Since joining Jellyfish Pictures as head of development earlier this year, Natalie Llewellyn—who was brought on to lead the animation studio’s push into original IP creation—has seen the company bloom in more ways than one.
“I had been in quite a commercial space in my previous position and the opportunity to combine creative development with a long-term vision of how to take IPs and concepts right through to full brand development was really attractive to me,” says Llewellyn.
Prior to this role, Llewellyn spent five years as head of global strategy at Platinum Films where she focused on the global distribution of children’s shows including Matt Hatter Chronicles, Dream Street and Young Bear Grylls. and before that she served in senior roles at V&S Entertainment, where she was a producer on the CBeebies series Everything’s Rosie, and Bentley Productions.
“I can bring a level of experience to the role that’s a testament to the fact that I’ve had my feet on both sides of the camp,” says Llewellyn. “It’s one thing to come on board with a creative hat on and develop shows from scratch, but it takes another level of experience to put the pieces of the pie together in terms of raising funding and getting something fully financed.”
Now, as head of development, Llewellyn is focusing on getting properties that Jellyfish already has on its slate pitch-ready, bringing in more ideas, and looking into new visual effects business opportunities for Jellyfish in the kids biz.
“My core objective is to get a project greenlit and for us to move into production,” says Llewellyn. “I obviously appreciate that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and these things take time.”
Jellyfish is currently looking to fill out a broad slate, including content for kids as young as three and as old as 16. Llewellyn is focusing on 3D and 2D animated content ranging from 52 x 11-minute series all the way to alternative formats for smaller platforms. The studio has traditionally focused on animated service work for other kids prodcos as well as visual effects for bigger projects such as Star Wars Rogue One and Netflix’s Black Mirror.
“I think it’s a natural evolution for any business. We have the technology and the talent in place that enables us to be doing multiple projects at any one time, and it just makes absolute sense for us to be in the game in terms of original development,” says Llewellyn. “It’s very different to make a show for somebody else and to give it the love and attention and creative passion that we invest in those projects. And then it’s exciting to be able to put that same kind of passion into your own IP, where you can add value to the company.”
Right now, Jellyfish animates Beano Studios’ Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed, as well as Floogals with Nevision and Universal Kids. But its main project, and first children’s IP it will be producing itself, is Stan & Gran, a co-production with UK digital prodco Jollywise. Created by Jollywise founder Jon Mason and designed by Daz Butcher, the toon follows the adventures of the titular characters who are equipped with a pair of AI-powered binoculars. Jellyfish is also the main distribution partner.
The series currently has a bible and first episode script, and initial content will be showcased at MIPCOM in October.
The studio has also been working on developing its in-house talent pool with the new Jellyfish Creative Bloom initiative. The title is obviously a reference to growing new talent, but it’s also a wink to the collective name for a mass of Jellyfish, which is called a bloom.
“We just launched the first program at the end of April and we were absolutely overwhelmed by the response that we had internally. Some of the ideas that we had coming through will absolutely appear on our slate going forward,” says Llewellyn. “Lots of studios do it and we would be remiss not to actually give the animators, designers and the creative talent that we have here a voice, and an opportunity to submit an idea to us and then as a development team have a look at it and see whether there’s any point in taking it further.”
Llewellyn is actively looking for creators, directors, writers and showrunners to join the team and expand the slate with more talent. Additionally, she is looking for potential co-production and co-development deals that Jellyfish can get in on from ground floor and own.
The studio also has a couple of unannounced projects in the works, including a core preschool show and a CGI-animated feature. Llewellyn says the studio’s efforts in the preschool space are well underway, and as a result Jellyfish is aggressively targeting comedy for kids ages six to 10. The slate may be fairly small right now, but Llewellyn says the studio has the bandwidth to expand, it’s all about finding the right projects and the right talent to bring them to life.