A Two-Way Game

Llama Llama

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SEx-col­lege bas­ket­ballers bring au­then­tic­ity to bench­warmer day­dreams in Com­edy Cen­tral’s new an­i­mated se­ries By Tom McLean.

it­ting on the bench may not ful­fill the dreams of most col­lege bas­ket­ball play­ers, but for­mer UCLA team­mates Josiah John­son and Quinn Hawk­ing turned that ex­pe­ri­ence into the ba­sis for the an­i­mated se­ries Leg­ends of Cham­ber­lain Heights.

Pre­mier­ing Sept. 14 on Com­edy Cen­tral im­me­di­ately af­ter South Park, Leg­ends of Cham­ber­lain Heights on The Simp­sons, and Cle­ments, now an ex­ec­u­tive with Com­edy Cen­tral, had cre­ated the short-lived MTV an­i­mated se­ries Good Vibes and were work­ing on a project for James. While Hawk­ing and John­son were not the right match for that par­tic­u­lar project, Able­son says he saw some­thing vi­tal in the duo’s work.

“It made us laugh, and they talked like real kids and we said we should make a car­toon with these guys,” says Able­son. “We made a five minute lit­tle short, went to Com­edy Cen­tral, pushed play, and they pretty much bought it in the room. They said, this is weird and we don’t un­der­stand it, but it makes us laugh so go make a sea­son.”

The show brought on ad­di­tional tal­ent with a wide range of ex­pe­ri­ence. Showrun­ner Devon Shep­ard has cred­its as a writer and pro­ducer that range from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Wayans Bros. through Weeds, the Crash TV se­ries and House of Lies. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and voice ac­tor Carl Jones worked on the an­i­mated se­ries Boon­docks and Black Dy­na­mite. The an­i­ma­tion is be­ing pro­duced at Bento Box, with a sim­ple look de­signed by Able­son. “I wouldn’t say it’s like South Park, but it’s got that sim­plic­ity,” he says. “The de­signs are just a mish­mash of the way I draw and my child­hood in­flu­ences like from MAD Mag­a­zine, like Ser­gio Aragones and Don Martin. ... The style is so pur­posely sim­ple that their voices are a per­fect match.”

The com­edy is ir­rev­er­ent and char­ac­ter driven, with so­cial and pop cul­ture com­men­tary sprin­kled in as it fits, says Able­son. “It’s re­ally the per­spec­tive of mil­len­ni­als, the way we are now,” he says. “In­stant suc­cess, in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, in­stant op­por­tu­nity — ev­ery­thing is in­stant with this gen­er­a­tion and with these three guys they want in­stant suc­cess and in­stant leg­endary sta­tus. And how they go about it gets them into a lot of trou­ble, but it gives us a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore cer­tain so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and pop cul­ture is­sues — what­ever’s out there.” Hawk­ing and John­son are in­volved in the writ­ing, and voice main char­ac­ters — flip­ping things around a bit. “I ac­tu­ally voice Milk, who’s the white char­ac­ter in the show,” says John­son, who is black, while Hawk­ing voices a short black char­ac­ter with a big afro hairdo and a high voice. “It gives us a lot of room to be a lit­tle raunchy, kind of toe the line a lit­tle bit, but al­ways keep it grounded.”

And so far it seems to be work­ing — Com­edy Cen­tral an­nounced be­fore the show’s pre­miere that it has or­dered up a sec­ond sea­son of the show.

“We must be do­ing some­thing right,” says Able­son. [

Hen­son mixes dig­i­tal pup­petry and an­i­ma­tion to grand ed­u­ca­tional ef­fect for its MIP Ju­nior World Pre­miere se­ries By Tom McLean.

Mak­ing its world pre­miere screen­ing at MIP Ju­nior 2016, preschool show Splash and Bub­bles has an ori­gin that makes it un­likely to have been made by any com­pany ex­cept The Jim Hen­son Com­pany.

