Producer: London’s Blue-Zoo Productions
Style: mixed media
Format: 52 x five minutes
Status: Blue-Zoo has a pilot ep and mini-bible ready to go, and it’s looking to lock down a commissioning broadcaster and possibly a distributor in the next few months to push the series into production. As for shoring up the rest of the budget, the prodco intends to self-invest in the project to limit the number of partners and keep the feedback process streamlined.
Delivery: January 2011
Concept: This preschool series about an imaginative and curious little ostrich, Olive, is something of a gift that Blue-Zoo, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, decided to give itself. Show director Oliver Hyatt says the series is modeled on the prodco’s first effort The Cow, where children’s artwork was animated to serve as the titular character’s environment. In the case of Olive, Blue-Zoo is intending to visit 52 schools across the UK and get kids to illustrate the elements involved in each of the big bird’s imaginary adventures, giving the show a unique look and feel. Each ep starts simply enough. We find Olive in her Outback home, and while the rest of her family is running about doing ostrich-y things like laying eggs and pecking for food, her imagination starts to wander. And as soon as she buries her head in the sand, she pops up somewhere new and is faced with a problem that she has to solve. In one episode, for example, Olive gets whacked on the head by a ball while she’s playing tennis. She has to figure out how to slow it down to prevent further injury and winds up creating a makeshift shuttlecock with some feathers to lighten the ball and slow it down.
Producer: Taiwan-based Sofa Studio
Demo: boys nine to 14
Style: CGI with a 2-D look
Format: 26 x 22 minutes
Budget: US$300,000 to US$400,000 per half hour
Status: Sofa has a bible and pilot treatment assembled and is currently looking for co-production partners.
Concept: Sofa Studio writer Jet Wu, who’s taking the lead on this toon, says the idea for the series stems from long-held legends in East Asian culture that contend animals can acquire supernatural powers and even take on human form. At the center of Werewarriors is 16-year-old Drake, a seemingly normal teen who discovers that he’s really a weredragon and that his family and closest friends are werebeasts who’ve been appointed to watch over and protect him. At first Drake is thrilled with his new human/dragon status and the powers he now possesses. But he soon discovers an army of fallen werebeasts have stepped out from the underworld and are roaming the Earth trying to take over. The number of werebeasts only seems to be limited by the imaginations of the writers at Sofa, and this series proved popular at KidScreen Summit in February. It won over both the panel of 10- to 12-year-old boys and the broadcasters, who declared it the winner of the annual Pitch It! competition. The boys, in particular, were taken with the mythology and myriad beasts fuelling the series, and some even asked if Sofa would consider pushing the format to one-hour eps. Wu, however, is a realist. ‘The boys don’t have patience to watch an hour,’ he says. ‘But a 22-minute story arc would let us tell substantial stories.’
Show: Live from Earth
Producer: Toronto’s Skywriter Media & Entertainment Group
Style: live action, three-camera sitcom
Format: 26 x half hours
Budget: US$400,000 per half hour
Status: There’s a mini-bible and episodic synopses in-hand, and the prodco is in the process of evaluating co-production opportunities.
Delivery: fall 2011
Concept: This series evolved out of an idea hatched by Toronto-based comedy writing team The Membrains (Kim Saltarski, Atul Rao). And since getting a hold of it, Skywriter CEO Kevin Gillis has brought in some star talent in the form of Hannah Montana’s writer Robin Stein and director Keith Samples (The OC, Felicity) to further develop its comedic premise. At Live from Earth’s heart lies average high school student and class clown Simon, who couldn’t get a date if his life depended on it, but pledges his undying love to the head cheerleader. Moreover, unbeknownst to anyone on Earth, except for himself, he’s the biggest celebrity in the galaxy. He learns a show that essentially documents his everyday life is being beamed far-and-wide across the cosmos, and the beings we’d call aliens are lapping it up. They can’t get enough of observing him at school and hanging out at local fast food joints. And to keep ratings up, the head of the galactic network sends his teenage son, Steg, down to help Simon out. Steg quickly becomes one of the more popular kids at school with his seemingly offbeat sense of humor that’s really driven by his point-of-fact observations about odd human behavior. Eps will also be book-ended by Steg’s reports of the Earthly goings-on to his father, much like Robin Williams did in late-1970s sitcom Mork & Mindy. www.skywritermedia.com
Producer: Sydney, Australia’s Stella Projects
Style: mixed media
Format: 26 x 12 minutes
Budget: Between US$1.5 million and US$2 million for the entire series
Status: With script funding from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and a full bible in-hand, Stella is in the process of signing on a Canadian co-production partner. Nickelodeon Australia, which commissioned the concept’s original 12 x two-minute shorts, has shown interest in the longer-format series.
