Like the fantastical journey taken by young protagonist Oliver Gryffon in its award-winning iPad app The Incredible Tales of Weirdwood Manor, Relish Interactive’s path to success has been anything but predictable.
Co-founded by Paul Pattison and Sacha Raposo in 2007, the Canadian digital studio was initially known for its service work in the kids space, helping producers like 9 Story Media Group and Thunderbird Entertainment develop digital games, websites and apps to bolster their content offerings. But now, through its original content division Wasabi Entertainment, the company is working with Kickstart Entertainment to produce Wardens of Weirdwood, a CGI-animated TV series based on its bestselling storybook app for six- to 12-year-olds, The Incredible Tales of Weirdwood Manor. The property will continue to track the adventures of three misfit kids learning to harness magical powers under the tutelage of Arthur Weirdwood, the eccentric master of a mysterious manor.
In its release year, Apple named Weirdwood its runner-up for iPad App of the Year. The title, produced in partnership with Relish sister company All Play, No Work, has since earned numerous awards and accolades, including wins from the Kidscreen Awards and Canadian nonprofit Youth Media Alliance. But the creation was always meant to be part of a multiplatform IP—it just took the right partnership to kick things into high gear. That process began last year when LA-based Kickstart (Ready, Jet, Go!) took an undisclosed stake in the company to collaborate on original projects and branded content.
The series picks up after the events of a second Weirdwood app that comes out on iOS and Android this fall, and Phil Ivanusic (Freaktown) has been tapped to pen the pilot episode. As for the next step in Wasabi’s journey? “Getting our first TV project actually greenlit and financed,” says Pattison. “Because the app has very high production value, we kind of painted ourselves into a corner in that the CGI-animated show will have to be a bigger budget. It will need to be a co-production, and we’ll probably need a few presales.”
To help finance the series, Wasabi is also expanding the IP into publishing with The Thieves of Weirdwood, a prequel to the series by novelist Christian McKay Heidicker (Throw Your Arm Across Your Eyes and Scream), writing as William Shivering. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers acquired English-language worldwide rights to the property earlier this year in a six-figure preempt deal. “We launched into publishing because we learned it would open up doors in TV and film and allow us to expand our brand in a way you can’t do with just a TV series,” says Pattison.
As for other Wasabi animated kids projects, the company has two more series in development with Kickstart—Razicals and Against the Odds—and is partnering with Vancouver-based All in Pictures (Windy & Friends) on Mary & Lamb, and with Toronto-based studio Aircraft Pictures (The Breadwinner) on feature film Daughter of Bells.
Wasabi is also planning to produce eight new storybook apps (half of them original, half third-party) over the next two to three years, thanks to new CMF funding it received last winter to improve the company’s storybook engine technology.