Cool new shows

Adventure and comedy (with a nice side of potty humor) abound in this crop of original series launching at this year's MIPTV market.
April 5, 2011

Adventure and comedy (with a nice side of potty humor) abound in this crop of original series launching at this year’s MIPTV market:

In the Belly of a Giant

Target: Kids six to 11
Producer:  Paris-based Alphanim
Style:  Digital 2D animation
Format:  52 x 11 minutes
Budget:  US$350,000/half hour
Status:  Still in early development, Alphanim has worked up a bible, initial character design and script ideas. It’s now starting to pitch potential co-pro and broadcast partners.
Delivery:  TBD

Concept: Pure character-driven comedy with a squash-and-stretch approach is the name of the game for this series created by small Belgium-based prodco Eugene and Louise. Picked up by Alphanim creative director Heath Kenny at MIPCOM last fall, the story begins when young Waldo gets sniffed up the nose of a giant and lands in the creature’s stomach, also known as the strange world of Belly Ville Valley. There he meets Buckaroo, a wannabe ice cream salesman, who ironically has neither ice cream nor sales experience. The two become fast friends and it’s the juxtaposition of Waldo’s can-do enthusiasm and Buckaroo’s innate laziness that propels the laughs. In fact, much of the situational comedy comes from playing off the differences between unlikely pairings. For example, there’s a cursed Viking and a similarly doomed pirate who are fused together by their beards, and resident bad guy Sludge, who covets Belly Ville’s trash but is also germ-phobic, is in cahoots with a cowardly sheriff who couldn’t keep law and order if his life depended upon it.

Pirata & Capitano

Target: Preschool
Producer:  Madrid, Spain-based Vodka Capital
Style:  CGI animation
Format:  52 x 11 minutes
Budget:  US$11.2 million
Status:  With roughly 50% of the budget raised, and character designs and initial script ideas in-hand, Vodka is looking at co-pro scenarios to trigger pre-production by the end of this year.
Delivery:  Spring/summer 2013

Concept: This preschool series targeting the over-three crowd is the brainchild of Vodka Capital’s David Cantolla, who co-created Pocoyo during his tenure at Spanish prodco Zinkia. Vodka MD Steven Posner says the idea for this comic adventure series starring Pirata (a.k.a. “a pink Jack Sparrow”) and her sometimes reticent pilot pal Capitano, really came out of a perceived hole in the market. Just finishing up production on its first series Jelly Jamm (sold internationally to Turner’s Boomerang), Posner says the company saw “a bit of a gap between very young-skewing/babyish preschool series and programs for older kids that three- and four-year-olds are falling into.” In each ep, the spritely pirate and amiable pilot embark on a treasure hunt for an ultimate bounty that serves as a metaphor for the social/emotional values that the stylish show’s trying to impart. But it will also contain a lot of original music to further strengthen the concept. Various digital offshoots that have yet to be fully mapped out are also part of the plan, thanks to Vodka’s in-house expertise in website and gaming design.

Fleabag Monkeyface

Target: Tween boys
Co-producers:  London’s Walker Productions and Impossible Kids and Sparky Animation in Singapore
Style:  CGI
Format:  52 x 11 minutes
Budget:  Roughly US$276,500 per half hour
Status:  As the first original commission made by UK broadcaster ITV/CiTV in five years or so, the series is in production and is being prepped for the international sales market.
Delivery:  Fall 2011

Concept: Based on a six-book series published by UK house Walker Books and penned by the writing team Knife and Packer, this gross-out comedy finds Fleabag Monkeyface at the center of a trio of friends under constant threat from resident evil genius, Dr. Dirk Spamflex. You see, pals Gene and Gerald unwittingly created Fleabag while they were attempting to concoct the most disgusting gloop known to man by stuffing all kinds of rotting organic material into an unused toilet that then gets struck by lightning. Fleabag emerges from the wreckage able to knock over buildings with his belches and fly, propelled by his super-powered farts. In essence, he lives out the fantasies of Gene, Gerald and most tween boys. And while he has the brainpower to wreak global havoc, Dr. Spamflex is singularly fixated on reclaiming the trio’s TV slot (the boys are the hosts of Gross Out TV, naturally) for his cancelled series, Yucky Science—much to amusement of the audience.

Redakai: Conquer the Kairu

Target: Boys six to 11
Co-producers:  Paris-based Marathon Media for Zodiak Kids and Spin Master Entertainment in Toronto, Canada
Style:  2D animation
Format:  52 x half hours
Budget:  US$20 million
Status:  An A-list lineup of broadcasters, including Cartoon Network US, YTV (Canada) and Canal J/Gulli (France) is on-board for this series making its international sales debut at MIPTV.
Delivery:  Fall 2011

Concept: According to GM David Michel, Marathon Media (now under the Zodiak Kids umbrella) and toyco Spin Master’s entertainment arm had been looking at doing a project together for a few years. Michel and CEO Vincent Chalvon-Demersay then hatched the idea for this boy-targeted series. “From a story perspective, most toy-oriented shows are pure action and we wanted to go for something more quest-like where the main characters go through an initiation, encounter ordeals along the way and have their powers grow,” says Michel. “That’s what’s different about Redakai.” In this case, three teenage trainees of an ancient martial art that revolves around mastering a supernatural energy called the Kairu must travel the globe in search of its stolen shards scattered around the Earth. It turns out there are all sorts of extraterrestrial teens looking for the same thing, driving the action-adventure forward. Visually, Michel says his team opted to create worlds crafted by painting over photos, giving the series’ settings a distinct, almost photo-real look. Spin Master’s parent toyco is working on a trading card game and toy line. Cartoon Network Enterprises will handle L&M in North America, while the Zodiak Kids licensing arm will look after all other territories.

Anne’s Droids

Target: Kids six to nine
Producer:  Toronto, Canada’s Sinking Ship Entertainment
Style:  Live action/CGI animation
Format:  52 x 11 minutes
Budget:  US$300,000/half hour
Status:  Sinking Ship just finished showing the self-financed series’ pilot around at Kidscreen Summit in February and is currently evaluating interest from potential US and Canadian broadcast partners.
Delivery:  Fall 2012

Concept:  With production on its first live-action/CGI hybrid Dino Dan winding down, Sinking Ship partner J.J. Johnson says he was looking to do something science-based that would capture the attention of the six to nine demo that he feels is often overlooked when it comes to programming. “They’re a magical group of kids who still believe in things and haven’t lost that innocence,” he contends. And what better than a series about a hyper-intelligent girl named Anne who creates three android helpers to assist her in carrying out experiments that also demonstrate fundamental scientific principles? Throw in an inquisitive foil in the form of neighborhood boy Nick—Mulder to Anne’s Scully, if you will—who happens upon the girl’s junkyard laboratory by accident, a Steam Punk aesthetic and electronic soundtrack, and you’ve got the makings of a fun, “soft-e” educational series that should pique kids’ curiosities.

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