What’s developing in kids production

Go-go Gadget!
Following a 15-year TV run and a 1999 feature film release, Inspector Gadget is getting ready to hit the small screen again with the 2-D cel-animated Gadget and the Gadgetinis. The new series is a co-production between DIC-which owns...
December 1, 2000

Go-go Gadget!

Following a 15-year TV run and a 1999 feature film release, Inspector Gadget is getting ready to hit the small screen again with the 2-D cel-animated Gadget and the Gadgetinis. The new series is a co-production between DIC-which owns the worldwide rights to the property-and Saban. The latter will control international distribution of Gadget and the Gadgetinis, which was also put together by Saban’s animation studio, Saban International Paris. Fifty-two half hours are in development, budgeted at approximately US$400,000 per ep. Fox Kids in the U.S., M6 in France and Italy’s Mediatrade have committed to air the series sometime in 2002.

The new series (targeting six- to 11-year-olds) will still have the original Gadget and his niece Penny, but instead of their dog Brain, there will be Gadgetinis (small android versions of the Inspector). Some new villains will also make an appearance, without overshadowing the evilness of Gadget’s archnemesis Dr. Claw. There will only be two Gadgetinis to start, says Sam Ewing, Saban’s VP of international co-productions and acquisitions, because he wants the characters to develop personalities. But he assures that more will roll out as the series progresses. Of course, there will also be plenty of new gadgets added to the Inspector’s arsenal.

The Inspector Gadget property has established itself as an icon worldwide, nearing cult status in France, Ewing says. Its broad international appeal and increased recognition following the ’99 film should serve as a good platform for the new show.

Seeing double, and triple

The success of the live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch and its animated progeny (Sabrina the Animated Series) has prompted an animated spin-off called Salem. The show features the talking cat from the original series, targets six- to 11-year-olds, and should begin production this month (52 half hours). DIC covers all worldwide distribution of the 2-D animated series, budgeted at US$275,000 to US$325,000 per episode. Broadcasters have yet to commit to the series, but it will be in production to air next fall in the U.S.

‘There’s a long pedigree of successful cats in animation,’ says Robby London, executive VP of creative affairs for DIC, offering Garfield and Heathcliff as examples. Salem, from the original live-action series and from DIC’s animated version, is suggestive of that kind of popularity, and London sees it as a great breakout character. The show is being developed to stand completely on its own. But while no Sabrina series crossover is initially intended, London is not ruling out the possibility.

Some time ago, Salem (a warlock of considerable power) was turned into a cat as punishment for trying to take over the world. If he does enough good in the world, Salem will revert to his human form, so each ep begins in an attempt to accomplish a good deed. But because he’s always trying to get something for himself in the bargain, the not-so-selfless act usually blunders.

Kids like the Salem character, says London, because he’s probably a lot like they are. He’s got that ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude, and in the same way kids learn that they can’t always get what they want, Salem’s greedy tendencies are also curbed by his comic misadventures.

DIC has another show starting production this month starring animated versions of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. So far, the 2-D and live-action project is being called Action Girls (working title) and is in co-production with France’s Canal J. Like Salem, the 52 half hours (budget at US$275,000 to US$325,000 per ep) should be ready for air next fall, although no domestic broadcasters had committed at press time.

The 14-year-old Olsens have grown to be a huge phenomenon in the U.S. via their live-action incarnations, and London felt that they would make a great animated team. London attributes their massive (and mainly girl) fan base to the relatability of the girls and their characters-the I-could-have-that-life element to their personalities and presentation. They’re aspirational, he explains, and kids generally want to be like them.

The sisters play globe-trotting movie stars who use their acting and movie-making skills (are those considered superpowers?) to help people in need. Each episode unfolds as one of the movies the Olsens are doing, whether it’s a Bond-like spy movie or a historical period piece. The series targets six- to 11-year-olds and is being distributed worldwide by DIC.

