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DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion Tele­vi­sion has put the pedal to the me­tal de­vel­op­ing a pipeline and staffing up quickly to fill big or­ders for high-qual­ity shows. By Tom McLean.

Things move fast in TV an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion, but rarely has it moved as quickly as it has for DreamWorks Tele­vi­sion An­i­ma­tion.

It was less than two years ago that DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion struck a ground-break­ing deal to pro­vide 300 hours of ex­clu­sive orig­i­nal con­tent to Net­flix — shows it turned right around and li­censed to ma­jor play­ers in the global TV mar­ket like Su­per RTL. At the time, the stu­dio had de­vel­oped an­i­mated se­ries based on sev­eral of its fea­tures, in­clud­ing The Pen­guins of Mada­gas­car and Kung Fu Panda: Le­gends of Awe­some­ness at Nick­elodeon and Dragons: Riders of Berk at Car­toon Net­work.

But to han­dle the quan­tity and qual­ity of ma­te­rial the stu­dio had com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing, it had to ramp up DreamWorks Tele­vi­sion An­i­ma­tion big time. The stu­dio turned to a trio of for­mer Nick ex­ecs who al­ready had ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with DreamWorks to get the op­er­a­tion up and run­ning as fast as pos­si­ble.

Margie Cohn, who spent 26 years at Nick­elodeon be­fore be­com­ing the head of DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion Tele­vi­sion, says 10 peo­ple were on board when she started in Au­gust 2013, and that num­ber has now grown to more than 400 just in the com­pany’s Glendale, Calif., of­fice. She joined fel­low ex-Nick ex­ecs Peter Gal, head of tele­vi­sion de­vel­op­ment, and Mark Tay­lor, head of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, to spear­head the quick ramp-up to pro­duc­tion.

“Op­ti­mism and re­silience have been two of the qual­i­ties we’ve re­ally needed as we try and get this done,” says Cohn. “It felt like if we were go­ing to do this re­ally, re­ally quickly, those were two guys we could do it re­ally, re- stream­ing on Net­flix, to be joined this sum­mer by the new Dragons: Race to the Edge.

Fea­ture Tran­si­tion Adapt­ing an­i­mated fea­tures to TV se­ries is noth­ing new, but it takes the right touch to

make a fea­ture work as a se­ries on its own with­out tread­ing on se­quel fea­ture ter­ri­tory.

“We don’t want to re­peat the fea­ture film ex­pe­ri­ence. I think one of the fun parts for us has been try­ing to sep­a­rate what is TV and what is fea­ture,” says Cohn.

Cit­ing Puss in Boots as an ex­am­ple, Cohn says the se­ries had to fo­cus on ex­plor­ing Puss’s char­ac­ter rather than tak­ing him on a sin­gle big jour­ney the way a fea­ture would. “We’re deal­ing with his van­ity, with his lack of in­ter­per­sonal skills, with his tak­ing on too much, his love of milk. We just play in that de­tail,” she says. “We just have to carve it out from the fea­tures be­cause you still want that to feel like a big, gi­ant event.”

The com­pany’s first orig­i­nal se­ries, Dinotrux, has been an­nounced and is set to pre­miere this sum­mer on Net­flix.

“That was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause it’s an orig­i­nal,” says Cohn. “The stu­dio is used to a cer­tain type of de­vel­op­ment and we were do­ing this re­ally, re­ally quickly and still needed to get as much depth and char­ac­ter into that world.”

Find­ing tal­ent to staff up the com­pany as quickly as it had to was a real chal­lenge, Cohn says, though it was aided by DreamWorks’ rep­u­ta­tion as an es­tab­lished and suc­cess­ful stu­dio, as well as the job se­cu­rity im­plied by the quan­tity of ma­te­rial the stu­dio has com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing.

Op­er­at­ing in ‘The Hub’ Tay­lor spear­headed pro­duc­tion by as­sem­bling a pipeline struc­ture at the stu­dio known as “the hub,” in which teams over­see qual­ity con­trol of spe­cific as­pects of an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion, like as­sem­bling char­ac­ters, pro­to­types and en­vi­ron­ments; and check­ing color, light­ing and ren­der times with part­ner stu­dios.

“We re­ally were care­ful so peo­ple look­ing at it didn’t think, ‘Oh, a cheap ver­sion of the movie,’” Cohn says. “The char­ac­ters had enough of the orig­i­nal spirit so they worked on the tele­vi­sion model but also looked great.”

