reynolds says a bible, a pilot and a few scripts are complete, and he’s ideally looking to secure more broadcast partners at the event.
Granny O’Grimm’s tales harrowingly hilarious
Usually when grandmothers come to mind, many envision sweet, gentle silver-haired ladies. Dublin, Ireland-based Brown Bag Films, however, has something altogether different in mind with comic family-targeted Granny O’Grimm. The proposed 26 x 11-minute series based on the studio’s five-minute short Granny O’ Grimm: Sleeping Beauty turns that stereotype upside down.
Granny O’Grimm, you see, is filled with a lifetime of inner rage and is beyond frustrated about being constantly ignored. And more often than not, her repressed anger erupts from the depths of her soul in a screaming explosion of darkness – otherwise known as a bedtime story, as Granny casually likes to call it.
Each episode finds Granny sitting down to tell her wide-eyed grandchildren a strange and bitter take on a well-known fairy tale. Granny gets so caught up in her role as narrator that she becomes an active participant, and viewers are transported along with her from her CGI world into the 2-D Flash cut-out environs of the story.
Granny’s also often shocked when she snaps out of her own trance-like orations to find her grandkids terrified and sitting with their mouths agape. She worries they might not think of her as the lovely, frail grandmother she so desperately wants to be and often reverts to a saccharine version of herself.
In Granny’s re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, for example, she’s being eaten by the Big Bad Wolf while her selfish granddaughter frolics in the woods. To make a point, Granny resorts to faking her own death at the end, which horrifies her wee progeny. In another ep, Goldilocks thinks the world owes her a favor after helping herself to whatever she can find in the Three Bears’ home. In this version, the bears rightly eat her.
The old lady’s captive audience includes her seven-year-old granddaughter, Annie, whose cute curls and beautiful complexion only serve to remind Granny of her younger sister, Lillian, who makes her insanely jealous. There’s also her favorite grandson, William, who Granny fears will grow up a sissy and inherit his father’s nose.
Interestingly, Brown Bag culled the crotchety character from writer Kathleen O’Rourke’s stand-up show and is now on the hunt for co-pro partners and presales. Budgeted at US$350,000 per half hour, there are two Granny scripts already in the can, but the studio says it’s too early to set a delivery date.
SkyBabies teach lovely lessons
SkyBabies, a new CGI 52 x 10-minute preschool series from London-based Target Entertainment stars three small fairy-like characters, Baba Pink, Baba Blue and Baba Green that go about their day-to-day tasks of caring for their friends, Sun, Moon, Rainbow, Cloud and Little Star.
The gentle trio lives with Bobo White, a rather mischevious little Sky Imp, in a house on a big fluffy cloud. Every morning they jump onto their SkyHorsies and begin their day’s work of polishing Sun, dusting Moon, painting Rainbow and fluffing up Cloud.
Veteran animation creative director Bridget Appleby, whose past work includes Fifi and the Flowertots and Little Robots, conceived the series with an underlying mandate to teach kids ages two to four about the natural elements and the importance of caring for the environment. A bible, two episode scripts and a pilot are ready for Forum, and Charlie and Lola scribe Dave Ingham has been tapped to write the series.
In a typical episode, a SkyBaby sets about repainting Rainbow to keep its colors bright. Bobo White picks up some of the leftover paint and a brush and sneaks off to paint Sun purple. Unfortunately a muted mauve Sun not only turns the sky the same color, but overcast inhibits the growth of the flowers being cultivated in the SkyBabies’ garden. However, the industrious characters are quick to step in and sort out the problem.
Target is currently seeking co-production partners, and depending on who comes on-board, is aiming for a budget of roughly US$6.8 million with a delivery date TBD.
A fishy tale about fitting in
Being an oyster’s tough. Being half-boy, half-oyster, well that’s just plain difficult. At least that’s the comic premise behind Paris-based Je Suis Bien Content’s new 52 x 13-minute 2-D core kids series, Molusco. The main character, Moluscu, is an orphaned oyster who suffers from exposure to oceanic radioactive waste during a storm and becomes half human. Upon finding the little mollusk washed up on shore, sleeping in his giant, cradle-like shell, a kind human couple decide to raise the foundling as their son and keep his origins a secret.
Imagine Moluscu’s surprise when he realizes that not only is he adopted, but he’s also half oyster. Even though he has amazing crustacean talents, such as the ability to understand whale songs and make pearls simply by eating blackboard chalk, he dreams of only one thing: To live life as a normal 11-year-old boy. And Moluscu’s greatest fear is he will be discovered and rejected by his peers for being so unusual. Between taking part in everyday kid activities, such as playground games, math classes and fights, Molusco is also burdened with keeping his secret. The problem is that he tends to turn blue when he’s embarrassed and give off a fishy smell when he’s stressed and has his own personal kryptonite – lemon juice. Just a few drops of the natural acid saddles him with debilitating cramps. What’s an oyster boy to do?
In one episode, Molusco manages to get an invitation to dinner at Agatha’s house. She’s the prettiest girl at school and the object of this bivalve’s affection. Her strict father has high expectations in terms of table manners, but the real challenge comes when dessert, the dreaded lemon tart, is served.
In another, Molusco avoids going swimming in a pool because he can’t survive in fresh water, but he’s mercilessly teased by the class bully Terence. To put an end to the taunting, Molusco schemes to make the pool salty and impress the crowd.
Je Suis Bien Content is still working on a delivery date pending financing. The show has a budget of US$8.5 million, with a bible and pilot ready to show to prospective partners.
This little piggy lives in a market
Alphanim-Gaumont is headed to Stavanger with 90-minute feature film project Pigly in hand. The company has been developing the 3-D animated flick with an eye to rolling it out into a 79 x eight-minute series. The hero of this tale is Pigly, a happy-go-lucky little hog that has escaped the fate awaiting him at supermarket Grobig’s fresh meat counter. Little do the proprietors know Pigly has taken up residence in the shop’s basement.
Pigly ventures up to ground level daily and runs into two rather rowdy characters that also avoided meeting their doom. Lola, the dairy cow, and Omar, the shellfish, are both escapees from a botched cling-film wrapping incident. Together the three creatures living on borrowed time join forces to elude the shop owners and get what they need to survive. Carrying out a clandestine existence in an immense supermarket is not easy, however, and finding the food they need on a bit-by-bit basis demands a lot of imagination. For starters, everything the store sells is made from unappealing synthetics. And there’s also Rex, the robotic police dog that’s also a cleaning maniac and always nipping at their heels or, er, hooves, as the case may be. Sweet Pigly, for his part, is quite naïve and treats Grobig like a theme park, preferring to view the trio’s day-to-day struggles as one big, fun game.
The movie script is well underway and will be available at the end of this year, possibly as early as 2010 with a 2012 delivery. As for the series, A-G has produced a pilot for screening this fall and has a bible and one script ready to go. The company expects the feature’s budget will sit in the US$14 million to US$17 million range, and the subsequent series has an approximate budget of between US$8.5 million and US$10 million.
The company is looking for co-pro partners and distributors for the film and co-pros and broadcasters for the series, which it expects to deliver in 2011.