Of course, there are shows that don’t make it for reasons which have nothing to do with how good they might be. We developed a show called Telemania with an Israeli television company, Noga Television. They had created some animated characters for a rolling programme, and wanted to develop a series to bring them to a wider audience.
We loved the characters and the design, and came up with an idea for a comedy for 8 – 10 year olds.
Atlanta, Sprout and Felix are the biggest stars in the world. They live in a mansion that is a kid’s paradise, where even their parents wait on them. Wealth, fame, and the adoration of millions are theirs, and the effect on their lives is devastating.
Our heroes do all those things you expect from stars, only more so. They host their own tv show, release chart-topping records, star in their own movies, win awards, open events, etc. Everything they do, from walking the dog to brushing their teeth, is a photo-opportunity. Not even the lavatory is safe from fans and paparazzi keen to witness every moment, however intimate. They even have their own pet stalker, Kevin.
Much of the humour centred on the enormous ego of our main girl character, whose selfish obsessions drove the plots.
At the time, Fox Kids really liked this show, and gave us some development money. We brought in some young comedy writers to help us, and came up with some seriously funny scripts.
By the time we delivered them, though, Fox Kids was in the process of rebranding itself as Jetix, a channel that was not very interested in comedy, especially if the lead character was a girl. Jetix was a channel that wanted to provide action-packed adventure stories for boys.
Having developed the series to suit a particular channel, only to find it no longer existed, it was then hard to revise the series, and reposition it with other broadcasters. Although we had coproduction interest from broadcasters and studios overseas, we were unable to find a UK broadcaster and failed to get it off the ground.
Another idea of ours, I suspect, was ahead of its time. As a studio, we keep abreast of what is happening in the world of children’s literature. Some years ago, soon after its publication, we read The Big Pets, a book by the brilliant American illustrator, Lane Smith. We thought it extremely imaginative and ideally suited to children’s television. We optioned it, and, with the help of the author developed it and made a short trailer. In the process, the title was changed to “The Night Children”.
This was met with antipathy that bordered on the aggressive. Broadcasters were quick to reject it, upset by the “experimental” nature of the design, which they thought would not appeal to young children. This was the element that had attracted us in the first place. The project faltered and stalled.
We felt slightly vindicated when, soon after, the same author, Lane Smith, became art director of the movie adaptation of James And The Giant Peach.