Cohn says the re­sults have been com­pared — fa­vor­ably at times — to the stu­dio’s fea­ture film work. “We would have two mod­els of King Julien turn­ing around and we’d ask peo­ple to pick which one was the fea­ture model and which was the TV model,” she says. “We ac­tu­ally had a few peo­ple pick wrong ... which made us so happy.”

Be­ing a re­cent launch, DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion Tele­vi­sion is built for a world in which con­tent is con­sumed in any num­ber of ways — the com­pany’s Net­flix deal be­ing a prime ex­am­ple.

Cohn says the stu­dios’ shows are made to work both online and on tele­vi­sion. Cre­atively, to­day’s con­tent has a greater el­e­ment of se­ri­al­iza­tion than in the past, and those el­e­ments are built into DreamWorks’ se­ries.

“A lot of what’s hap­pen­ing for Net­flix will also be im­pact­ing lin­ear tele­vi­sion, be­cause why do you come to lin­ear tele­vi­sion if there’s not some­thing that kind of drives you through and com­pels you to watch episode af­ter episode?” she says. “What can we carry from one episode to another that doesn’t make it out­right se­ri­al­ized, but it makes you say: ‘That thread’s left hang­ing. I want to see if it’s an­swered in the next episode.’?”

The Net­flix model also of­fers a more long- term dis­tri­bu­tion method, with shows avail­able to watch at any time. “We don’t have to worry about day-and-date rat­ings, so the li­brary is there, the shows are there, for when­ever peo­ple want to watch,” Cohn says.

With so many or­ders, ex­pect more se­ries an­nounce­ments — both fa­mil­iar ti­tles and orig­i­nal prop­er­ties.

“The goal (with orig­i­nal shows) would be to de­velop prop­er­ties that would still feel dis­tinct to DreamWorks, even if they’re not com­ing off fea­tures,” says Cohn. “It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be do­ing 2D, re­ally hi­lar­i­ous shows, but we are try­ing to fig­ure out – we’re get­ting close – to what the DreamWorks dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion might be.”

De­spite hav­ing started with a sprint, the end game for the stu­dio is more like a marathon. “My goal has al­ways been cre­at­ing a li­brary that stands the test of time — be­cause these prop­er­ties de­serve it,” Cohn says.

Online chan­nel DreamWork­sTV drives de­mand for funny an­i­mated con­tent for kids while win­ning over an­i­ma­tors with cre­ative con­trol. By Tom McLean.

For pas­sion­ate an­i­ma­tors who’ve al­ways wanted to cre­ate their own show but have never had the op­por­tu­nity to do so, DreamWork­sTV is a match made in heaven.

“We don’t mess around; we just make stuff,” says Birk Rawl­ings, head of an­i­ma­tion for the chan­nel.

And make stuff, it does. Based on YouTube, DreamWork­sTV pro­duces any­where from 1,000 to 1,500 shorts a year — about half of which are an­i­mated, Rawl­ings says. Among the an­i­mated con­tent are shows fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters from es­tab­lished DreamWorks fran­chises, such as Shrek, Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda.

But that still leaves a lot of room for orig­i­nal con­tent and orig­i­nal vi­sions. Among the hit se­ries DreamWork­sTV has launched: Jimmy Blue Shorts, a sketch com­edy se­ries about a pair of talk­ing shorts; Go­rillav­ille, about a trio of pri­mates who cause trou­ble in a peace­ful wildlife pre­serve; News That Doesn’t Suck, fea­tur­ing a kid-ori­ented, The Onion- style take on the news; the ensem­ble com­edy se­ries Public Pool; and the hit Fifi: Cat Ther­a­pist.

“When you’re deal­ing with much big­ger bud­gets and much big­ger bets, it’s hard to take risks on things that are un­proven,” says Rawl­ings. “We can do a silly show us­ing card­board char­ac­ters and stop mo­tion that big­ger oper­a­tions would never bet on.”

For an­i­ma­tors with an ap­pro­pri­ate idea and the re­sources to pull it off, it’s the best of both worlds to have cre­ative con­trol and DreamWorks brand­ing.

