UpNext-What’s developing in kids production

Robust sci-fi backstory powers robo-comedy D.A.N.D.Y
The year is 2080, and humans have finally gotten wise to the destructive impact of war. Countries no longer invade each other to settle disputes; now they send armies of robots to wage battles on the Moon. And instead of bombs, the ammo of choice is every robot's rusty nightmare - water.
June 1, 2008

Robust sci-fi backstory powers robo-comedy D.A.N.D.Y

The year is 2080, and humans have finally gotten wise to the destructive impact of war. Countries no longer invade each other to settle disputes; now they send armies of robots to wage battles on the Moon. And instead of bombs, the ammo of choice is every robot’s rusty nightmare – water.

Any classic robot tale worth its weight in steel has an element of learned emotional behavior to it, and this one is no exception. The war bots have been upgraded so extensively over time that they’ve developed personalities and feelings of their own. Enter D.A.N.D.Y., an average-joe robot who works in the Robo-Bureaucratic Division relaying battleplans from the generals to their brigades. Then one day, a bureaucratic snafu lands Dandy on the front lines under the control of the menacing General Nutjob. D.A.N.D.Y.’s welfare now depends on his ability to use his high-level strategic knowledge to outsmart Nutjob and make friends who can help him get out of the army and escape from the Moon.

The backstory for Toronto, Canada-based Red Rover’s new 26 x 22-minute CGI series for kids seven to 11 may sound like serious science fiction. But as head of sales Thom Chapman explains, the episodes are 95% comedy, 5% action, and he adds that the action will be infused with lots of slapstick and miscommunication gags.

Red Rover has a few scripts written and is working at the same time on the series’ 3-D backdrop, character designs and vehicles, color palettes and story boards. The studio showed the project to broadcasters and distributors at MIPTV for the first time, and interest is high enough that Chapman expects animation to begin in the next few months, aiming for delivery in early 2009. D.A.N.D.Y. is budgeted at roughly US$400,000 per episode, and Red Rover is also planning on using its production assets to create a companion website.

Imira looks for a 30% top-up on Saari

Spanish prodco Imira’s new preschool project has been built to travel, with a voicing strategy that assigns each of the main characters a unique melody to communicate with. Saari is a 2-D animated co-pro with Barcelona-based Stor Fisk and TV3 in Catalunya, and it centers around a hodgepodge of creatures living in a lyrical island oasis, who use their active imaginations to overcome whimsical trials and tribulations.

There’s Rikitiki, a high-strung yet elegant world-traveling bird with a guitar rhythm that’s impossible to repress; motherly owl Buu, who is partial to tea; Pii, a shy girl who wears a thick woolen cap like a security blanket and expresses herself through her hand puppet; and happy-go-lucky octopus Pulpo, whose agile limbs adopt spectacular forms to help solve problems. In one episode, the four friends bust out umbrellas and rubber boots to venture out into the rain. When they discover a little stream of rainwater has formed, they flip the umbrellas upside-down and float along the stream in their makeshift boats.

Christophe Goldberger, head of distribution and marketing at Imira, says five scripts are in the can, and production will begin in July. Presales are done with YLE Finland, S4C in the Wales, and Disney Spain and Italy, and delivery is set for April 2009. At just over US$960,000 for 39 three-minute episodes, the series is 70% financed, and Imira is in discussions with broadcasters in Italy and Korea to shore up the remaining shortfall.

Goldberger is also in the process of finding a partner to roll out a companion book program simultaneously with the series, and has entertained a few bites from publishing companies in Asia and Europe since the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where he shopped around a sample of the animation. Imira is also working on a style guide for the L&M program, with sample products including brightly colored children’s apparel and mugs. Images of these mock-ups are available at www.saari.com, which also houses information on mobisodes designed to encourage parent/child storytelling.

SIP mines comic book concept George and Me and brings original creators in to consult on the TV extension

France’s rich comic book market is feeding the kids entertainment biz again, this time yielding a concept SIP Animation is working up for six- to 11-year-olds. George and Me is an adaptation of a relatively new same-name comic series first published in 2006 by Editions Soleil. The 26 x 22-minute toon stars two university grads, both named George, who land jobs as secret agents protecting the city from an alien invasion. Think Men in Black, but instead of dapper suits and cool shades, these agents disguise themselves as an eight-year-old boy and a cat.

George is quite happy being a cat – his owner fawns over him endlessly, and gives him all the food his heart desires. The other George, however, is none too pleased about having to attend classes again. But the cover is a necessary one since the alien portal is located in his middle school.

Ozanam and Eluasti, the author and illustrator team that produces the comic series, are currently putting the finishing touches on volume three and four of the books and will consult on the show. SIP MD Stephanie Kirchmeyer says the animated series will focus on the action-adventure elements of the concept, letting the comic books explore character development and more complicated relationship-based plot lines.

The entire 26-episode series will run in the ballpark of US$9.5 million, and SIP will be at MIPCOM in October looking for co-pro partners and presales. A French broadcaster is already tentatively on-board, although Kirchmeyer couldn’t reveal which one at press time. In the meantime, SIP is mapping out a major relaunch of the George and Me website and plans to develop a game site to roll out soon after the show airs. If all goes as expected, Kirchmeyer hopes to head into production at the beginning of 2009 and deliver at the end of the year.

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