One part Minions with a sprinkle of Line Friends and Chipmunks, AMGI Animation Studios’ new kids series Da Hamstas (working title) is set to take Dutch brand Hamsta World (pictured) from social media platforms and retail shelves to streaming services worldwide.
In early development for a six-to-11 audience, the 26 x 11-minute original comedy will showcase the mischievous lives of eight hamsters who love a good prank and communicate in a gibberish language.
LA-based AMGI is developing, producing and distributing the show in collaboration with Hamsta World creator and CEO of Amsterdam-based brand maker Happy Ink, Saskia Keiser.
Though details are still being fleshed out, AMGI co-founder and ex-Pixar and ILM animator Colin Brady says the series will feature physical comedy and visual gags in episodes that could run anywhere from two to 11 minutes in length, and micro shorts are also being produced for social media placement. Dancing and music will be prominent to tap into the brand’s popular online song parody content, and all of the hamsters, including fan favorites Larry Machiato and Mila Sunrise, will be present. The prodco is using a hybrid 2D- and 3D-animation style.
“To respect the original material, which has a very strong 2D component, we’re working closely with Saskia to ensure we don’t alter the design too much,” says Brady.
Additional technical work on the show will leverage AMGI’s proprietary real-time animation software pipeline to reduce the production timeline. The studio is also using motion-capture and working with experienced dancers to create the hamster’s choreography. “We’re mostly interested in tracking body, feet and hands,” says Brady.
AMGI co-founder Tony Diioia first heard about Hamsta World last August from Happy Ink director of licensing Brad Bushell.
“We were instantly attracted to it from a design and character perspective,” says Diioia. “Plus the fact that it has an existing fan base set it apart from the other IPs in our slate and will help us going forward. It’s the perfect partnership.”
Since launching in 2017, the Hamsta World licensing program now reaches 34 countries across eight territories—Benelux, the UK and Eire, Japan and Australia, Greater China, Iberia, the US, Italy and Central Eastern Europe. Products encompass apparel, toys, collectibles, packaged food products, homewares and accessories. The brand’s partners include London-based licensing agency WildBrain CPLG, which recently signed on to rep the property in Benelux with a focus on toys and collectibles. Digital studio WildBrain Spark is also in the midst of running a three-month pilot program with Happy Ink where Hamsta’s online song parody videos are distributed across WildBrain Spark’s hub channels to bolster the IP’s international presence.
As for YouTube and social media, Hamsta World videos have generated 6.2 million total views on YouTube, 344 million on Giphy and 1.4 million on TikTok. Happy Ink also just launched a sticker pack for WhatsApp messaging.
The trajectory of the brand is not unlike Line Friends. Characters from the South Korean lifestyle brand were originally created as emojis for Asian mobile messaging app Line, and now the property is being adapted into two television series—a CG-animated non-verbal, slapstick comedy co-produced by Netflix and a preschool series by Nelvana.
Though AMGI is targeting all platforms for Da Hamstas‘ distribution, it’s putting an early emphasis on streaming services. “It’s a wide net, but all of the streamers are looking for high-quality content and are coming at creators in a big way,” says Brady. “It’s wonderful, but for us as an indie, we have to make these companies aware of us.”
According to Diioia, AMGI is looking for a co-pro partner for the series, which is part of the conversation the studio is having with SVODs. Exactly how the deals will shake out is still to be determined.
“Because we have so many different IPs and we are capable of developing more, our philosophy is if we end up with an overall output deal then that’s one way,” Diioia says. “But we’re probably going to end up with multiple partners and distributors because a few of the IPs might make more sense for some versus others.”
AMGI’s shows in development include Little Kaiju for kids ages four to seven, kids comedy Koko the Time-Travelling Coconut and post-apocalyptic tween/teen series Zeppelin Reign. The studio’s business model is to develop two new properties every year. Of the projects, Zeppelin Reign is closest to delivery, and a feature treatment is complete, too. “Our strategy is that all of our properties are conducive to both TV and features,” says Diioia.