“We feel like we’re in con­trol,” says Chris Hamil­ton, pres­i­dent of an­i­ma­tion stu­dio Odd- bot and pro­ducer on sev­eral DreamWork­sTV shows, in­clud­ing Zach Aufdem­berg’s Jimmy Blue Shorts; Public Pool, cre­ated by David Fre­mont; and Dennis Mess­ner’s up­com­ing Fish­stick and Honey­bear show. “(Rawl­ings) def­i­nitely gave us a lot of cre­ative free­dom and we came up with some re­ally wacky ideas and he def­i­nitely sup­ported Zach and our di­rec­tion.”

Awe­some Ori­gins DreamWork­sTV had its ori­gins in a com­pany called Awe­some­nessTV, which DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion and mi­nor­ity part­ner Hearst Corp. ac­quired in 2013. Rawl­ings says DreamWorks was drawn to the com­pany, founded in 2012 by Brian Rob­bins, be­cause of its suc­cess reach­ing teenage view­ers. DreamWorks wanted to do the same thing with chil­dren and bring to that au­di­ence the stu­dio’s brands.

“It is a daunt­ing thing to cre­ate some­thing from scratch, but do­ing so in this re­ally ex­cit­ing playpen that is dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion and the In­ter­net has ac­tu­ally been re­ally fun and re­ward­ing so far,” says Rawl­ings.

But so much de­mand means the chan­nel is wide open for new, orig­i­nal con­tent from an­i­ma­tors of all types.

“We’re find­ing them from all over,” says Rawl­ings. “It’s a mix of cre­ators and artists with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in tra­di­tional tele­vi­sion or movies, in some cases that have de­vel­oped a lot of things or worked on other peo­ple’s shows but haven’t had a lot of op­por­tu­nity to get their own voice out there.”

The re­la­tion­ships of­ten orig­i­nated over many years, but the stu­dio is will­ing to work with tal­ented new­com­ers who show they can pro­duce the con­tent with lim­ited re­sources and un­der tight dead­lines.

An­i­ma­tors sup­ply­ing con­tent for the chan­nel work in any num­ber of ways, from one-per­son shops to cre­ators sub­con­tract­ing with a third­party stu­dio for some of the work to the chan­nel work­ing di­rectly with a full-ser­vice stu­dio, Rawl­ings says.

The stu­dio buys the rights to the shows it picks up for DreamWork­sTV and “we try to ar­range the deals in such a way that we all par­tic­i­pate in its suc­cess,” Rawl­ings says.

The speedy ap­proach and lack of a net­work over­sight in­fra­struc­ture means an­i­ma­tors have a lot of cre­ative free­dom and a much less for­mal re­view process.

“I’m ba­si­cally a one-man team. I have my ac­tors and my com­poser, but I do all the writ­ing, sto­ry­board­ing, an­i­ma­tion, sound de­sign — all that kind of stuff,” says Stephen Leonard, cre­ator of Du­el­ing Kapowskis. “They give me pa­ram­e­ters that I need to work in and they just say, stay within these, this is our tar­get group, and then they give me some notes along the way. But I have 95 per­cent con­trol of the show, and that’s been great be­cause as a cre­ator that’s what I want.”

“We’ll check in at all the ma­jor phases — premise, script, sto­ry­board and an­i­ma­tion — but it’s a very dif­fer­ent cre­ative in­ter­ac­tion than you would have at a tra­di­tional stu­dio or net­work,” says Rawl­ings. “While there are some hard lines in terms of what’s ap­pro­pri­ate for our au­di­ence, be­yond that it’s more of a con­ver­sa­tion and guid­ance rather than di­rec­tives.”

Say­ing Yes is Fun Part of what’s fun about the job is the abil­ity to say yes to many projects and to experiment with dif­fer­ent forms and styles, Rawl­ings says. He cites Jimbo Mati­son’s News That Doesn’t Stink se­ries, which is an­i­mated us­ing card­board cutouts and pup­pets.

“Ev­ery­thing on the show re­ally is made out of card­board,” says Mati­son. “For me, ev­ery­thing that’s com­ing out is all CG and it looks slick and very pro­duced, but I think a lit­tle too much of it looks like that and I wanted to have some­thing that any­one could look at it and go, yeah, that’s just card­board.”

So far, the high-pro­file stu­dio char­ac­ters have at­tracted the most view­ers, but Rawl­ings says the In­ter­net gives new ideas a bet­ter chance to find an au­di­ence than tra­di­tional media.

