July 17, 2012 www.C21media.net
The view from Foothill

With her sport-themed cartoon Spike Team getting an Olympics outing in Italy, Foothill Entertainment’s Jo Kavanagh-Payne tells Ed Waller about her new development slate.

The imminent start of the Olympics in London has given a shot in the arm to sports-themed programming the world over. Combine that with a global drive towards getting kids more active and it comes as no surprise that a show like Spike Team is in high demand.

The volleyball series is getting a new lease on life in its home market of Italy, where pubcaster Rai 2 will be repeating the first season in a high-profile slot just before the channel’s daily live Olympics broadcasts from London next week.

The first season has also been licensed to TV3 in Spain, Megamax in Hungary, Noga TV in Israel, Dsmart Çocuk in Turkey and new Brazilian kids channel Gloob, part of media giant TV Globo.

Jo Kavanagh-Payne, president of the show’s US-based distributor Foothill Entertainment, thinks Spike Team is a toon whose time has come. “Rai has even made the show’s creator, Andrea ‘Lucky’ Lucchetta, its official commentator for Olympic volleyball news from London,” she says, adding that Lucchetta himself is a triple Olympian volleyball player.

The show is produced by Rai Fiction, Lucky Dreams and Graphilm, with TeamWorks managing global rights. Foothill holds rights to the toon within English-speaking markets, while Ypsilon Entertainment has Spanish rights and Rose Entertainment has rights for Latin America.

Naturally, there are big plans for Spike Team in the wake of the world’s biggest sporting event. “Three seasons of the animated series are planned, totalling 78 episodes, as well as a live-action series of 26 half-hours,” says Kavanagh-Payne.

The second season of 26 episodes is currently in production and will be available from October 2012 with delivery to Rai by November, and with the complete second season wrapped by April 2013. “We’re hoping to make season two more US-friendly,” she says. The third season will be completed by early 2014. There’s also a special about athletes with disabilities in the works that’s being funded by Rai and Lucky Dreams and this will be available from next month.

As for the live-action series, Kavanagh-Payne says the production team is working on scripts and production partners are currently being sought. The series is expected to be completed by fall 2013, and Lucchetta is even planning to appear in it. A teen-skewed live-action show featuring six fit female volleyball players? What’s not to like?

But Foothill isn’t focusing solely on Spike Team. “We’ve recently taken delivery of some of the animation for our new series Boy & the Dinosaur,” says Kavanagh-Payne. Foothill’s big Mipcom 2012 launch hails from the UK, and the creative team includes writer Davey Moore (Rastamouse, Octanauts, Balamory), director Paul Couvela (Bob the Builder, Pingu, Chuggington) and producer David Bunting (Shaun the Sheep, The Tigger Movie).

The 52x11′ preschool show comes from UK-based 1461 Productions, the Yorkshire firm behind CBeebies series Little Monsters, and follows a boy and, you guessed it, his dinosaur friend. The show “blends big, visual storytelling and broad, physical comedy with plenty of original music and a simple educational philosophy,” according to the promo material. 1461 MD Russell Dever (Microscopic Milton, Little Monsters) is the show’s exec producer, alongside Kavanagh-Payne and Foothill’s chairman Gregory Payne.

Also on Foothill’s development slate is Raz & Benny (52x11′), Gunk Aliens (52x11′), My Momtourage & Me (26x25′) and Bizarre Bazaar (26x48′). Ann Austen (Power Rangers, Wild Grinders) is now reworking the scripts for My Momtourage & Me, so expect news about copro partners for that teen live-action show as well as CGI series Raz & Benny soon, says Kavanagh-Payne, adding that Bizarre Bazaar is an older-skewing talent/reality series with DJ Scott Topper attached to host.

Kavanagh-Payne also mentions that Gunk Aliens, based on the HarperCollins book series, has a new script from Dale Schott (Johnny Test, The New Adventures of Babar) and is being developed with Adam Mimnagh of Canada-based Huminah Huminah Animation and will be the first project to go through Foothill Europe, the company’s recently launched London office.

It seems Foothill will have a lot on its slate come MipJunior. The company’s new developments seem to have been re-energised with new creative talent and if beach volleyball emerges as a break-out fixture of the Olympics, Kavanagh-Payne could capitalise on growth in demand for volleyball-themed children’s content. Let’s hope the British weather holds out.

Ed Waller
17 July 2012