Sixteen South Originals is joining forces with a group of second-year animation students from Northern Ireland’s Ulster University to develop a new animated children’s series called Sharks in Shirts.
The 26 x 11-minute concept was created by 22-year-old Eílís Magennis, one of six student placements at Sixteen South.
“The purpose of the module was to get industry experience, but we didn’t expect them to come up with something that we liked so much,” says Sixteen South’s creative director, Colin Williams.
Aimed at kids ages seven to 11, Sharks in Shirts is about three teenage sharks whose mischief catches up with them when a chemistry experiment goes wrong and lands them on a school’s football team for the year.
Northern Ireland Screen has funded Sixteen South and the students to continue developing the series, which should be ready to pitch in 2021.
Usually a studio might pay the students a bit of money for their idea and send them on their way, says Williams. But it was important to him and the team to keep Magennis and the other students on board through development and production, in order to keep their idea authentic.
“We didn’t want to just take the idea off of them and say maybe they’ll be fortunate enough to work on it if it gets greenlit,” says Williams. “We chose to develop and produce it with them. It’s a proper commercial deal.
“These guys are like big brothers and sisters to the audience,” he adds. “They’re inside the audience’s mindset and on the same page culturally. It’s not somebody a generation or two away trying to imagine what a kid likes; they’re still thinking like kids.”
The acquisition follows a big move for Sixteen South, which split into three divisions earlier this year: Sixteen South Originals, Sixteen South Rights and Sixteen South Studio. Each unit operates as a distinct business, but will continue to partner on appropriate projects. Originals creates and develops children’s and family entertainment content such as Lily’s Driftwood Bay for Nick Jr. and Claude for Disney Junior.