Up Next: What’s developing in kids production

Millimages dives deeper into animated educon
August 1, 2003

Millimages dives deeper into animated educon

Following the delivery of last year’s The Way Things Work, based on the top-selling non-fiction book series by David Macauly, Millimages is in production on another educational series. The Paris, France-based company is fishing for kids ages four to seven with The Hydronauts, using interesting morsels about marine ecology as bait. The 2-D animated comedy series centers around Neptuna, an extraterrestrial looking for the keys to Earth’s abundant marine life that she can export back to her water-deprived home planet. In each episode of the 26 x 13-minute series, Neptuna and her Earthling pals explore the sea from her ship and learn interesting facts about its denizens. Millimages will distribute the US$4.7-million series, which it has already sold to France 5 and KI.KA in Germany. The company is co-producing The Hydronauts with its German subsidiary Toons’n’Tales and Helsinki, Finland’s Epidem Zot. Separately, Millimages’ doc unit Gedeon Programmes is developing a 26 x one-minute doc series on sea life, which broadcasters can air following each episode of The Hydronauts.

Tons of Toons takes on a bigger format with an atom-sized adventure toon for boys

Taking its first stab at long-form series production, Spain’s Tons of Toons has opted for high-tech boys action. Geared to the nine to 11 demo, LMN’s (pronounced elements) centers on Chip, an everyboy who is shrunk to the size of an atom after visiting the local energy institute on a school trip. Unbeknownst to Chip, mad scientist Dr. No has slipped into the institute to obliterate the Earth using a particle generator and a special lens for transforming matter into anti-matter. The gizmo backfires, however, whisking him and Chip into a universe of atoms called Microworld. Though he’s befriended by a group of atoms, Chip finds himself on the run from the evil doctor, who’s still bent on world destruction, but needs the special lens (now in Chip’s possession) to complete the deed.

TOT is co-producing the US$4-million series with Spanish broadcaster Televisio de Catalunya and Barcelona-based companies Enefecto and Decapamix. Tons of Toons will oversee worldwide distribution of LMN’s and is still looking for partners to top up financing. The studio hopes to begin production in September.

Method mines French comic cache for The Gnoufs

With French comic books still providing fertile source material for toon adaptation, it’s little wonder that France’s prodcos are forever thumbing through the racks for the next Titeuf. The latest to try its luck in the comic book sweeps is Paris-based Method Films, which is currently adapting French artist Bertrand Santini’s comic book series The Gnoufs for the small screen. Billed as Calvin & Hobbes meets The Muppets – only more caustic – the 52 x 13-minute comedy series for six- to 10-year-olds stars a group of aliens trying to familiarize themselves with Earth’s culture through TV, the Internet and a natural ability (called spooforation) to inhabit inanimate objects and animals from sugared waffles to cows.

In each episode, the characters get themselves into a moral/environmental quandary (like when they try to domesticate rats, which leads to massive over-population) that they must work out.

Millimages will oversee international sales for The Gnoufs, which Method is producing for US$7 million. Method is scheduled to deliver the 2-D toon, which it has already sold to France 3, in September 2004.

Tiger Aspect’s Star explores celebrity hardship

Tween girls’ all-consuming passion for celebrity culture is at the heart of Star (13 x half hours), a new live-action tween comedy from U.K. indie studio Tiger Aspect. Co-produced with ITV and MTV Networks International, Star spotlights the plight of 12-year-old thespian Bradley Fisher, who’s trying to lead a normal life despite his public notoriety. Inevitably, though, his celeb status gets in the way – like when the press starts digging into his private life, threatening to unravel his plans to throw a surprise birthday party for one of his best friends.

Based on an original concept from British cartoonist Mark Grant, who also penned Tiger Aspect’s adult-skewing comedy Perfect World, Star is being produced at a per-episode cost of US$250,000. ITV will have a first window among U.K. terrestrials, with MTV Networks International managing worldwide distribution rights. Tiger Aspect has already nabbed About a Boy’s Nicholas Hoult to play the series lead, and MTVE is hopeful his star power will help sell the show to U.S. broadcasters.

Cromosoma’s Asha promotes respect for racial differences

Cultural diversity is the theme of Asha, a 3-D fantasy/comedy toon from Barcelona, Spain’s Cromosoma. Inspired by the real-life childhood of Spanish TV presenter Asha Miro, the 26 x half-hour series focuses on a seven-year-old Indian girl who moves with her adoptive family to a large Mediterranean city. Aimed at kids ages four to nine, the show primarily takes place in Asha’s school, where she and her multi-ethnic friends discover that differences in nationality and culture can be a unifying force.

Worldwide distributor Cromosoma is betting the multicultural series will travel well globally, says TV sales exec Judit Foz. Tentatively slated for delivery in 2005, Asha has been sold to Televisio de Catalunya. Cromosoma has raised half of the show’s US$7-million budget and is currently seeking partners to cover the remaining financing.

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