“At the Hen­son Com­pany, when a pup­peteer brings a project to you, it’s very Hen­son-y,” says Halle Stan­ford, ex­ec­u­tive VP of chil­dren’s en­ter­tain­ment.

The pup­peteer in ques­tion is John Tartaglia, who as a teenager started per­form­ing Mup­pets for Sesame Street and since has gone on to cre­ate shows such as Johnny and the Sprites. Among Tartaglia’s projects was Imag­inOcean, an ed­u­ca­tional pup­pet show about ocean habi­tats that had been per­formed for kids on cruise ships, and he asked Hen­son if they thought it could be a TV show.

“We said, ‘Ab­so­lutely,’” says Stan­ford. “There was a lot of ex­cite­ment about the show in terms of where it came from but also where we could push it in terms of the an­i­ma­tion.”

The show fea­tures the two tit­u­lar fish: Splash is a yel­low fusilier fish who has mi­grat- ed all over the ocean be­fore set­tling down in Reeftown, and Bub­bles is a Man­darin drag­onet with a col­or­ful per­son­al­ity. In each of the 80 x 11 min. episodes, the pair and their friends Rip­ples and Puff ex­plore the world’s un­der­sea habi­tats and cel­e­brate its di­ver­sity and im­por­tance to the planet’s ecosys­tem.

“I feel like we re­ally de­liver on the awe of the ocean,” Stan­ford says.

The show uses the Emmy-win­ning Hen­son Dig­i­tal Pup­petry Stu­dio, a pro­pri­etary tech­nol­ogy used on shows such as Sid the Science Kid that al­lows pup­peteers to per­form dig­i­tally an­i­mated char­ac­ters in real-time, en­abling the an­i­ma­tion to be more life­like and spon­ta­neous.

“A pup­pet for kids feels much more in­ti­mate,” says Stan­ford. “There’s a feel­ing for kids that these are friends that are real, and we seem to have the same ef­fect with our HDPS char­ac­ters.”

Tartaglia per­forms Splash in the se­ries, with Les­lie Car­rara-Ru­dolph of Abby Cad­abby fame as Bub­bles.

Hen­son is col­lab­o­rat­ing on the show with Her­schend En­ter­prises, a fam­ily-owned at­trac- tions cor­po­ra­tion that man­ages events and ex­pe­ri­ences such as the Har­lem Glo­be­trot­ters, Dol­ly­wood and a num­ber of ma­jor aquar­i­ums, wa­ter parks and ho­tels. The com­pany was look­ing to get into en­ter­tain­ment me­dia and its aquaria and sim­i­lar philoso­phies to Hen­son made work­ing with them on Splash a per­fect col­lab­o­ra­tion, Stan­ford says.

Her­schend is fully in­volved in the cre­ative end and lever­ag­ing its as­sets to help pro­mote Splash and Bub­bles at its parks and aquar­i­ums, she says.

Slated to air in the United States on PBS Kids! start­ing Nov. 23, the MIP Ju­nior screen­ing will be the first chance for in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ers to see the fin­ished prod­uct.

Stan­ford says Hen­son is con­fi­dent the show — which many broad­cast­ers have been track­ing the progress of since it was first an­nounced — will find an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

“It’s been a unique process to work with the dig­i­tal pup­petry team and also do­ing key frame an­i­ma­tion and meld­ing the two,” says Stan­ford. [

