Don’t let the name of Ed Bignell’s company fool you. The London-based producer has led a fast-paced career culminating in the launch of his production house, Naughty Tortoise.
Coming off his 2006 BAFTA and BAA nominations for his work as the director on CiTV animated series, King Arthur’s Disasters, Bignell decided it was time to start synthesizing his years of varied experience in the biz. (He kick-started his animation career at Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation, working on feature-length toons and moved on to produce animated sitcom Pond Life as well as stop-motion preschool series Tom and Vicky for CiTV and CBeebies’ series Little Robots, among other things.) And it’s taken him a few years, but he feels his shop is poised to get out in front of the kids entertainment industry.
As Naughty Tortoise MD and creative director, he’s been busy building a small, but tight slate through the lens of transmedia development. So, while TV series are certainly a component of the projects, Bignall’s ambitions run a little larger. He’s crafting entire story worlds that can span as many media platforms as you can throw at them.
The concept Bignall’s most stoked about is a futuristic property he’s dubbed Combatabots. Bignell describes the fantasy world at the heart of the concept as ‘Iron Giant meets Gladiator.’ Aimed at six- to nine-year-olds, it tells the tale of a teenage boy and his robot living in a fictional universe that has reverted to engaging in gladiatorial combat. At MIPCOM he’ll be shopping the 26 x 24-minute CGI series that’s designed to draw kids into the Combatabots world.
Combatabots is also the name of the sport played within the series through which the main protagonists compete. And the gaming element, says Bignell, ‘has already sparked interest from console platforms.’ With distribution players on-board, Bignell is looking for traditional partners and transmedia producers/content aggregators to launch Combatabots across non-traditional media.
Bignell anticipates Naughty Tortoise will also get into transmedia consulting, and he’s hoping to serve as a creative bridge between UK broadcasters and overseas studios. ‘Territories outside the UK are doing an amazing job with the quality and growth of their production industries – particularly animation. So we aim to complement this by being a partner who can handle 20% of the workload in areas that can greatly contribute to a show’s success,’ Bignell says.
Also in Bignell’s sights is the Canadian production industry. He’s currently involved in a live-action kids project being produced in the country, and is following up interest from Canadian producers around Combatabots. ‘The UK is currently at a disadvantage with regards to its ability to compete with the government-supported territories…I’m looking at a lot of UK-Canada collaborations,’ he says.