what’s developing in kids production

Ciné-Groupe gets serial...
February 1, 2000

Ciné-Groupe gets serial

with Saban and CTW

Ciné-Groupe has unveiled production deals on two major animation series, which together will cost US$25.5 million to produce.

The Montreal-based toonco and two U.S. partners, Children’s Television Workshop and IF/X Productions, will produce 40 half-hour episodes of Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat, adapted from the Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club) children’s book. The US$12-million series will go into daily rotation in fall 2001 on PBS Kids Ready to Learn program block. Talks with a Canadian broadcaster are underway. The deal with CTW was initially developed by Ken Karsumoto, head of Ciné-Groupe operations in Los Angeles.

Sagwa follows the adventures of a spunky kitten who sets out to find her place in the world of ancient Chinese tradition. Each half-hour episode includes two 11-minute segments combining classic animation, music, folklore and fairy tales. The two traditional animation segments will be linked by an interstitial produced by Ciné-Groupe Interactive using Web animation techniques. Ciné-Groupe and CTW are distributing worldwide.

Earlier this month, Ciné-Groupe and Saban International Paris announced the start of production on WunschPunch, 52 half-hours of children’s animation presold to Radio-Canada and France’s TF1.

WunschPunch chronicles the adventures of a blundering cat and his more clever feathered friend as they foil a villainous duo with a destructive magic potion. The series is budgeted at US$13 million and is based on an original German novel by Michael Ende, author of The Never Ending Story.

A kid called Treasure from Cinar

Montreal-based Cinar is teaming up with the BBC, in association with London-based Halo Productions, to co-produce Treasure, a 26 x 10-minute or 13 x 24-minute series geared to a family audience. Currently in production, the 2-D toon explores the lives of a teenaged hellion named Treasure, as well as her mom and grandmother. The almost 15-year-old hero lives to shop, dabbles in vegetarianism and wallows in the pig sty that is her room. Sound familiar? The series, budgeted between US$4.1 million and US$4.8 million, is based on Michele Hanson’s U.K. syndicated newspaper column of the same name. The toon has been presold to YTV in Canada and to the BBC, where it will air in prime time in Q4 2000 or early 2001. Cinar handles worldwide distribution.

Fox’s Tara telefilm

Fox Family Channel’s Ice Angel, starring Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski, will skate onto the small screen March 5. The live-action comedy centers around a star hockey player who is accidentally killed in a heavenly mix-up and then reborn in the body of a prim Olympics-bound 17-year-old. The two-hour Fox Family Channel TV movie, budgeted at approximately US$3 million, will target a family audience. Saban International will distribute the telefilm internationally.

Sunrise’s anime lands on Cartoon

With North American kids showing no symptoms of anime ennui, Gundam Wing should receive a warm welcome when it lands on Cartoon Network on March 6. Cartoon purchased half-hour eps of GW from Sunrise Entertainment, a subsidiary of Bandai, and plans to air the show five days a week during its Toonami block. Based on a graphic novel by renowned Japanese author-animator Yoshiyuki Tomino, Gundam Wing is set several centuries in the future, and centers on an intergalactic civil war between earth and its space colonies. Much of the action in the show revolves around the space colonists, who use special mobile suits, or Gundam, to ward off the imperialist leanings of their earth-bound foes. Gundam Wing, which first aired on Japanese TV in 1979, has yielded 400 episodes, which cost Sunrise roughly US$100,000 each to produce, and has spawned eight films and six video game titles. Given its strong Japanese pedigree, Brian Goldner, executive VP and COO of Bandai America, is confident GW will follow in the footsteps of the company’s most recent anime import, Digimon. To coincide with Gundam’s North American TV debut, Bandai will release several GW videos and a line of GW snap-together model kits to stores. Also hitting U.S. retail in March will be a Gundam game title for the Dreamcast console.

‘In Gundam, there’s already a built-in fan base among anime fans. There are hundreds of sites dedicated to its discussion. Our goal is to give a U.S audience the same compelling story line that Japanese audiences have been enthusiastic about for years,’ says Goldner.

Anton looking for


Based in the Netherlands, Telescreen Distribution is hunting down presales and additional partners for a whimsical short series called Anton. A co-production with Kratki Film in the Czech Republic, the pencil-drawn preschool toon will initially be produced as 13 five-minute episodes for a planned December 2000 completion. The budget for the initial run is US$455,000, although the total cost will be upped to US$1.8 million should the partners move ahead on 39 episodes that are planned. Based on a character created by Academy Award-winning animator B¿rge Ring, Anton stars a seven-year-old boy who uses his active imagination to make the real world more fun. All rights are currently up for grabs, with Telescreen handling distribution.

Virtual surfers suffer in Megaram

Spain’s PPM Multimedia is tapping into kids’ love of the Internet with a new US$6-million animated series for six- to 12-year-olds called Megaram. A co-pro project that’s in development with Madrid-based Tabano Arts and Animation Films and France’s Toon Factory, the 26 x 26-minute concept features young surfers trapped inside the Web by an evil despot named Dr. Destroyer. The cyberkids glean superpowers from their digital surroundings to foil the foul plots of Destroyer and his Virus henchman. In keeping with the high-tech theme, animation for the show layers 2-D characters over 3-D inside-the-Web backgrounds and foregrounds rendered by Tabano’s 3-D branch Angelus. With broadcast negotiations underway with Germany’s Super RTL and Spain’s Via Digital, PPM is hoping to have the project done by late 2002. PPM is on the hunt for partners capable of developing Web games and CD-ROMs to augment the series’ cyberappeal.

PPM is also shopping around a 200 x one-minute 2-D co-pro between Barcelona-based Studio Camera and New York’s SPI. Dr. Disaster targets teens and young adults with a comedic plot centering around the medical mishaps of a bumbling physician and his equally incompetent assistant. Currently in production with a rough budget of US$1 million, Dr. Disaster is slated for completion in June. Distribution rights are shared by SPI and PPM, and no broadcasters have come on-board yet.

Mega offers another

Net-inspired toon

California-based Mega Entertainment is shopping for co-pro partners and broadcasters for EZ Net Surfers, a 26 x half-hour cel-animated series targeting kids ages eight and up. Budgeted at US$300,000 per episode, the show is centered around a group of teen hackers who create a cyberwarrior to fend off a virus. Currently in preproduction, Mega Entertainment hopes to have it ready for delivery by the end of this year. Mega will handle worldwide distribution.

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