Traditionally, live action for preschoolers hasn’t done well internationally. Wee ones just tend to relate best to puppets and animation, and both of those are far easier to version.
One of the exceptions to this rule is This is Daniel Cook, or at least that’s what Toronto-based coproducers marblemedia and Sinking Ship Productions are trying to prove. Cook focuses on the adventures of the six-year-old host, who discovers the world around him through his own experiences – whether that’s learning yoga from an instructor or how to make chocolates from a chocolatier.
The series made strides in English-speaking territories, with sales in 2004 and 2005 to Playhouse Disney in the US, and Canadian nets Treehouse and TVOntario. But the depiction of real people in non-fantastical settings made non-English-speaking broadcasters balk. Subtitles don’t work on programs targeted at early readers and dubbing live-action players often confuses them.
To prove it could work, marblemedia translated two eps into German with no broadcast deal attached. Head of business development, Rita Carbone Fleury, says it paid off. Disney Channel Germany charged marblemedia to dub 65 five-minute episodes for the pay-TV channel.
Marblemedia has put another version of the This is franchise into production. The goal is to convince skeptical nets it’s a format-worthy concept because the subject matter, not its star, puts the world at a kid’s level. This is Emily Yeung is a 65 x six-minute format picked up by Treehouse in Canada. While international sales are important, the goal of the effort is ‘primarily to say we can prove our own format,’ notes Fleury.
Fleury says the popularity of adult reality has opened minds, and she has definitely been positioning the series as reality for kids. It looks as though marblemedia may have struck a chord: while Emily Yeung is still only shooting, deals are already pending in North America, Latin America and Germany.