The Stringdom of Yarnia
Producer: L.A.’s The Jim Henson Company
Demo: Seven and up
Style: Henson’s completed a stop-motion animation test, but hasn’t finalized the style
Format: Two x 11-minute eps, number TBD
Budget: Aiming for the market standard of US$350,000 per half hour
Status: A bible’s been worked up by Chowder creator Carl Greenblatt, and Henson is just getting ready to pitch the project to prospective broadcast and/or co-production partners.
Concept: Based on toy property The String Doll Gang, which TJHC picked up to license into consumer products in 2008, this new series features just as wide a range of characters as those conceived by doll creator Kamibashi. To help shape what Henson CEO Lisa Henson calls the ‘world of weirdness’ the dolls inhabit in this pure comedy concept, viewers get to traverse the Stringdom with main characters Skates and Emo – the Princess and Prince of Yarnia. In each ep, the pair gets dispatched by their father the King to a far-flung corner of Yarnia, be it to the volcano that spews feathers when it erupts or a seemingly invisible village inhabited by tiny ninjas. Along with the madcap quality of the scripts, Henson says the company is aiming to bring the tactile nature of the dolls to the screen. The just-completed animation test depicts a unique tactile world forged from string, felt and other fabrics.
Mia and me
Co-producers: Germany’s Lucky Punch (m4e and Hahn Film’s JV) and ZDF, Italy-based Rainbow and Canada’s March Entertainment
Demo: Girls five to 11
Style: Mixed media
Format: 26 x half hours
Budget: US$10.5 million
Status: Fully financed and in production, the series will be pitched to broadcasters for the first time at MIPCOM
Delivery: Fall 2011
Concept: Sure, we’ve seen several tales involving magical worlds make it to the small screen over the past few years. But when was the last time you encountered one built around that most lovely of creatures, the unicorn? Ulrich Stoef, CEO of m4e, reasoned the gentle beasts were equally mythical in the field of scripted entertainment. So, Stoef and Hahn Film’s Gerhard Hahn created the world of Centopia, an island nation inhabited by unicorns being threatened by the evil queen of the Munculus, Panthea. And it’s up to human girl Mia – who gets transported from her boarding school to this strange animated land via a magic bracelet willed to her by her deceased parents – to help the unicorns in her elfin toon form. As the first-ever co-production for Loreto, Italy-based Rainbow, CEO Iginio Straffi hopped on the concept right away. In another first, Rainbow is also producing the six- to- seven-minute live-action segments that frame each episode, while March Entertainment is overseeing the CGI work on Centopia.
Sam Fox – Extreme Adventures
Producer: Sydney, Australia-based SLR Productions
Style: Live action
Format: 26 x half hours
Budget: US$400,000 per half hour
Status: With a bible and first script in-hand, SLR is unveiling the project to potential
broadcasters and co-production partners
Concept: Looking for a new challenge, SLR executive producer Suzanne Ryan optioned the bestselling boy-centric book series Sam Fox – Extreme Adventures from publisher Penguin Australia. Upon reading the action-packed novels about 14-year-old Fox, by all accounts an ordinary boy who encounters every stripe of peril imaginable, Ryan was initially skeptical that a young teen would be capable of, say, wrestling a jaguar or diving into crocodile-infested waters to save someone. A quick internet search revealed tale after tale of real-life teens taking these kinds of risks, says Ryan, which immediately lent credibility to the proposed live-action series. She intends to inventively employ stock footage/camera work and CGI effects, along with quick pacing, to portray the dangerous environments Sam encounters. Additionally, Ryan’s looking at creating five-minute doc-style webisodes to depict ep backstories and add another layer of realism to the concept.