“You don’t have just that one week­end or that one month to try to find an au­di­ence,” he says. “When we be­lieve in some­thing we can keep plug­ging away and try dif­fer­ent ways to grow the au­di­ence, and so it’s one of the ben­e­fits of work­ing in this space.”

There are fewer dif­fer­ences than many ex­pect be­tween pro­duc­ing con­tent for tra­di­tional tele­vi­sion than for the In­ter­net, Rawl­ings says.

“The dif­fer­ence is not so much about (how it’s made) as it is about the way that it is con­sumed,” says Rawl­ings. “Kids in par­tic­u­lar have just vo­ra­cious ap­petites for the char­ac­ters that they love and dig­i­tal de­liv­ery is uniquely con­structed in such a way that it can feed that ap­petite much more read­ily than tra­di­tional lin­ear net­works.”

That means mak­ing sure a steady flow of con­tent and ways to mar­ket it are al­ways avail­able.

Be­ing based on YouTube brings cer­tain ad­van­tages to cer­tain shows. “It’s a search en­gine and so you need to make sure that you’re tak­ing ad­van­tage of the plat­form that you’re on in terms of max­i­miz­ing dis­cov­ery,” Rawl­ings says. “That’s part of why, for ex­am­ple, Fifi: Cat Ther­a­pist has done well, is there’s a lot of peo­ple go­ing to YouTube to find cool new cat stuff.”

Rawl­ings is look­ing at ex­pand­ing DreamWork­sTV to plat­forms be­yond YouTube and mak­ing it a pri­mary des­ti­na­tion for kids and fam­i­lies look­ing for a laugh. “In the near term, that means more orig­i­nal shows, and it means more shows fea­tur­ing kids’ fa­vorite char­ac­ters and ex­pend­ing our reach any way pos­si­ble.”

talks up the ju­nior-year sea­son at world’s worst univer­sity. By Tom McLean.


keep way the show looks?

Neely: We’ve done some sub­tle tun­ing up. We have so many great peo­ple work­ing on the show fig­ur­ing out how to make it look more ex­pen­sive or just cleaner. We built all these head packs for our char­ac­ters and re­vised their de­signs. We had a big, big dis­cus­sion about line weight. We use a one over­all line weight for the show and we’ve in­creased that for this sea­son. It’s noth­ing no­tice­able other than it might be a lit­tle more clear de­lin­eation be­tween shapes for an un­sus­pect­ing viewer. If you watched it side by side with, es­pe­cially, sea­son one, you’d be able to see a dif­fer­ence just in clar­ity of the shapes.

An­imag: Are you still in­volved in the writ­ing of ev­ery episode?

Neely: Who’s


Com­edy is when a bird hits a pig — and Ba­boons are writ­ing for them both. Yes, Ba­boon An­i­ma­tion has just wrapped up its share of the writ­ing on Rovio’s An­gry Birds Toons, sea­sons two and three, and is mov­ing on to another An­gry Birds pro­ject. Boast­ing 4.7 bil­lion views and count­ing, An­gry Birds Toons is soar­ing. But with nei­ther limbs nor voices, what makes the ag­i­tated avians so en­dur­ing? Two core mem­bers of Ba­boon’s An­gry Birds team, Joe Vi­tale and Javier Valdez, chat with Claire Stenger about voice­less com­edy and time­less char­ac­ters.

