The Daily Telegraph
Bear’s toughest test: conquering children’s TV as a cartoon hero
BEAR GRYLLS is to be a cartoon hero after the television survivalist signed a deal to turn tales of his schooldays into a series of animated adventures.
Young Bear Grylls will follow the former Eton schoolboy and SAS soldier as a 12-year-old, embarking on expeditions and tests of his outdoor skills – all while keeping up with his homework.
The show will be made by Platinum Films, an independent British production company, which beat competition from major US studios to land the deal.
“Young Bear Grylls is all about bringing the spirit of adventure and exploration to kids in a way that fires their imagination and brings out the survivor in them,” Grylls said.
Grylls is the UK Scout Association’s Chief Scout and once published a “manifesto for children” which included fitness, climbing mountains and the banning of computer games.
The plan is for the show to go global, with a merchandising deal encompassing action figures and books.
Grylls’s Born Survivor programme on Channel 4 has been seen by an estimated 1.2 billion people, and his US survival show, Running Wild, has attracted celebrity participants, including actress Kate Winslet and Barack Obama.
Grylls, the son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, was, at 23, one of the youngest people to climb Everest. And he did it just 18 months after breaking his back in a parachuting accident.
He served with 21 SAS before beginning his television career. His stunts – most notably, escaping quicksand, crawling inside a camel carcass, eating elephant dung and biting off a snake’s head – are all performed with maximum enthusiasm and have made him a hit with children.
He described the new series, to be broadcast in 2018, as “totally original, translatable, enduring and exciting”.
Platinum is based at Pinewood in Buckinghamshire, home to the James Bond franchise. The company’s first show, Dream Street, was aimed at pre- schoolers but used part of the cinema special effects team from The Empire Strikes Back and Alien. The show was launched in 2000 as ITV’s rival to Teletubbies and was sold to 65 countries.
Its founder, Nigel Stone, said: “You don’t have to play down to children. They’re just small people who think in a different way.”
Young Bear Grylls will present a positive role model, Stone said. “His kindness, his courage – these are the qualities I would want in a hero of one of our shows. The most important thing for Bear’s camp, and for us, is that we inspire children. Kids watch TV and it influences them, so why not influence for the good?
“Does that mean he’s going to be a Goody Two-Shoes? No. It means he’s going to be a normal boy and do all the things a normal kid does, but also do the exciting things, because he’s a hero.”
Few shows beyond the pre-school years are aimed at both boys and girls.
Stone said: “It’s really hard to pull off a mixed-genre show because broadcasters say, ‘Boys don’t watch what girls watch and girls don’t watch what boys watch’. But they clearly do.”
There is a wealth of Bear Grylls merchandise on the market, from survival kits and clothing to action figures accompanying his US survival series.
But products aimed at younger children could be a major money-spinner.
“Every show leads to merchandise but we’re thinking about things we can do other than the traditional, great stuff like books and toys,” Stone said.
“When we first launched Dream Street, we had the No 1 toy in Hamleys and didn’t know how to harness it. Now we do. We’ve gone from being a small British production company to a global media company, and we pinch ourselves a little bit.”
‘It’s about bringing the spirit of adventure to kids in a way that brings out the survivor in them’