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‘3rd & Bird!’ lands at Disney Channel

Little Airplane co-produced with BBC

It was a roundabout flight for New York-based Josh Selig’s Little Airplane Prods., but the shingle’s latest preschool series, “3rd & Bird!,” has been sold by BBC Worldwide to Disney Channel after a successful takeoff in the U.K.

Aimed at kids age 3 to 5, “Bird” (a co-production with the BBC’s CBeebies channel) has a first season of 25 two-part halfhours plus a holiday special, with the series premiere due on Disney Channel’s Playhouse Disney in early 2011. The sale opens up the 17th territory for “Bird,” including Canada and Spain.

“Our goal in the beginning was to create a series that could travel,” Selig said.

To that end, Selig opened up a branch of Little Airplane in London so that staff could work directly with CBeebies. Co-development took place for approximately six months in 2008 before “Bird” premiered in the U.K. the following year.

“It was really an interesting model,” said Selig, who earned 10 Daytime Emmys while writing for “Sesame Street.” “We were researching and testing both in the U.K. and the U.S. … We’re really open to that model.

“If, for instance, we were to place an original show with say ABC in Australia, we would be more than happy to have a satellite office. We really find that being on the ground with a broadcaster, we can create a show that will really work for them and their audience.”

“Bird” (offering life lessons for its main avian characters in the branches of a tree) is produced using photo-puppetry animation, the same style that Little Airplane pioneered for kiddie opera series “The Wonder Pets” but adapted for the new setting and characters.

“It came out of a trip that I took,” Selig said. “I was at the Bronx Botanical Gardens, and I came across this beautiful postcard of a birdhouse, very ornate and lovely … and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to build a whole community of these birdhouses?'”

“Bird” offers four original songs per nine-minute segment, plus, as Selig pointed out, the talents of World Championship of Musical Whistling titlist Michael Barimo.

Little Airplane’s other series include “Oobi,” which airs on Noggin.

BBC Worldwide TV sales and co-productions director Kate Livo shepherded the “Bird” deal with Disney Channel. A second season for the series is under discussion, according to Selig.

Fisher-Price has multiyear toy license rights for “Bird” globally outside of Asia.

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