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The Kratts go 2-D for new eco-adventures
February 2, 2010

The Kratts go 2-D for new eco-adventures

Chris and Martin Kratt, the gregarious siblings who head up Ottawa, Canada-based Kratt Brothers and have created kids nature shows such as Kratt’s Creatures and Zoboomafoo, are morphing into 2-D animated form. In their new series for core kids, Wild Kratts (40 x 22 minutes), the pair of zoologists is on a mission to save the planet’s animals from the opportunistic biotech villian, Zach Varmitech. Like any evil genius worth his salt, Varmitech’s plotting to take over the world – this time he’s attempting create a legion of robots, made from various animal parts, that will do his bidding.

The Kratts have teamed up with Toronto, Canada’s 9 Story Entertainment on production, with 9 Story handling distribution outside the US and Canada. Episodes are budgeted at approximately US$300,000 apiece, with delivery for the first 20 scheduled for August 2010 and a second batch to follow in January 2011. Participating broadcasters so far include PBS Kids in the US and Canadian nets TVOntario, Tele-Quebec and Knowledge Network.

In the series, Chris is the pragmatic and technically inclined brother with an encyclopedic knowledge of animals. He serves as the perfect complement to Martin, an artistic, impulsive big-ideas guy who likes to crack jokes. Their brilliant and stylish, tech-savvy friend, Aviva Corcovado, helps the brothers in their rescue efforts by creating animal-inspired inventions, such as computerized suits that take on the attributes of various creatures through a data download. Joining Aviva in her lab are Koki, a sharp-witted computer whiz, and Jimmy Z, who uses his superior gaming skills to control the Teleporter – a device that delivers the inventions to the Kratts wherever their globetrotting takes them.

In a typical episode, Chris develops a fear of heights when he falls from a tall tree in the Indonesian rainforest where he’s searching for the rare Draco lizard. Ribs that stick out of its body and act as wings enable the reptile fo fly. Martin and the Draco, meanwhile, are captured by fashion designer Donita Donata, who plans to create jewelry using the colorful Draco’s body, and in the end, Chris must overcome his fear of heights in order to save his brother and the lizard.

The Kratts have found animation somewhat liberating, as it’s permitted the brothers to up the physical comedy quotient and depict natural phenomena that wouldn’t be possible in live action. No one has the budget or resources, for example, to travel deep below the sea and document a battle between a sperm whale and a giant squid, but for an animator it’s just part of a day’s work.

Tele Images turns to NBA superstar for new toon

Paris-based Tele Images Kids, part of The Marathon Group, is burnishing its latest animated series High5 with some celeb sparkle. Tony Parker, star point guard for National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the San Antonio Spurs, has signed on to star, in toon form, as the coach of a gutsy and determined street basketball team in the new 52 x 26-minute series. At the show’s core are five teens, including three boys and two girls, who travel the US and Canada with the dream of winning a national amateur basketball tournament.

On the court, Tony teaches his prodigies everything he knows about basketball and counsels them about the game of life. In each episode, the five players battle other ball players while dealing with the usual social trappings of average teen life and getting to know each other’s quirks, often leading to conflict, competition and misunderstandings.

The culture and lifestyle of each locale the team winds up in also plays a role in the plot. (The group travels to big cities and small towns found in remote Canadian provinces and the American South.) In L.A., for example, the team vies for a spot on a popular TV show, and while competing in New Orleans, the group becomes convinced that there are zombies afoot.

Tele Images Kids president Philippe Alessandri says roughly 25% of the series’ urban, hip-hop flavored storylines will focus on basketball, and the rest will be character-driven. Rudi, the point guard and team captain, serves as the narrator and even has a play-by-play blog. Teammates Mike and Leo are a goofy comic duo, while Mia – a glamor girl interested in celebrity gossip – and strategy-oriented overachiever Stella bring feminine perspectives.

France’s M6 has greenlit the series, and Alessandri says two-thirds of the US$8.8-million budget is in place. Tele Images plans to partner with Toronto, Canada’s Breakthrough Entertainment, with which it worked on Atomic Betty. Production is set to begin this spring, aiming for a fall 2011 delivery date.

The Marathon Group’s parentco Zodiak Entertainment is handling international distribution, and M6 has snapped up L & M rights for France. Alessandri adds that Tele Images is also in talks with the NBA to partner up for on-air promos and merchandising State-side.

Streetwise kid dishes out dance in Buz at the Ballet

Buz at the Ballet aims to make the high art of classical dance relatable for this generation’s mass of TV-watching kids ages four to eight. From newly created London-based prodco Buz and Friends, the 26 x 26-minute mixed-media series uses real footage from live stage performances as the backdrop for Buz, a plucky little animated boy who gives a very streetwise kid-to-kid rundown of the ballet’s plot.

Each episode will focus on a different production, such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, performed by a renowned ballet company. To that end, Buz and Friends has enlisted the co-operation of several international ballet orgs, and the help of an international ballet star to act as a story consultant.

Although Buz isn’t your typical refined dance connoisseur, he is an enthusiast nonetheless. And the sight of him running around on stage, emulating the graceful movements of a prima ballerina in his own spunky way is sure to tickle funny bones.

Each episode will also have Buz befriend another animated character specific to the ballet being featured. For example, he’ll meet a toy soldier in The Nutcracker and a toon version of Cinderella.

The entire series has a budget of US$10.8 million, and Buz and Friends is in the process of firming up financing and a UK broadcast partner.

The first crop of scripts is complete and ready to head into production. Paris-based AWOL Animation is handling international distribution rights, excluding the UK and the US.

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