Where will the next big brand in children’s entertainment content come from? It might just be one of the six finalists in this year’s MIPJunior International Pitch contest, which took place this afternoon.
The finalists pitched to a star-studded panel of judges: Andy Heyward (A Squared Entertainment); Morgann Favennec (M6); Emmanuel Franck (Ankama); Helen McAleer (The Walker Books Group); Anna Rafferty (Penguin Books); Angela Recio Sondon (Discovery Kids); and Brad Schultz (Mind Candy).
Up for grabs: A prize worth €2,500, including a buyer meeting, editorial coverage in the MIPCOM Daily News and on the MIPBlog; free submission to the MIPJunior 2013 Digital Library, a half-page ad in next year’s Daily News or show-guide; and free access to Toon Boom’s StoryBoard Pro 3D software.
We’ll take the six finalists in order, with details of their pitch, and the judges’ responses. Starting with…
Animals by Mighty Studio (Mexico)
“Two different worlds colliding”, where naughty teenagers have been ordered to dress up as animals and look after the kindergarten kids in their school. It’s aimed at two different audiences: 6-9 year-olds who’ll like its slapstick elements, and older children who’ll also enjoy its references to famous films and popular culture.
Multiplatform plans include social media, gaming, a YouTube channel and merchandise. That might also include the ability to chat to the characters on Facebook, or even register a child’s mobile number to receive a call from the characters on their birthday.
Casimilo and the Legends of the New World by Sacrebleu Productions (France)
Set “in the heart of Native America”, this animation offers a concoction of comedy, action, animals and magical legends. The main target audience is 6-9 year-olds, with plans to make 39 seven-minute episodes. Casimilio is a young Indian ‘Kogui’ who explores Latin America. He’s a 10 year-old boy who’s “very intrepid and clumsy”, but who can also talk to animals.
There’s a female tapir called Chubby, a condor called Zozo and a ‘Mama’ sorceress called Chema who acts as Casimilio’s spiritual guide. Transmedia content will be part of the mix, to help children and parents explore the facts behind the fiction. Everything from web games and apps to children’s books is on the agenda. The pilot is at the scriptwriting stage.
The producers stressed that everything is based on real legends and animals. “It’s not fake!” Why seven minutes? “We saw that seven minutes would be a bit quicker and intense… We wanted to keep a nice pace.” Although extending it to 30 minutes would be possible in the longer term. They’d also like to create an interactive travel journal for Casimilio for children to explore.
Gorollas by B.I. Group (South Korea)
Day-glo gorillas, Daft Punk-esque pumping techno and Mario Kart-like racing. Together at last! That’s Gorollas in a nutshell. “They look like gorillas, but there’s no ‘i’ in gorollas, because Gorollas are a team…” And hey don’t just drive, they also fly, canoe, jump into bumper cars and balloons.
Each episode will feature a different mission. “Sometimes they save penguins from the North Pole, sometimes they try to figure out how mysterious crop circles are formed… Gorollas are fast and curious.”
Ideas for multi-platform: an interactive book where children colour in the characters. Toys with a video camera in the front and a USB device in the back, controlled by an iPhone app. The format is aimed at 4-7 year-old boys, and it’s a 52×11-minute series.
Las Cuevas by Ink Apache (Spain)
This is a 52×13 cross-platform project aimed at 9-12 year-olds of both sexes. “A town full of… odd people… In Las Cuevas, everyone’s got something to hide, and you better not get lost!” It stars a pair of children who moonlight as paranormal investigators. There’s a mummy, a secret military base, and mysterious socks going missing in the washing machine.
Ideas for spin-offs include a comic book, a board game, an online virtual world which will evolve in parallel to the TV episodes. “There will be some clues in the episode that help kids to find the right way [in the world]… The idea is the different cases for each episode, and to write them at the same time as we write the show.”
Oh, and one more pitch zinger: “By the way, when Elvis left the building, this is probably where he went!”
Ooommm-Mmmooo, Yoga for Children by 4Direcciones Audiovisual (Colombia)
Skateboarding cartoon cows, stressed pandas and chilled-out cows. It’s the cows who are doing the yoga, hence the “Mmmooo” part of the title. Yes, this is computer-animated cows showing children how to do yoga moves. Episodes last seven minutes, and combine 2D and 3D animation with live action, with a core audience of 6-9 year-olds – but hopes of attracting younger children too.
Each episode begins with a cow “having an issue” that kids will relate to – for example, a late night that leaves them tired in the morning, or fear about a flamenco debut on-stage, or eating too much ice cream and feeling bloated. The 3D cartoon cows are guided in their yoga by a 2D cartoon cat, by the way.
Transmedia elements include a web community with games, including the ability to customise and swap yoga sequences, and track their improvement. There’ll also be a live experience – “we want to produce events for kids to do yoga in parks and shopping centres, guided by animated characters”. Also school programmes for teachers to customise. And a similar thing for parents.
Why cows? “Well, they’re really peaceful…”
Toggle by Beakus Ltd (UK)
Last but not least, Toggle is a 26 x 5-minute show for 2-4 year-olds. “We like to think that Toggle is like playing with fuzzy felt, but on TV. It’s a very creative show.” It was spawned from a workshop run with pre-school children, using pre-cut shapes to create characters of their own.
“Everything in the Toggle world is created from the same set of colours, shapes and textures,” explained Beakus. It’s based on three friends, voiced by children with very simple dialogue, who live in a tree in a forest, all made from the same elements. Other characters include “an ant the size of an elephant” and some bird-like “Snoofs”. And one of Peppa Pig’s writers is helping with the scriptwriting.
There’ll be a ‘character creator’ app to help children at home invent their own characters, using the same shapes, and submit them to a digital gallery – with some eventually used in the show itself. Meanwhile, there could be a range of licensed craft products too.
That’s all the pitches, but…
While the judges deliberated on a winner, Tomorrow’s Child UK director Jacqueline Harding took to the stage to give her views on what producers should be doing to make innovative, popular children’s shows, by tapping into neurology. Brains!
“New media content can help children, no doubt about it, because it speaks their language,” said Harding. “The brain wants to play, and we can do that for them… The more out-of-the-box you can help children to be, the more they will be the citizens of the future.”
And the verdict!
Jury chairman Andy Heyward explained their decision. “They were all very good, very well thought out… It was a very spirited conversation that went on back stage, and a hard choice to make!”
After praising all the entries, Heyward revealed the winner: Ooommm-Mmmooo, Yoga for Children. Those cows will be feeling even more peaceful now. And that’s a wrap.