You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toons take a holiday as live-action powers Junior

Skeins aimed at tweens, teens become appealing int'l properties

As buyers and content providers prepare to converge on Cannes for the two-day screenfest Mipcom Junior, the biggest buzz is the lack of buzz.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of shakeout in the business and the broadcasters are buying more selectively now than they have in the past,” explains DIC chairman Andy Heyward. “Producers are keeping things closer to their chests.”

Even so, some loud murmuring can still be heard. While animation remains the primary fuel that powers kids television, live-action series aimed at tweens and teens have come into their own in recent years with programs such as “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “Lizzie McGuire,” “That’s So Raven,” “Unfabulous” and “Zoey 101” becoming very appealing international properties. It’s a trend that’s expected to continue.

“We are hearing more and more that there’s growing interest globally for live-action kids and family programming,” says Disney Channel Intl. president Rich Ross. “As you’re looking around, there hasn’t been an animated hit in a while.

” ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ (which aired in the U.S. on Kids WB) was the last big anime hit. The biggest animated hits internationally currently (are) Nickelodeon’s ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ and ‘Fairly Odd Parents,’ but you haven’t really seen a big hit after that. I think the market is starting to appreciate kids getting older and that’s why live-action programming is doing well.”

But attracting the upper end of the kids demo requires more sophisticated storytelling and authentic voices. It’s no coincidence the creative forces behind these shows happen to include many of the hottest producers in the children’s biz at the moment.

Among the shows expected to generate a lot of attention at Mipcom Junior is “Darcy’s Wild Life,” from Stan Rogow (“Lizzie McGuire,” “Flight 29 Down,” “State of Grace”), offered internationally by Granada. In the series, a pampered Malibu teen (Sara Paxton) must adjust to the culture shock of moving to the country. “Darcy” has become a surprise hit in the U.S., and Granada has high expectations.

MarVista Entertainment will launch “Makaha Surf” on the Croisette. Skein is from uberproducers David Brookwell and Sean McNamara, the team behind Disney Channel hits “Even Stevens,” “Phil of the Future” and “That’s So Raven.” Airing Stateside on Nickelodeon teen channel the N, the gritty series follows four girls pursuing their dream of becoming world-class surfers in a decidedly male-dominated sport.

Of particular note is that one of the writers on the series is former “Beverly Hills, 90210” co-producer Matt Dearborn. Likewise, Discovery Kids reality hit “Endurance,” a teen version of “Survivor,” was created by hot primetime reality producer J.D. Roth (“Beauty and the Geek,” “The Biggest Loser”).

Ross says more primetime writers and producers are migrating to kids’ entertainment. “The biggest change in the business is not so much the exec producers, it’s the writing talent. The kids nets have really come of age. We’ve had people coming up off of ‘Shrek’ and ‘Friends.’ ”

But while well-known producers can help generate interest in a show, content remains king, stresses DIC chair Heyward. “You could have a producer who brings you a discriminating cutting-edge product and the next product that comes from that producer is really cliched. We don’t look at the producer; we look at the product, the technology that is alongside it, the storytelling ability of the creator. In the end, it all depends on your product.”

The increased competitiveness in the kids market has prompted Heyward to adjust the way his company will do business this year, including doing some reconnaissance prior to the market.

“We’re doing a pre-Mipcom round where we’ll visit the U.K., Italy, France, Germany and Spain to see all the key broadcasters in advance in their own territories before we go to Cannes because there’s just not enough time at the market anymore. You have maybe 15 or 20 minutes in the little booth and everyone is rushing and thinking about something else. By the time you get settled, you only have a few minutes to try and do a proper presentation, which you really can’t. So this year we’ll just use Mipcom to finalize our deals.”

More Scene

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]


    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Dua Lipa Tom Jones

    Dua Lipa and Tom Jones to Perform at amfAR's Cannes Gala (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety‘s Marc Malkin is on the scene at the Cannes Film Festival. Get the scoop on all the news, parties and more straight from the Croisette below. AmfAR’s upcoming Cannes gala is shaping up quite nicely. Sources tell Variety that the evening will feature performances by Dua Lipa and Tom Jones. And they’re not the only [...]

  • "Deadwood" Cast Describes Emotional Homecoming on

    'Deadwood' Cast Describes Emotional Homecoming on the Historic Set

    The phrase “Welcome the f— back” marks the billboards and posters for the return of “Deadwood,” but that sentiment doesn’t just apply to the audience. Returning to the town of Deadwood was a homecoming of sorts for the cast and crew of the HBO show, who shared that stepping back into the meticulously recreated late-1800s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content