Pro­duced By: Hap­pyUp An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios [KOCCA Stand] For­mat: 26 x 3 min­utes Tar­get Au­di­ence: In­fants 0-3 Type of An­i­ma­tion: 2D Cut-Out Syn­op­sis: In this mu­sic-driven se­ries for the youngest view­ers, each episode com­prises a sweet, gen­tle-hearted fairy tale story. Set on the beau­ti­ful Rain­bow Is­land, the se­ries high­lights themes of fam­ily love, friend­ship and ap­pre­ci­at­ing na­ture as it fol­lows main char­ac­ters Comi the teddy bear and baby Bebe on their jour­ney of de­vel­op­ment. Sell­ing Points: Newly formed in 2015, Hap­pyUp makes its MIP de­but with the first of its orig­i­nal se­ries de­signed to “happy up” the lives of chil­dren. The show’s mu­sicbased short for­mat makes it an easy fit for in­ter­na­tional broad­cast­ers, while the il­lus­tra­tive 2D an­i­ma­tion will ap­peal to chil­dren and their adult guardians. www.hap­pyup­stu­dio.com Pro­duced By: JAM Me­dia [P-1.A84] In­spired By: Alan Shan­non’s Badly Drawn Roy (2006) & Roy se­ries For­mat: 52 x 14 Tar­get Au­di­ence: Preschool Type of An­i­ma­tion: Live-Ac­tion/2D Hy­brid Syn­op­sis: Roy O’Brien is like any other fiveyear-old Ir­ish boy, ex­cept for one cru­cial dif­fer­ence: he’s a car­toon liv­ing in the live-ac­tion world! When his car­toon abil­i­ties and en­thu­si­asm cause a prob­lem, Lit­tle Roy es­capes into his an­i­mated imag­i­na­tion to find a so­lu­tion. He takes on the per­sona of “Won­der Roy,” and with his side­kick, Finn, he plays out his predica­ment of the day, finds a so­lu­tion and ap­plies it to the real world, although it doesn’t al­ways go to plan. Sell­ing Points: JAM’s BAFTA-win­ning preschool se­ries, Roy (in turn in­spired by Alan Shan­non’s IFTA-nom­i­nated short film), cre­at­ing a built-in au­di­ence for the new show — ev­i­denced by its pre­sales across the con­ti­nent. With op­er­a­tions in both Ire­land and the U.K., JAM is one of the lead­ing creators and pro­duc­ers of multi-award-win­ning an­i­mated and live-ac­tion kids’ con­tent. De­liv­ery Date: Spring 2017 Broad­cast­ers: Com­mis­sioned by CBee­bies & CBBC (U.K.); RTE (Ire­land), ABC (Aus­tralia), NRK (Nor­way), SVT (Swe­den), DR (Den­mark), YLE (Fin­land), VRT (Bel­gium), HOP TV (Is­rael) www.jam­me­dia.com Pro­duced By: [P-1.B2] Based On: Ge­nius Brands In­ter­na­tional Book se­ries by Anna Dewd­ney For­mat: 15 x half-hours; avail­able in 20 lan­guages Tar­get Au­di­ence: Preschool Type of An­i­ma­tion: 2D Syn­op­sis: This sto­ry­book adap­ta­tion fo­cuses on the in­no­cent joys of child­hood mo­ments and ad­ven­tures, as well as the spe­cial con­nec­tions be­tween the lead char­ac­ter, Llama, his par­ents, grand­par­ents and best friends. Llama Llama tells heart-warm­ing sto­ries of life in a safe, friendly town seen through the eyes of Llama as he in­ter­acts with the amaz­ing world around him. Sell­ing Points: Dewd­ney’s Llama Llama books have all been New York Times best­sellers, with sev­eral ti­tles reach­ing the No. 1 spot. The an­i­mated adap­tion boasts a stel­lar cre­ative team, in­clud­ing

Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor Rob Minkoff ( The Lion King), di­rec­tor Saul Blinkoff ( Doc McStuffins), Emmy-win­ning writer Joe Purdy ( Arthur), cel­e­bratd Disney art di­rec­tor Ruben Aquino ( Frozen) and Emmy-award win­ning pro­duc­ers Jane Startz and Andy Hey­ward. GBI also is rolling out a global li­cens­ing pro­gram to co­in­cide with the se­ries launch. De­liv­ery Date: 2017 Broad­caster: Net­flix www.gnus­brands.com Pro­duced By: 2 Min­utes, NDR (broad­caster), APC Kids (dis­trib­u­tor) [P-1.L60] Cre­ated By: Nob For­mat: 52 x 11 Tar­get Au­di­ence: Kids Type of An­i­ma­tion: 2D Syn­op­sis: Set in the 1930s, the show fol­lows 9-year-old Nanette as she moves from the city to a small vil­lage, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life in the coun­try­side for the first time. Kind and cheer­ful, Nanette is open-minded about meet­ing peo­ple, tak­ing ad­van­tage of her new sur­round­ings to try her hand at be­com­ing a spe­cial­ist goat-milker, pro­fes­sional car­rot-lifter, ex­pert wood­land ad­ven­turer and ex­pe­ri­enced hut-builder. Sell­ing Points: Mem­o­ries of Nanette prom­ises to cap­ture the ad­ven­tur­ous op­ti­mism of child­hood with its young hero­ine. The se­ries is be­ing di­rected by comic-book cre­ator, Nob, who also writes with Sébastien Ti­quet ( The Fridge). De­liv­ery Date: Broad­cast­ers: zer­land) www.about­premi­um­con­tent.com Pro­duced By: DHX Me­dia [R7.A11] Cre­ated By: Jeff Rosen For­mat: 13 x 30 Tar­get Au­di­ence: Preschool Type of An­i­ma­tion: 3D Syn­op­sis: Space Ranger Roger is a brave lit­tle alien sent to ex­plore a strange, far­away world: Earth! Each day, Roger scans the sur­face of our small blue planet from his home base, the Friend Ship. If he picks up a dis­tress sig­nal from an Earth crea­ture, he and his team of ram­bunc­tious Ranger Bots gear up to help. Though his alien point of view and the bots’ en­thu­si­asm of­ten lead to more trou­ble, Roger’s de­ter­mined spirit and cre­ative think­ing will save the day. Com­mis­sioned just ahead of MIP-TV ear­lier this year, Space Ranger Roger is yet an­other highly pedi­greed kids’ se­ries from DHX, thanks to cre­ator Jeff Rosen ( An­i­mal Me­chan­i­cals, Bo on the Go, The Mighty Jun­gle, Mon­ster Math Squad). Broad­cast­ers: (Canada) www.dhx­me­dia.com Pro­duced By: Lu­pus Films, Walker Pro­duc­tions; dis­trib­uted by Union Me­dia Based On: Book by Michael Rosen and il­lus­tra­tor He­len Ox­en­bury For­mat: 1 x 30 spe­cial Tar­get Au­di­ence: Fam­ily Type of An­i­ma­tion: Hand-drawn 2D Syn­op­sis: Sib­lings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max the baby, and Ru­fus the dog de­cide one day to go on an ad­ven­ture in search of bears. Com­ing up against a host of ob­sta­cles, the fam­ily ven­tures through whirling snow­storms, thick ooz­ing mud and dark forests on their am­bi­tious quest. But when Rosie and Ru­fus be­come de­tached from the rest of the party, it looks like bear-hunt­ing might not be such fun af­ter all. Sell­ing Points: From the pro­duc­ers of the widely ap­plauded The Snow­man and The Snow­dog, We’re Go­ing on a Bear Hunt prom­ises to be­come an­other an­i­mated hol­i­day clas­sic. The spe­cial fea­tures the voices of Olivia Col­man ( Broad­church), Pam Fer­ris ( Call the Mid­wife) and Mark Wil­liams ( Harry Pot­ter). Global ap­peal is promised by the suc­cess of the mul­ti­mil­lion-sell­ing pic­ture book, which is pub­lished in 23 lan­guages in­clud­ing Chi­nese, Rus­sian and Maori. De­liv­ery Date: Hol­i­day 2016 Broad­cast­ers: Chan­nel 4 (U.K.), ABC (Aus­tralia), SVT (Swe­den), NRK (Nor­way), Canal+ (France), YLE (Fin­land) www.lu­pus­films.com [

GO-N Pro­duc­tions co-founder and pro­ducer Eric Gar­net is pretty sure the world will love the new preschool com­edy show Si­mon — based on the book se­ries by Stephanie Blake — as much as he and his crew do.

