Terry Kalagian, senior VP of creative development at Gaumont Animation & Family, talks to TV Kids in-depth about some of the highlights the company will be introducing at MIPJunior and MIPCOM.
At MIPJunior and MIPCOM, Gaumont Animation & Family will be introducing two of its latest series in development: Touch the Earth, based on the New York Times best-selling children’s book series, and The Royal Family, also a book-based property. Currently in production are Do, Re & Mi, an animated series for preschoolers filmed with music, and the buddy comedy Bionic Max.
TV KIDS: How do you go about crafting the ideal development slate?
KALAGIAN: We don’t have an ideal number or set-in-stone strategy. We listen to the market, what folks are buying, and then we listen to our passion. We do try to have a balanced slate as it pertains to demographics—some preschool, some bridge, some 6 to 11. We also have a mix of animation and live action.
TV KIDS: How did Touch the Earth come about?
KALAGIAN: It was amazingly serendipitous. I have been following Julian Lennon for a few years because of his philanthropic work, especially with the environment and social causes. When his first book, Touch the Earth, came out, out of the blue, a mutual friend reached out to me and said I should meet Julian and his co-writer, Bart Davis. We met, and voilà, we wanted to partner to develop an awesome series about how kids can change the world. Touch the Earth is based on the three-book series—Touch the Earth, Heal the Earth and Love the Earth—all three titles are New York Times bestsellers and are ranked in Amazon’s top 100 books. The series will follow international friends—Jack, Rosa, Kofi and Ally—as they join Ryder, an Earth Spirit in the form of a magical White Feather, on adventures around the globe. The Feather Friends help local kids solve local problems and make the earth a better place, inspiring kids around the world [to see] that our actions and choices can make a big difference for the planet.
TV KIDS: What led to the development of The Royal Family?
KALAGIAN: Our development team has a great relationship with Gallimard, the publisher of the books from Christophe Mauri and Aurore Damant. We had been tracking the property for quite a while, excited to see how it continued to grow, season after season. After the last book, the fifth in the series, we felt we had to make a move. We love its sweet, fun humor, fun stories and gorgeous art, and felt that it could very well be adapted to an animated series. At its heart, it is a family sitcom—the family just happens to be royals. La Famille Royale—Vacances en Château Pliable (Holidays in a Foldable Castle) won the Prix des Embouquineurs award in 2018, the French national award given by young readers.
TV KIDS: What makes Bionic Max unique, and what’s the approach for presales on that show?
KALAGIAN: Bionic Max, created and directed by the talented Thomas Digard, takes the beloved buddy comedy and amps it up with a colorful vibrant palette and laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy that transcends regional barriers. The series follows the daily adventures of a bionic guinea pig who often mishandles his bionic powers and his goldfish best friend who tries to harness those powers for good, sometimes. We are so excited to partner with Gulli in France as our tentpole broadcaster, and for presales, the world outside of France is completely open. This strategy allows us the flexibility to go territory by territory or go with a global partner. We will be unveiling the brand-new trailer at MIPJunior.
TV KIDS: How is the production of Do, Re & Mi coming along?
KALAGIAN: It’s going great! This series is about three birdy best friends who live in a world filled with rhythm, beats and melodies. Along with their day-to-day adventures, the characters model ways for young kids to talk about music and connect these ideas to their social-emotional development. The music is fantastic—featuring 52 original tracks performed by executive producers Kristen Bell (Disney’s Frozen), Jackie Tohn (Glow, American Idol) and Luke Youngblood (Galavant, Glee). The characters are so lovable and identifiable, kids will love them. Amazon has been such a collaborative and generous partner, we are lucky to have them. We are so proud of this show, we can hardly wait to share it with the world. The series will stream on Amazon Prime Video in 2021 following the launch of the holiday special, streaming in 2020.
TV KIDS: How much are you working with the Gaumont sister companies to mine their IP for concepts that could work for the kids’ slate?
KALAGIAN: We look for opportunities to work together with our sister divisions. For example, we have an animated feature film we are working on with our French feature and our global feature distribution teams.