NBCUniversal’s kid-TV outlet Sprout is joining the battle to lure tots with shows about larger-than-life vehicles – and develop more programming it can own outright.
Preschoolers have long displayed a clear fascination with big transports like trains and bulldozers. In the U.S., PBS satiates that desire with an animated program about peevish steam engines called “Thomas & Friends.” Walt Disney offers a BBC-produced counterpart called “Chuggington.” And now Sprout has greenlit “Terrific Trucks.”
The new series will feature actual life-size trucks: a dump truck; a front end loader; a digger; a semi; and a mini front-end loader. Each truck will have animated eyes, said Sprout president Sandy Wax in an interview, and will be customized in order to develop personality for each character. Sprout has ordered 26 half-hour episodes, which are scheduled to join the network in 2016.
The show will have “a very different, cinematic feel than you’d see with standard animation or something that’s done on a small scale,” Wax said.
Sprout is placing more emphasis on creating and owning high-quality programming, Wax said, the better to benefit from distribution as the programs mature. In November, Sprout unveiled its intention to air “Nina’s World,” an animated series based on a character from its popular “Good Night Show” that will feature the voice of actress Rita Moreno.
The network already has a handful of original programs like “Noodle and Doodle,”a cooking and crafts program, and “The Chica Show,” a series about an anthropomorphic chicken that features live action and animation, but Wax wants more content with higher production values to appear on the network’s schedule. “Nina’s World” and “Terrific Trucks,” she said, are “really the next generation with the scope of budget more in line with what the big guys are doing in this space.”
Sprout and its production company, Breakthrough Entertainment, are actually building out an area around a quarry located near Toronto for filming. The network is allocating for the purchase of 10 vehicles, so a pair of each kind of truck is on hand in case something breaks, Wax said.
Each episode of “Terrific Trucks” follows five truck friends from a morning meeting at their quarry home base to the way they actually work on site — grading a highway, digging a tunnel or moving houses. The program will showcase the trucks in closeup style and follow along with them as they work as a team to overcome challenges. Production has begun and principal photography commences in May in Canada.
The series is produced by Breakthrough Entertainment. Ira Levy and Joan Lambur serve as executive producers, and Ethan Banville is showrunner and head writer for the series.