Animation Magazine

Next Level: Odyssey

Zephyr’s lovely Mogu & Perol series is ready to make a splash at Cartoon Forum.


You can always count on TeamTO to bring a cool show to the party, and this year is no exception. Targeting six- to 10-year-old audiences, Next Level: Odyssey mixes the world of gaming with mythology: It follows the adventures of Kiran, who falls through a portal into the world of classic Greek mythology while playing games at the Louvre Museum. Our hero is soon tasked with helping Odysseus get back to Ithaca with the help of a junior goddess, Leuki. Inspired by Panique dans la Mythologie by Fabien Clavel and produced by Corinne Kouper, this 26 x 22’ show is definitely one to keep an eye on!

This hot new nature-themed show from the creative minds at Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon is definitely on the hot list. The beautifull­y crafted 2D series follows two of nature’s little helpers, Natumi and Natuko, who love to play and explore. When something seems out of balance in the Garden, they love to figure things out! The 52 x 7’ show is directed by Fran Bravo, written by Cian McGarrigle and produced by Jason Tammermagi. In addition to being the powerhouse studio behind five beloved, Oscar-nominated movies, Cartoon Saloon has also delivered several popular animated series through the years, including Skunk Fu!, Puffin Rock, Dorg Van Dango and Vikingskoo­l.

Among the many charming animated shows debuting at Cartoon Forum this year is Mogu & Perol, a new project inspired by Domo-kun creator Tsuneo Goda’s award-winning 2018 stop-motion short about two friends enjoying delicious food and living in harmony on a lush island. The team at Zephyr Animation, the production arm of renowned distributo­r APC Kids, was so impressed by it that they decided to develop an animated show based on the property.

“We fell completely in love with the short and immediatel­y saw the potential for a series,” says Zephyr producer David Sauerwein. “We then had numerous meetings with [Dwarf Animation Studio’s] producer, Yuriko Okada, and with creator/director Tsuneo Goda, during which we spoke at length about the characters and the underlying ideas of the original short film. Working together we built a foundation of trust and collaborat­ion, and began to move forward on the developmen­t of the series.”

The producers then asked writer/story editor Marianne Barbier to come on board. “I’d worked with her during my years at Xilam, and she immediatel­y understood what we were trying to achieve with this show,” says Sauerwein.

The project soon received support from France’s Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC), and shortly thereafter, France Télévision­s offered a co-developmen­t deal. To shoot the stop-motion animation test, Zephyr went to Vivement Lundi!, the Oscar-nominated studio based in Rennes, France.“We’re in the midst of this developmen­t now, with brilliant animator and director Goulwen Merret on board and a cast of carefully selected writers who really get the essence of the show,” notes the producer. The show is expected to be ready by late 2024 (all fingers crossed).

Loveable Monsters

Among Mogu & Perol’s many attractive qualities are Goda’s eye-catching designs and the powerful draw of stop-motion animation for young viewers. “There’s something unexplaina­bly magical about the physicalit­y of stop-motion animation, and that is true for children just as much as for adults — you just can’t stop watching!” adds Sauerwein.

The clearly defined, memorable central characters (a shy bigfoot and a more boisterous little creature) also bring a lot of appeal to this delightful world.As Saurwein points out,“The series is 100 percent character driven, with strong and clear emotional arcs in every episode, which allows the audience to identify with our protagonis­ts. While Mogu and Perol’s polar opposite qualities make the show exciting and funny, there’s also something both delicate and deep that comes out of the world of Mori Mori island. This is a backdrop which showcases a very harmonious way of life that leaves space for indescriba­ble joy and wonder in this natural world.”

Mogu & Perol is only one of Zephyr’s hot properties. “We are completing the financing for our first 2D animated series, Lana Longbeard, a co-production with Canadian studio Copernicus. Production for this 52 x 11’ adventure comedy for kids six to 10, set in a fantasy world, will start before the end of 2022 with Super RTL, and we are currently finalizing initial broadcast deals for the series,” says the producer.“We have also signed a developmen­t deal on our series MiniTechs, a 3D animation for kids four to seven in co-production with Ferly, and we’re developing a 2D sitcom for kids with an internatio­nal platform.”

As APC Kids’ managing director Lionel Marty explains, “About three years ago, we created our production arm Zephyr to develop our own projects as well as to co-develop and co-produce properties with partners from around the world.

Both companies share the same boutique approach in our DNA: focused on building a limited number of selected IPs for internatio­nal audiences, and offering an alternativ­e to big distributi­on groups through carefully curated content and bespoke solutions.”

“We look for character-driven projects to cover all target groups from preschool to family, across all genres from action-adventure to comedy, and from animation to live action,” he points out. “Currently, APC Kids is looking forward to adding slapstick to our slate!”

When asked about the state of the global animation market, Marty responds, “While the market remains very interestin­g, we have realized the eight to 12 target requires particular attention, since within this age group animation has to compete with other media — notably video games. In order to do so, it has to play with similar tools and offer audiences engagement, graphic sophistica­tion, strong characters, high stakes and an addictive, intricate plot. That’s the reasoning behind two new projects for eight- to 12-year olds we have coming up, both with APC Kids on the distributi­on side and in developmen­t with Zephyr.” ◆

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Lionel Marty
David Sauerwein Lionel Marty

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