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Shingle dabbles in ‘Baby’ babble

Variety Junior 2011

Billy Macqueen thought he might have a hit on his hands when his sister called to say she’d heard a toddler singing the “Baby Jake” theme tune in her local neighborhood.

Macqueen and business partner Maddy Darrall, who run U.K. specialist tyke shingle Darrall Macqueen, hope international buyers will be equally open to the infectious quality of the preschool show that has already proved a winner for the CBeebies web in Blighty.

“We are bringing two very different shows to Mipcom Junior: ‘Pet Squad,’ made for the tween market, and ‘Baby Jake,’ which is preschool,” says Macqueen, a 27-year veteran of children’s TV who is the shingle’s international programming and development veep. ” ‘Baby Jake’ will be a lot easier to sell, especially in the U.S., because the preschool market is very clearly defined.”

The 26-part “Baby Jake” mixes live action and animation in a show that is a co-pro of CBeebies and Ireland’s JAM Media.

Its backers are betting the program can become a fixture of the so-called bedtime hour on global kids’ networks and repeat the success of previous U.K. preschool big sellers such as “Teletubbies,” “In the Night Garden” and “Charlie and Lola.”

“Baby Jake” mixes baby babble with recognizable speech. The baby’s gurgles are translated by 6-year-old Isaac, who is the infant’s real brother, while another youngster narrates Jake’s adventures.

The show’s charm and appeal (when “Baby Jake” bowed on the CBeebies iPlayer in July, it occupied all top five slots for a week) were the results of a straightforward production process.

It was a really simple, pure idea,” Macqueen says. “Thanks to the BBC, we got it on air in less than two years. … If we had taken ‘Baby Jake’ to Disney or Nickelodeon it would have gotten buried in development.”

BBC Worldwide is handling distribution and will be showcasing “Baby Jake” internationally later this fall on local versions of its CBeebies channel in Poland, India, Latin America and Scandinavia.

In contrast “Pet Squad,” a 52-part action cartoon featuring a trio of unlikely superheroes (a dog, a cat and a guinea pig), took more than twice as long to nail down. A three-way co-prod involving Malaysia’s Inspidea (supported by the Malaysian government’s MDeC initiative) and Canada’s March Entertainment, “Pet Squad” obtained additional financing by Sony to the tune of some £700,000 ($1.15 million) in return for international distribution rights.

“People drop in and out (of the production), or their companies are taken over or they get cold feet,” Macqueen says. The show bowed positively on CBBC in June; it remains to be seen how buyers at Mipcom will react to it. Macqueen insists the timing is right. “People are cutting back on going out and they are taking fewer holidays, but they are watching more TV than ever,” he says.”What I think both these shows have going for them is that in times of economic hardship audiences like to laugh — and parents like nothing more than to hear their children laugh.”

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