Co-producers: New York’s World Events Productions, L.A.-based Kickstart Productions and Classic Media (London, New York)
Demo: Boys six to 11
Style: 2-D backgrounds with CGI
Format: 26 x half hours
Budget: In the range of US$350,000 to US$400,000 per half hour
Status: Financed and heading into production, with Nicktoons US on-board as lead broadcaster
Delivery: Spring 2011
Concept: Launched in 1984, the original Voltron rivaled Transformers and He-Man for the attention of boys all over the world. And looking to tap that built-in fanbase of men in their twenties and thirties, especially those entering the hallowed halls of fatherhood, World Events Productions (WEP) and its partners, have decided to re-invigorate the world of Voltron. WEP’s Ted Kopler, one of the first series’ producers, is back working to refresh the property through the introduction of three new cadets. The recruits work alongside the original core team of five robots that morph into lions to fight evil. In this ‘post-Robot Chicken’ TV landscape, expect the scripts to be peppered with self-referential/aware humor that should please long-time fans of the property and encourage co-viewing. Classic Media, meanwhile, is handling worldwide distribution and L&M.
Cyber Group Studios
Format: 52 x 11 minutes
Budget: US$6.5 million
Status: Fully financed and in pre-production. Playhouse Disney/Disney Jr. Worldwide has also made a significant pre-buy on the series.
Delivery: Late 2011
Concept: Aimed at the upper end of the preschool demo, this new series from busy prodco Cyber Group Studios is built on the bestselling book series Zou by French author Michel Gay that’s been translated for 17 different markets, including the US, Japan and Korea. CEO Pierre Sissman says it took him some time to convince Gay to grant CGS rights to animate the books about the precocious five-year-old zebra. ‘There’s a lot of humor, tenderness and imagination in the stories,’ says Sissman. The cartoon, for its part, will deliver on that promise by focusing on Zou and his relationships with his extended family, whose members share one big house. Mom, Dad and Zou live on the main floor, with grandma and grandpa on the second, and great-grandma inhabiting the third. All three generations help Zou make his way in discovering how the world works.
Producer: Moi J’aime la télévison
Demo: Tween girls
Style: Live action with CGI effects
Format: 26 x half hours
Budget: Between US$250,000 and US$350,000 per half hour
Status: The prodco is just shoring up the rest of the budget for the series that received development funding from France’s Canal J, which has since come on-board as commissioning broadcaster.
Delivery: Fall 2011
Concept: French broadcaster Canal J was so impressed with the performance of Moi J’aime la télévison’s live-action tween comedy Genie in the House (now in its third season), it asked MD Phil Ox to work up a new live-action sitcom revolving around magic and music. The prodco came up with the idea for Switch, which sees a teenage fairy (Violet) and witch (Gina) landing at a high school populated by mere mortals. In this fish-out-of-water tale, the supernatural girls end up befriending regular human Jack, who has a passion for music and dreams of being famous, and soon a love triangle develops. Throw in some original tunes and a bunch of misdirected magic and that’s when the laughs emerge. In light of the current penchant for musicals like Glee, Ox cautions it’s not an homage to the US primetime hit. ‘Glee’s modernization of music and tongue-in-cheek humor definitely provides food for thought,’ he says. ‘But with a witch and a fairy there are enough surreal elements – we don’t need to do a big musical number every episode.’
Producer: HIT Entertainment
(London, New York)
Style: Animation style TBD
Format: Two x 12-minute segments with one music video per ep
Budget: Aiming for the industry average of US$350,000 per half hour
Status: In early development. HIT intends to pitch to potential broadcast and co-pro partners at MIPCOM for first time with a bible and first script, written by Hotel for Dogs screenplay scribe Jeff Lowell, in hand.
Concept: The idea for this music-driven preschool series came from none other than the chair of TeenNick and Mr. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, who is now actively working with HIT on getting the project off the ground. Inspired by how much he learned (and retained) from the Schoolhouse Rock educational short series that aired in the US in the ’70s and ’80s, Cannon wanted to explore how he could teach kids through music. Thus traveling animated band Pandz, led by sibling panda bears, was born. The idea is that the band is transported from venue to venue via an anthropomorphic bus, and each performance will deliver tunes that impart concepts like simple math, shapes, colors and socio-emotional skills such as teamwork and good manners. HIT EVP of programming and production Karen Barnes says Cannon is supervising the creation of the original music and may just pen some songs himself.