Raphaelle Mathieu, the VP of sales, acquisitions and new media at Cyber Group Studios, talks to TV Kids about the book-based animated series The Pirates Next Door.
Last MIPCOM, Cyber Group Studios dominated in MIPJunior’s top 30 most-viewed programs, landing four shows in the list. Among them was The Pirates Next Door, which at the time only had a teaser available. Now, this MIPCOM and MIPJunior, the French studio has the first episodes ready to deliver, and anticipation is high.
The 52×11-minute property is based on a book by Jonny Duddle, winner of the United Kingdom 2012 Waterstones Children’s Book prize. “He has had great success worldwide and has sold millions of books,” says Raphaelle Mathieu, the VP of sales, acquisitions and new media at Cyber Group Studios. “This concept was the perfect fit between adventure and comedy on the one hand and more essential elements such as learning tolerance in between the lines. It was a magical script, and there was great design, so we really fell in love with it.” France Télévisions also fell in love with the project right away and came on board early on as a partner.
In addition to France Télévisions, The Pirates Next Door has been presold to SVT in Sweden, NRK in Norway, VRT in Belgium, Télé-Québec in Canada and SF in Scandinavia. Mathieu reports that Cyber Group is in “active discussions” in a number of other territories as well, now that the first episodes are ready.
Duddle was “very present” when it came to the design “and was very helpful,” says Mathieu. He offered a nice amount of freedom for the creative side though, since the material is based off of one book and one story, and Cyber Group needed to build that out into 52 stories. “The great thing is that he understood the autonomy. He was always very supportive and inclined to understand what we needed and is now very happy with the first episodes he has seen.”
The animation style is a mix of 2D and 3D. “We have also internally developed software to optimize the background in 2D according to the characters in 3D to make it more realistic,” Mathieu explains. “We have worked very intensely on the texture of both the background and characters. You really feel that you are with the pirates.”
The series is about a pirate boat that lands in a little suburban village out of nowhere and the friendship that forms between city girl Matilda and Jim Lad, Jolley-Rogers’ son. “It’s a collision between two amazingly different cultures and is about people getting to know each other and understand each other,” but above all it’s a very fun and entertaining series that will appeal to a very gender-inclusive audience,” says Mathieu.
While inclusiveness is a very timely theme, Cyber Group has incorporated it into the show in such a way that it’s subtle and fun. “We don’t want to teach children; we want children to feel things,” Mathieu says. “They will not go to school while watching The Pirates Next Door; they will feel what humanity is and what are the good and fun things to do. Being different is fun! There is no direct message, but there are positive feelings and a smart attitude.”
The Pirates Next Door complements the wider Cyber Group portfolio with its tone, target and style. “Our aim is to have a diverse catalog, with some of the best-quality series,” says Mathieu. “We have seven productions going on, and also acquire third-party series straight for distribution. We do preschool, bridge, kids and older kids. For us The Pirates Next Door is the perfect 6-to-10 target, complementing Zou and our upcoming Gigantosaurus,” which are both aimed at a younger demo of kids 3 to 6.
Gigantosaurus, which will also be presented at MIPCOM and MIPJunior, marks the second title that Cyber Group has with Duddle and has already been pre-acquired by Disney Junior Worldwide. “And there’s going to be a third, as we are presenting at Cartoon Forum King of Space, our latest adaptation of Jonny’s book,” says Mathieu. “We really have a love story with Jonny.”