“Chil­dren im­me­di­ately con­nect with Si­mon be­cause he dares to say what chil­dren think but don’t dare to ex­press in ev­ery­day life,” says Gar­net. “He’s very in­tense some­times and al­ways full of en­ergy, and in most of his sto­ries he’s learn­ing some­thing, but not in a cheesy way.”

Buy­ers will get their first look at the lit­tle rab­bit at MIP Ju­nior, where GO-N will show a cou­ple episodes of the 52 x 5 mins. show, which is co-pro­duced by France Télévi­sions. The se­ries is now in pro­duc­tion in-house at GO-N, with a pre­miere on France 5 at Christ­mas. The full se­ries will be com­pleted by spring.

Blake started draw­ing Si­mon about 10 years ago and the book — pub­lished by l’École des loisirs — was an in­stant hit and spawned a suc­cess­ful se­ries that has sold more than 3 mil­lion copies in France. Si­mon also has been pub­lished in some 20 coun­tries and is pop­u­lar in Italy, Scan­di­navia and Ja­pan, Gar­net says.

“When we ap­proached her a few years back it was the last preschool prop­erty that was very fa­mous in France that had not been adapted,” Gar­net says. “It’s very iconic, be­cause Si­mon the lit­tle rab­bit is a very re­al­is­tic char­ac­ter.”

Gar­net de­scribes the char­ac­ter as cute, in­tense and al­ways learn­ing from ev­ery­day life. “For ex­am­ple, when his par­ents say, ‘ Si­mon, you’re go­ing to go school,’ he doesn’t want to go to school,” he says. “Then, af­ter a few dis­cus­sions, he’s go­ing to school and then he re­al­izes it’s fun to be at school meet­ing new friends and do­ing new stuff. When his par­ents come back at the end of the day, he has learned his les­son and he is telling them, ‘I don’t want to go home.’”

Keep­ing the look of the books’ sim­ple art style was very im­por­tant, Gar­net says. The show is be­ing pro­duced us­ing Flash in-house in Paris to have close su­per­vi­sion of the look and con­trol of the writ­ing process. Gar­net says Blake is very col­lab­o­ra­tive and helped find sto­ries to tell with the char­ac­ter be­yond those she’s told in the books.

For an­i­ma­tion, the en­vi­ron­ment Si­mon lives in had to be cre­ated in Blake’s style be­cause the books have few back­grounds.

New poli­cies at the CNC ben­e­fit­ted the pro­duc­tion and al­lowed it to stay en­tirely in France. While the ex­tra sup­port and tax cred­its helped off­set the ex­tra ex­pense of la­bor and over­head in Paris, hav­ing the pro­duc­tion in-house al­lowed GO-N to fo­cus on keep­ing the qual­ity of the an­i­ma­tion high. “We also save a lot of time in re­takes and ev­ery­thing, do­ing it in house,” he says.

The se­ries has made a few pre­sales — to Télé-Québec in Canada and YLE in Fin­land, for ex­am­ple — which had an im­me­di­ate im­pact, Gar­net says. “We saw there was a lot of in­ter­est but we wanted to make sure we had the right part­ner in each coun­try,” he says.

The buzz for the show be­gan at An­necy, when a bus was wrapped with im­agery from Si­mon, with France Télévi­sions plan­ning more pro­mo­tions lead­ing up to the De­cem­ber de­but.

“If we han­dle it well and care­fully, we have a chance to do some­thing nice, a real in­ter­na­tional hit,” Gar­net says. [

France’s Mil­lim­ages turns 25 with strong sales for its es­tab­lished shows and plenty of prom­ise for new ones be­ing pitched at MIP Ju­nior and Car­toon Fo­rum.

