Much like the icebergs that pepper its backdrop, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface of Aloutah, a new shorts series copro in the works at LA’s National Geographic Kids Entertainment and Paris-based Planet Nemo.
On the content side of things, the 52 x two-minute project appears to be all about fast-paced slapstick comedy, with stories centering around a pair of mischievous Aleuth siblings who get into an avalanche of trouble in their extreme Northern environs. But like every Nat Geo production, it’s been shaped and inspired by a hefty background paper prepared by the company’s research department that delves into the facts of life in the Arctic Circle. While the plan is to get the 2D animated shorts to market quickly and sell them as TV interstitials, mobisodes and webtoons, this is just one phase of a bigger seeding and testing strategy.
NGKE president Donna Friedman Meir had been looking for quite some time for a project that could feed off the buzz generated by March of the Penguins and the anticipated momentum from Arctic Tale, another Arctic-set Nat Geo film, which closed Silverdocs. Aloutah, which she saw for the first time at MIPTV 2006, fit the bill perfectly.
Working with a budget between US$250,000 and $275,000 per half hour, NGKE and Planet Nemo are currently looking for pre-sales to send the shorts into production. Nat Geo is overseeing character development and writing and has brought in Holly Hawkins (whose credits include Rugrats, Totally Spies! and Skunk-Fu) to do the scripts. Planet Nemo will handle all the design and animation work. Two shorts were completed at press time, with scripts locked for three more.
Both Nat Geo and Planet Nemo (which retains distribution rights to French-speaking countries, Benelux and Asia) showed this finished ep to buyers at MIP in April, and interest was so strong that the partners are starting to develop a 26 x 30-minute series as well, using the shorts to inform the process. ‘What’s wonderful about shorts is that each one is like a different experiment,’ says Friedman Meir. ‘So we think we’ll learn a lot about which are the strongest characters, where the strongest comedy comes from, and how far we can push it editorially, and all of these lessons can be applied to the longer series.’ If everything proceeds as planned, the first 26 shorts will be delivered in November, and the half-hour series should follow in early 2009.