Delivery: Second half of 2010
Concept: At the center of this live-action, music-centric series are husband-and-wife team Mark and Tina Harris, who have created and set up five Sydney-based music schools that teach preschoolers all about music and instruments. The pair also has an act where Lah-Lah (Tina), Buzz (Mark) and three other musicians perform for preschool crowds, and Nickelodeon Australia director of programming Deirdre Brennan happened to catch them in concert. Stella president Grahame Grassby says Brennan was so taken with the act, she commissioned a 12 x two-minute series of music shorts featuring Lah-Lah and co. that started airing on Nick Oz last November. Keeping the distinct and sophisticated red, black, white, green and blue palette established in the shorts through the band’s costumes and CGI backgrounds, Lah-Lah’s longer format combines music education with live performance. So the show will introduce preschoolers to a spectrum of musical genres from popular classical and jazz, to cabaret and acoustic pop, and the instruments used to produce them. Lah-Lah, the band, is set to perform a two-week stint at the Sydney Opera House in May that’s being released on DVD by Roadshow Entertainment in Australia, and will also be interspersed with the 12-minute segments on the long-format show.
Co-producers: Sandisfield, Massachusetts-based JBMW Media, London’s Park Entertainment, Dublin, Ireland’s Kavaleer Productions and Keyframe Entertainment in Canada
Demo: five to eight
Style: mixed media
Format: 52 x 11 minutes
Budget: roughly US$175,000 per half hour
Status: At press time, the producers were in the process of signing a Canadian commissioning broadcaster and are working on the bible, scripts and animation tests. At MIPTV they’ll be looking for a few more pre-buys from France, the UK, Germany and the US to kick the series into production.
Delivery: early 2012
Concept: JBMW Media’s Jennifer Monier-Williams says Paula Hart – exec producer of Sabrina the Teenage Witch – first approached her with the book Violet the Pilot, written by US-based political cartoonist Steve Breen, contending it was just crying out for a series treatment. The international bestseller forms the basis for this science-oriented series targeting the arguably under-served five to eight crowd. At its center is Violet, an adventurous little girl who regularly hangs out at her father’s junkyard with her dog and best friend Orville, crafting inventions from the various bits and bobs she finds lying around. Violet’s fantastical one-of-a-kind contraptions often come to the rescue of her friends, family members and townspeople. And as Violet is the ultimate recycler, subtle messaging on environmental issues and practices will form an undercurrent in the series.
Show: Figaro Pho
Producer: The Melbourne-based arm of Aussie/Canadian prodco Chocolate Liberation Front
Demo: nine to 12
Format: 39 x seven minutes
Budget: US$275,000 to US$320,000 per half hour
Status: CLF has a development deal with pubcaster ABC Australia and should have a bible, scripts and animatics nailed down by the middle of next month. In the meantime, the prodco is entertaining overtures from potential co-pro partners.
Concept: The original series of Figaro Pho shorts conceived by Luke Jurevicius was a big winner at the first KidScreen Awards ceremony held at KidScreen Summit in February, taking three trophies home, including Best Animated Series in the Family category. The new seven-minute episode length keeps Figaro, the boy who suffers from an alphabet of phobias, at the center of the action, taking an even deeper look into his anxiety-ridden imagination to produce increasingly comic situations. Also up for further exploration is the rich, gothic and cinematic world Figaro inhabits. CLF partner Dan Fill says Jurevicius, who’s also storyboard artist, and new art director Dean Taylor will be extending this sometimes spooky universe into the video game arena to complement the longer-form series. Additionally Matthew Phipps, who’s signed a development deal with heavy-hitter Fox for an adult live-action comedy series, is on-board as Figaro’s writer to ensure the original concept’s wit and layered humor remain.