TTri­con Kids & Fam­ily’s push into an­i­ma­tion pays div­i­dends with a strong slate of shows com­ing to Cannes. By Tom McLean.

ri­con Kids & Fam­ily is a rel­a­tive new­comer to the an­i­ma­tion busi­ness, hav­ing in 2014 hired in­dus­try vet­eran Frank Saper­stein to lead the Toronto-based com­pany into the world of toons. Only two years later, Tri­con has de­vel­oped a solid slate of an­i­mated projects for chil­dren and a track record of suc­cess it ex­pects buy­ers at MIP Ju­nior and MIPCOM will take a shine to.

The com­pany’s top-per­form­ing toon is Coun­ter­feit Cat, a Canada-U.K. co-pro­duc­tion with Bris­tol-based Wild­seed Stu­dios; Atomic Car­toons in Van­cou­ver does the an­i­ma­tion. With half of sea­son one de­liv­ered and the rest on sched­ule for spring de­liv­ery, Coun­ter­feit Cat has done well on Disney XD in the U.K., where it ri­vals a Marvel pro­gram for the net’s top-per­form­ing se­ries; and in the U.S., where it ranked in the net’s top 10 shows in its ini­tial June run, which is slated to re­peat in Septem­ber.

It’s also aired in English in Sin­ga­pore and is com­ing to Canada’s Tele­toon in Novem­ber.

“Ev­ery­thing is geared to­ward fin­ish­ing up sea­son one and push­ing to­ward sea­son two,” says Saper­stein. “We are look­ing at po­ten­tially build­ing out a larger plat­form and po­ten­tially look­ing at li­cens­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing and other build­able el­e­ments from the se­ries as we’re mov­ing for­ward.”

Tri­con also has part­nered with Corus on Go Away, Uni­corn!, a girls-skew­ing an­i­mated se­ries for Disney Chan­nel in the U.S. De­vel­oped with Mer­cury Film­works, the show is in the fo­cus-group test­ing process and Tri­con is work­ing out pro­duc­tion plans for the show. Saper­stein says it may be a full Cana­dian pro­duc­tion, but the com­pany also is ex­plor­ing a co-pro­duc­tion with an E.U.-based stu­dio, pos­si­bly in Ire­land.

On the boys’ side of things, the com­pany is in a sim­i­lar spot with the an­i­mated com­edy My Big Red Head. Tri­con is work­ing with Lu­pus Films out of Lon­don and it is go­ing through fo­cus groups and pro­duc­tion plan­ning pro­cesses, he says.

Go­ing in a dig­i­tal di­rec­tion, Tri­con also has Me, My­self and My Selfie, a 104 x 2 min. non­ver­bal dig­i­tal short se­ries. The com­pany has part­nered with Savoir FER and Reaz on the project, for which fi­nanc­ing is be­ing as­sem­bled from broad­cast­ers and dig­i­tal plat­forms in North Amer­ica and France.

“We’re look­ing at much more of a dig­i­tal play,” Saper­stein says. “There will be some tra­di­tional broad­cast part­ners, po­ten­tially, but we’re just look­ing at dif­fer­ent ways of putting it to­gether and how we would mon­e­tize it. ... The show is ba­si­cally de­vel­oped and ready to go, once we know who we’re cater­ing it to.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Tri­con is dis­tribut­ing a Singa- pore-Canada co-pro­duc­tion called Shut­ter­bugs, pro­duced by Am­ber­wood, Big Jump and In­fi­nite Frame­works and air­ing in Canada this fall.

Saper­stein says the suc­cess of an­i­ma­tion at Tri­con is a tes­ta­ment to the over­all com­pany, which was founded in 2000 as an in­de­pen­dent pro­ducer and dis­trib­u­tor.

“Tri­con of­fered a great ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture,” he says. “If we do one or two re­ally strong shows a year or two shows ev­ery three years — not that I’d turn away other work — that’s what we want to do, and we want to make them well, like we be­lieve we’ve done with Coun­ter­feit Cat, by pick­ing the right part­ners and prop­er­ties.” [

For­mer col­lege bas­ket­ballers turn the bench­warm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence into com­edy for the se­ries

Frank Saper­stein

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