Annecy: Imira, Toonz, Macqueen Team on ‘Fat Frank & Roadie’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Toonz, Imira link to blue-chip U.K. kids indie

Sergi Reitg
Courtesy of Imira Entertainment

ANNECY – Part of their drive to boost market presence in Western Europe and the U.S. Spain’s Imira Entertainment, and its owner, India’s Toonz Media Group, have pacted with London-based Darrall Macqueen, one of the U.K.’s blue-chip indie production houses, to co-develop and co-produce “Fat Frank & Roadie.”

Imira will also handle worldwide distribution on “Fat Frank & Roadie.”  To be presented at Cartoon Forum,  it adapts “Fly High and Huggy,” a Darral Macqueen-produced animated comedy commissioned by CBBC and CBeebies which launched Easter 2014 as a multi-platform game for the cross-over audience of 5-7s.

“Fat Frank & Roadie” turns on Fat Frank, a retiring jazz-singer guinea pig who yearns for a quiet life up a tree, hiring his roadie, an acrobatic squirrel, to serve him. All is bliss until a rocker bulldog Grrrrr sets up home under the same tree and wants it just for himself. Fat Frank and Grrrrr  try to get rid of each other  by any dastardly means possible, with the stressed-out sweet-hearted squirrel acting as a peace-making go-between .

At initial concept stage, but designed as 76 seven-minute-seg series, ‘Fat Frank & Roadie” is “a very character-driven chase comedy with three strong characters,” said Imira Ent. CEO Sergi Reitg. In principle, screenplay, storyboard and character design would be carried out in the U.K. by Darrell Macqueen which has created the series concept, and with the creative content coordination of  industry veteran Angus Fletcher. The series’ production would be de carried out by Toonz Media Group, Reitg added.

Toonz moved waves at October’s Mipcom announcing it was acquiring Imira, Spain’s premier distribution-production house launched in 2003 by Reitg and creative director Myriam Ballesteros, the producer of “Lucky Fred” and “Sandra the Fairytale Detective” and sales agent on the “Smurfs,” “Word Girl” and “Lunnis.”

“Fat Fred & Roadie” reps one of Toonz/Imira’s newly-announced productions after the purchase.

“What we are looking for at Toonz/Imira is to produce content which works perfectly in Western markets, in Europe and the U.S., with creative directors, designers and screenwriters who work in that part of the world and which incorporate the production costs, in this case in-house, of India,” Reitg told Variety.

Now backed by Toonz, and co-producing with highly respected overseas companies such as Darrall Macqueen, the first recipient of the Children’s BAFTAs Production Company of the Year Award, Imira looks set to board projects, either as a producer of distributor, or both, at a budgetary level which few Spanish TV animation companies will be able to match.

Launched in 1999 as a work-for-hire studio, Toonz scored producing pioneering Indian 2D animated TV series, “The Adventures of Tenali Raman,” then “Kid Krrish,” both of which aired on Cartoon Network India.

But its ambitions are fully global. In another sign of its step up in scale, Toonz is producing live-action “Jamillah & Aladdin” with U.K.’s Kindle Ent., Canada’s Mediamax and both BBC’s children channels, CBeebies and CBBC, in a still rare double BBC commission.  Imira distributes worldwide this recasting of the Arabian Nights tale.

An award-winning U.K. indie production company making children’s and pre-school programming from out of its London studio, Darrall Macqueen is headed by Maddy Darrall and Bill Macqueen.

Its current productions include new episodes of the “Teletubbies.” Among recent shows are “Topsy and Tim,” CBeebies top-performing series of 2013-14, and “Fly High and Huggy,” a series of multi-platform games for CBBC and CBeebies.

At Annecy Fest’s MIFA market Spain Territory Focus, on June 15, Imira’s Giles Bones, sales manager for North America, Europe, Asia and global marketing, will present “Planet Play,” a 52-episode series set on Oribitrom23 where every kid has a bot, a kind of robot-nanny-smartphone , save for Play, the new kid in town, who has difficulties with the planet’s gravity when he gets embarrassed. Produced by Spain’s SunFlower Graphics and aimed at children 6-8, “’Planet Play’ is a project that combines comedy and technology in an augmented reality world, so it’s a project that combines comedy and technology in an augmented reality world, so it’s a project very appropriate for transmedia or 360 exploitation,” Reitg said.

Imira’s Annecy slate also features playful doggy comedy “Cleo,” anime-inspired “HDTD” created by Larry Schwarz (“Kappa Mickey”), and farmyard-set “Blackie and Company,” a TV series spinoff from movie “Blackie and Kanuto.”