‘Close your eyes and see in a different way’

Spain-based BRB International has created a new 2-D animated comedy for kids ages four to 12 about a blind boy named Nico. Nico’s 26 half hours are budgeted at US$6 million and co-produced with TVE (Televisi—n Español) and ONCE, the National Association for the Blind in Spain. TVE has committed to broadcast the series in Spain-in production for next year-and BRB will handle all international distribution.

Nico is the first animated series about blind people and the relatively unknown world they live in. The series intends to inform kids and their parents about blindness and the integration of blind people into today’s society. Nico himself is a 12-year-old boy who was born blind. The show works on many little-known truths and falsitiessurrounding blindness-lots of did-you-know-thats helping to dissolve prejudices concerning those who can’t see.

Greenlight’s Odyssey

Netherlands-based Greenlight has teamed up with French animation house Marathon (which recently opened a production facility in Berlin) to distribute 26 half hours of The Odyssey, a retelling of the classical adventures of Ulysses. Also in on the co-production in a funding capacity is Greenlight’s Berlin Animation Film fund. All new products orchestrated through the BAF fund are licensed worldwide by Greenlight International for film, TV, video and DVD. Merchandising and published material are handled by Greenlight Media.

According to Nikolaus Weil, COO of Greenlight Media, the interesting part of delivering a classic property is trying to maintain the structure and style that made the story popular in the first place, and then taking it to what he calls the next step of evolution-‘trying to converge it into a new form of media while maintaining the classic art of storytelling.’ Greenlight is taking The Odyssey to market in the same way as SimsalaGrimm, the company’s other classic property that has sold in over 125 territories. The Odyssey will be more action-packed than the Grimm tales, Weil acknowledges, establishing new characters that didn’t enjoy much prominence in the original telling.

The 2-D animated series is budgeted at approximately US$7 million and targets six- to 14-year-olds. So far, M6 in France and Super RTL and Europool in Germany have committed for a likely fall 2002 debut. The series is in preliminary planning, and there should be a finished trailer for the next MIP-TV or Natpe.

Disney greenlights an animated varitey show health series

In an all-U.K. co-production between Adam and Partners and Disney UK, Electric Skaramoosh is developing a series on children’s health and well-being for seven- to 11-years-olds. The Anna `n’ Tommy Show is a mixture of 2-D and 3-D animation, and the 26 x five-minute series will be distributed by Electric Sky.

Anna and Tommy host a fast-paced variety show set in a fantasy world where just about anything goes. The set is like a marionette theater, where things can drop down or pop up at a moment’s notice. (Say they’re talking about the heart: A diagrammatic and very large heart will appear on stage so they can take it apart and show us how it works.) Tommy is the crazy and somewhat obsessive part of the duo, and Anna plays the more wondering and mature role (even though Tommy’s nine and she’s eight). The messages are relatively grown-up without being patronizing, and the series steps away from the largely factual and live-action series Electric Sky normally puts out, but The Tommy `n’ Anna Show is part of a growing strand of kids properties in the company’s catalog.

Disney is the U.K. broadcaster for the US$50,000-per-episode series. Electric Skaramoosh is a joint-venture between Electric Sky and Skaramoosh, an animation company out of Covent Garden in London.

In development

Another game of cat and mouse

Before Itchy & Scratchy there was Herman & Katnip, and now it’s back. Harvey Entertainment is introducing the property-which originated in the `50s-to a new generation of five- to 11-year-olds to keep its other classic titles (like Casper, Richie Rich and Wendy the Witch) company.

The Herman & Katnip Show is hosted by a feuding cat-and-mouse duo. The new series is co-produced in a retro-classic style of 2-D animation by Harvey and Vancouver-based animation house Studio B. It will feature the same kind of hi-jinx found in the original show, but now boasts never-before-seen cartoon shorts of Baby Huey and other classic Harvey characters. While no broadcasters had committed to the series at press time, each of the 26 half hours (budgeted at US$330,000) should be ready for delivery next fall.

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