Varga toons up a music format phenomenon
May 1, 2002

Varga toons up a music format phenomenon

Hungary-based Varga Entertainment is edging into the music programming game with an animated version of the Popstars format called Popstars: Band on the Run. Before striking gold in the live-action realm, New Zealand-based Popstars creator Screentime Productions had pitched the concept to Varga as a toon. Having passed the first time around, Varga will now tap into the international success of the format with a 2-D animated series chronicling the post-contest career of an average Popstars band (three girls, a guy and a manager). Production on the 26 x half-hour series should start this summer, with a per-episode price tag of approximately US$300,000. U.K.-based format production and distribution specialist Target will handle worldwide sales.

Target is also developing a 2-D/CGI property called The Wannabeez, which it co-owns with Studio Optical out of Birmingham, England. When three tween girls move into a house that was previously owned by an eccentric inventor, they accidentally activate a machine that lets them morph into any form they choose. Budgeted at US$200,000 per half hour, the 26 x 11-minute toon will target five- to eight-year-olds and emphasize empowerment and the potential to be anything you want to be.

Gerry Anderson brews an alien invasion saga

Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett creator Gerry Anderson is turning his Midas touch to a new 26 x half-hour concept called Firestorm for eight- to 15-year-olds. The 2-D/3-D combo is set at the end of the 21st century, when world peace is threatened by an alien operative unit called Black Orchid that’s bent on destabilizing Earth in preparation for invasion. Humanity’s leaders establish a special crime-fighting team called Storm Force to stamp out the threat.

Character design and production on Firestorm, which is budgeted at around US$300,000 per half hour, began last month in Japan at Digital Media Lab and Trans Art, with 3-D backgrounds being rendered in California by Computercafe and Media Design Institute.

Foothill and BRB set sail with Pirate School

Foothill Entertainment, a two-year-old outfit founded by former DIC executive VP of business and legal affairs Greg Payne and Link Television’s ex-senior VP of U.S. operations Jo Kavanagh-Payne, is working up a concept called Pirate School for L.A.-based rights owner Red Sky Entertainment and Spain’s BRB. Based on a book by Brit author Colin McNaughton called Captain Abdul’s Pirate School, the 2-D series for kids ages seven to nine has already been optioned by the BBC and ABC Australia for broadcast in fall 2003.

Captain Abdul runs an elite pirate school in which the students are often smarter than the instructors. The buccaneers-in-training are discouraged from brushing their teeth, and learn about geometry and geography by tracking the arc of a cannon ball and searching for treasure islands.

Production on 26 half-hour episodes (budgeted between US$250,000 and US$300,000 each) will begin in July. Santa Barbara, California-based Foothill will distribute the series in English-speaking territories, with BRB taking on the rest of the world.

Canadian/Australian co-pro conjures up a magical double plot

Arthurian reincarnation takes center stage in a new 26 x half-hour co-pro called Guinevere Jones that originated at YTV and is being produced by Australia’s Crawford Productions, Original Pictures in Winnipeg, Canada and Vancouver-based Ibis Entertainment.

Described as Harry Potter meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this tween-skewing live-actioner has a dual plot: On the surface, a 14-year-old Canadian girl named Gwen Jones is whisked off to Australia by her mother in order to escape some mysterious danger. But another level of the plot reveals that King Arthur’s wife Guinevere, who cheated on her hubby with Lancelot and brought Camelot to ruin, has been reincarnated as Gwen and is now trying to right her many past transgressions.

Guinevere never actually takes over Gwen’s body, but her wild and regal spirit makes it difficult for Gwen to fit into her new environment. Magic and intrigue are interwoven throughout the series as Gwen/Guinevere reteams with Merlin the magician to outsmart her many enemies–both new and old.

With a budget running between US$350,000 and US$400,000 per half hour, Guinevere Jones is slated for delivery in June to Australia’s Network Ten and YTV.

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