Broad­cast­ers: France Tele­vi­sions (com­mis­sion­ing), CITV (U.K.), Car­toon Net­work (Italy, Latin Amer­ica), Canal Panda (Spain), VRT (Flem­ish Bel­gium), MiniMax (Eastern Europe), Thai TV3, NTV7 (Malaysia), Net­flix (U.S.) and more Syn­op­sis: Su­per 4 fol­lows Alex the Knight, Ruby the Pi­rate, Agent Gene and Twin­kle the Fairy as they travel in their mul­ti­trans­formable Chameleon ve­hi­cle through five ex­tra­or­di­nary is­lands: Tech­nop­o­lis, Kings­land, En­chanted Is­land, Gun­pow­der Is­land and a Lost World. Selling Points: The se­ries marks the first time that the 40-year-old Play­mo­bil toy brand has been brought to an­i­mated life on the small screen, stir­ring in­ter­est around the globe. “Su­per 4 is cre­at­ing so much ex­cite­ment among buy­ers,” says PGS co-founder Philippe Soutte. “Method and Mor­gen are de­liv­er­ing a unique show, which, for the first time in an­i­ma­tion, has a sto­ry­line that mixes fairies, knights, pi­rates and robots all to­gether!” Stand: P-1.N2 pgsen­ter­tain­ Pro­ducer: Martin Gates Pro­duc­tion, Cloth Cat An­i­ma­tion, Hoho En­ter­tain­ment Pack­age: 52 x 11 Tar­get Au­di­ence: Kids 4-7 Type of An­i­ma­tion: 2D Based on: Wind in the Wil­lows, Gra­hame Syn­op­sis: her­itage, the ad­ven­tures of Mole, Rat and Toad have been en­chant­ing chil­dren for gen­er­a­tions. The new se­ries will breathe new life into the sto­ries for a whole new gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren, re­dis­cov­er­ing beloved old char­ac­ters and in­tro­duc­ing some new fe­male ones, in­clud­ing ad­ven­tur­ous Squir­rel, re­source­ful Rab­bit and the schem­ing Chief Weasel. Selling points: Martin Gates Pro­duc­tions’ Wind in the Wil­lows spe­cial, “Mole’s Christ­mas” was the most-ex­ported Bri­tish TV pro­gram be­tween 1993 and 2003 and was broad­cast in 213 ter­ri­to­ries. Book sales now are more than 85 mil­lion copies, sold into 70 coun­tries and 29 lan­guages. All of this il­lus­trates the en­dur­ing ap­peal of the char­ac­ters. MPG also made The Ad­ven­tures of Mole and The Ad­ven­tures of Toad, and knows these char­ac­ters in­side out. Stand: R8.D11 ho­hoen­ter­tain­ Pro­ducer: Wizart An­i­ma­tion, So­muga, Dibu­li­toon Stu­dio Pack­age: 52 x 13 (in pro­duc­tion) Tar­get Au­di­ence: Preschool 4-6 Type of An­i­ma­tion: CG Writ­ten By: Andy Yerkes ( Po­coyo), Kevin Strader ( Jelly Jam), Evgenia Gol­ubeva ( Lun­tik), Leo Murzenko ( Kiko­riki), Edorta Bar­ruetabeña ( Unib­ert­so­lar­iak), Cristina Bro­que­tas Syn­op­sis: “We are also in ne­go­ti­a­tions with li­cens­ing part­ners, such as games pro­duc­ers, mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions, F&B part­ners, which could sup­port Yoko’s re­lease in many coun­tries.” Stand: Rus­sian Cin­ema R7.E40 wiz­artan­i­ma­ | Pro­ducer: GO-N Pro­duc­tions Pack­age: 52 x 13 Tar­get Au­di­ence: Kids 6-10 Type of An­i­ma­tion: Dig­i­tal 2D Cre­ated by: Aurore Da­mant, based on an orig­i­nal idea by Anne Ozan­nat; di­rected by Lionel Al­laix, story edited by Cyn­thia True Broad­cast­ers: France Tele­vi­sions (com­mis­sion­ing), Su­perRTL (Ger­many), Dis­ney France, France 3, SVT (Swe­den), SIC K (Por­tu­gal), ITI Neo­vi­sion (Poland), E-Ju­nior (U.A.E.), DSTV Kids (An­gola & Mozam­bique) Syn­op­sis: These “pets” have a se­cret … and it’s to­tally wild! This com­edy se­ries fea­tures an ensem­ble cast of wild an­i­mals dis­guised as do­mes­tic pets in or­der to en­joy a life of lux­ury with an un­sus­pect­ing sub­ur­ban fam­ily. How­ever, the quiet life they crave is ever elu­sive, and con­stantly threat­ened by their an­i­mal in­stincts. Selling Points:

nce con­sid­ered a rather rad­i­cal idea, an­i­mated TV shows for adults have be­come un­likely stars in the global TV

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion Tele­vi­sion had to quickly fill large Net­flix or­ders with shows like op­po­site; The Ad­ven­tures above; and Tur­boFAST.

Jimmy Blue Shorts

Chris Hamil­ton

Jimbo Mati­son

David Fre­mont

Public Pool

Du­el­ing Kapowskis

Pack­age: Type of An­i­ma­tion: Syn­op­sis:

Syn­op­sis: Stand: P-1.M2 / P-1.N1 Con­tact:


Pro­duc­tion Part­ners: RAI Fic­tion,

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