A year after FremantleMedia formed a kids television division, and recruited Sander Schwartz away from Warner Bros., the production entity is ready to roll out its first slate of family shows.
At this week’s Mipcom show in Cannes, the company will offer up around a dozen shows, a mix of live-action and animated series that target preschool through high school viewers.
“My Babysitter’s a Vampire,” based on the popular kidlit series, is getting the biggest push, with the live-action comedy series bowing as a feature on Oct. 9, in Canada, before being spun off as a series next year as a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for the 9- to 14-year-old set. Fresh TV developed the project with Teletoon Canada. FME retains the exclusive distribution and licensing rights outside Canada, so that it can turn the property into a potential merchandising juggernaut.
Other projects include:
• A live-action series with Australia’s Sticky Pictures that will star Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the late Steve Irwin. Series is the first to stem from an entertainment pact between FremantleMedia Australia and the Australia Zoo.
• “The Aquabats,” a musical comedy based on the exploits of the alternative rock band that mixes “Batman” with “The Monkees.”
• A reimagining of “Danger Mouse,” based on the hit British kids series about a secret agent that FME has owned for the past 20 years.
• Three shows that it will develop with Dan Clark (WB’s “Brats of the Lost Nebula,” “The Save-Ums” and Disney XD’s “Team Smithereen”) that will involve his penchant for puppetry.
• “Jo B.G. Raff,” a mixed-media animated series for preschoolers that FME is co-producing with Josh Selig’s Little Airplane Prods, behind “The Wonder Pets!” on Nick Jr., “3rd & Bird” for the BBC’s CBeebies and Disney Channel. FME will distribute worldwide.
• “Monsuno,” an animated project that it is producing with toymaker Jakks and Japanese ad-agency arm Denstu Entertainment USA, for which FME will oversee worldwide distribution and licensing efforts for the property outside Asia.
Children’s programming is a new arena for FremantleMedia after establishing itself as a producer of such shows as “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor.”
It’s set up the shows as successful formats in a number of foreign territories. It’s also behind “Family Feud,” “The Price Is Right,” “Farmer Wants a Wife” and “Hole in the Wall.”
In developing kids shows, FME is similarly looking for properties that can work worldwide, not just launch in the U.S. before being adapted for other overseas markets.
“The business is so different now than it was a few years ago,” Schwartz, executive VP and head of children and family entertainment for FME, told Daily Variety. “In order to be successful we have to focus on creating a new model. That’s why we’re not looking at it as domestic versus international, but a one world market.”
FME also didn’t want to set up an animation studio or buy a production studio. Schwartz, who is working closely with Bob Higgins, senior VP of children and family entertainment, to develop the shows, felt doing so would limit the creative look of the shows and prevent the company from partnering with outside production outfits who understand specific foreign markets.
“It gives us greater flexibility,” Schwartz said. “If you build an animation studio you have to feed that studio. You use it or lose it.”
Before joining FME, Schwartz was president of animation at Warner Bros., and head of Columbia TriStar’s children’s programming arm.
“In going into this, you have to walk before you run,” Schwartz said. “We went after a nice balanced portfolio between preschool and kids comedies aimed at 6-11-year-olds, boys adventure and teen and tween stuff. The intention is to come up with one or two in each segment and focus on building those as successfully entertainment properties with franchise potential down the line.”