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Something's fishy about this toon
September 23, 2010

Something’s fishy about this toon

A curious thing has happened in the sleepy mid-western town of Spumville. Everyone awoke one morning to find that their heads had been replaced by household objects and family pets. So it’s now up to a 12-year-old named Fish-Head Steve to investigate what happened while the townsfolk rush around blaming the mishap on everything from the local chemical plant to a recent alien invasion. (Not that the extra-terrestrials realize anything out of the ordinary is afoot.)

Steve may be on a mission to restore order, but in the meantime the residents of Spumville must get used to their new noggins and carry on with everyday activities, such as holding parades, baseball games and embarking on camping trips. Having a loaf of bread or a fish for a head, however, proves treacherous, especially when surrounded by a flock of birds, for example.

Aimed at boys eight to 12, the 52 x 11-minute series Fish-Head Steve is based on a comic strip of the same name. Executive producer Catherine Robins from London-based Random House Children’s Screen Entertainment (a joint-venture between publisher Random House and Kommix Entertainment) says the animation will retain the comic strip’s feel and vivid color palette. And the fledgling prodco is working with London-based Blue-Zoo on production. A delivery date hasn’t been set, but Robins is ready to shop the trailer around. The first season of scripts is underway with a proposed series budget of $US3.9 million.

When you’re young at heart

Imagine falling asleep and waking up decades later as an old man or woman, but with the mindset of a child. That is exactly the premise of Mau & the Grandkids, a co-production from Screen 21 and Genoma Animation, with BRB Internacional on-board as distributor. The 52 x 15-minute CGI comedy series for kids six to nine stars 10-year-old Mau who, after falling asleep from an exhausting game of bocce ball, wakes up 89 years later as an old man. Having skipped the aging process, Mau still has the same spirit, curiosity and naivety of any youngster. But his body reflects his advanced years, and now climbing Mt. Everest involves stopping every five minutes to go to the bathroom, and the latest in high tech refers to advances in denture wear.

Of course, Mau still has all of his old pals, such as his best friend Tony, a retired mechanic and genius inventor, and ornery Jacob, a wise 120-year-old with poor hearing and a bad memory. The aging, crotchety crew, however, partake in lively adventures like starring on game shows and breeding an unruly number of pigeons. Bringing a breath of fresh air to the old folks is great niece Sophia, a smart and talkative 13-year-old girl whose modern-day sense of fashion, music and next-gen gadgetry is relatable, but causes flare-ups with Mau.

Screen 21 and Genoma are working toward an unspecified delivery date in 2012 with a budget of US$6.4 million.

Lost toys take on the real world

Ever wonder what happens to the small plastic toys you worshipped as a child, but carelessly abandoned as you moved into adulthood? Well, 13 x 2.5-minute CGI comedy Babioles is aiming to tell their live-action tales. Targeting tweens and teens, the co-production from Autour de Minuit in Paris and Netherlands-based Valk Producteries follows the plight of the small animated toys as they move about in the real world.

The stylistic series shows the cute, cartoonish characters, including an affectionate rabbit, a curious bear and a disoriented penguin, in live-action settings filmed from the toys’ point of view. In fact, Autour de Minuit has created a documentary-style feel to the series, shooting scenes as if a tiny film crew were following the playthings as they embark on their daily adventures. In one instance, for example, a phone ringing on a desk creates a deafeningly loud earthquake-like effect for the Babioles. Suddenly a large hand surges out of nowhere to grab the phone and we hear a distant ‘Hello’ uttered by an adult office worker.

With a presale to French cabsat net Canal+ in place, Autour de Minuit is working with a budget of approximately US$773,000. So far there’s a pilot and first season’s worth of scripts in the can, and pre-production is expected start in November for a June 2011 delivery.

Keg debuts colony of Mad Cows

On a peaceful, moonlit night in the rural hills of Ireland, a herd of cattle graze as a bolt of lightning suddenly strikes. When the cows recover, one pair finds it has acquired human traits – the cows can stand upright, speak and use opposable hooves. The two mammals realize they are not alone in the world and go on a mission to find others like them, eventually forming a bizarre band of bovines labeled The Mad Cows.

The animated 26 x 12-minute series for kids six to 10 is an original in-house production from Dublin, Ireland-based Keg Kartoonz, created by writer and director Noel Kelly.

The motley crew of crazy cattle roams far and wide in an RV loaded to the nines with extreme sports equipment. It comes in handy for getting out of nasty scrapes, such as a tightrope walk over the Grand Canyon or a pole vault over the Great Wall of China. In each episode, the gang in Mad Cows crosses paths with humans and often becomes embroiled, unwittingly, in evil homo sapien schemes. However, they always manage to foil the villainous plots.

The cows also often find themselves embroiled in debacles that impart enviro-conscious lessons. In one episode, their involvement in a bog-snorkeling championship involves an illegal dumping operation. On another occasion, the cattle are shocked to discover they are responsible for much of the Earth’s methane build-up – one of the causes of the hole in the ozone layer.

The first 15 eps are scheduled to head into production in October and Keg Kartoonz is working with a per-episode budget of approximately US$77,000.

A quacking good series

Everyday is a new adventure for quiet, yet curious, seven-year-old Sarah and her quacky, flappy, slightly manic best friend, Duck. This 37 x seven-minute preschool series from London’s Karrot Animation is aimed at kids two to five and follows the pair as they perform everyday tasks with imaginative and sensory zeal. Each day brings a new experience in which Sarah and Duck gain an understanding of the world, even if it’s in a very roundabout, fantastical way.

A narrator guides the audience through the scenes in The Simple but Exciting Adventures of Sarah & Duck and also offers friendly, helpful suggestions and commentary to the two protagonists. Other characters include Rainbow, which of course shows up after a rainfall, the old sweet scarf lady who has a bag that says ‘hold me’ when she puts it down, a donkey that appears very sad but is actually quite content, and a small scared bug that lives in a house plant.

The original concept was created in-house by Karrot staffer Sarah Gomes Harris and is based on autobiographical fantasy adventures she shared with her own Duck. Director Jamie Badminton says UK-based Channel Five is sponsoring the series at Forum and he is looking for the prodco’s first partners and funding/presales. Karrot has several completed scripts and is working with an approximate budget of US$2.2 million towards a fall 2010 delivery date.

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