Simon was generating heat at MIPJunior, becoming the most-screened kids show at the market. The book adaptation from Paris-based Go-N beat beat the other 1,300 shows available to screen at the kids market, to become the buyers’ favourite.
Stephanie Blake’s Simon books have sold three million copies in France and have been referenced as the last big preschool property not to have transferred to television. That is about to change.
France’s Go-N sought out Blake, who owned all rights as aside from publishing (those sit with French publisher L’Ecole des Loisirs), and found her receptive to its vision of a preschool animation version of her work.
Unusually, Go-N not only then managed to set up the project and retain the international rights, but also kept all of the animation in-house in France, out of a specially created Paris studio.
That was possible because of France’s favourable tax break mechanism and an enhanced system of support from screen body the CNC, and the results can be seen in the finished episodes, says Go-N cofounder Eric Garnet.
“It’s digital 2D, but has a hand drawn look and the black character outlines seen in the books, as we wanted it to be as close to the original books as possible,” he says. “Because it is in-house we could really control the quality, which was important because the animation for Simon required a lot of subtlety and attention to detail.”
Even with France’s animation-friendly system, the €3.3 million (US$3.7 million) budget for the 52x5mins series is considerably higher than if the service work had been farmed out to Asia.
Go-N is banking on the extra investment paying off when it launches the show internationally at MIPJunior. It is looking to place it with key broadcasters in each territory to ensure maximum exposure, in turn providing the foundation for a licensing and merchandising programme.
The comedy series, likes the books, follows Simon, a young rabbit learning about life’s everyday challenges and how to overcome them. Simon’s little brother, family and female friend also feature.
France Télévisions is the commissioning broadcaster and will launch the show on France 5 this Christmas.
A handful of presales include YLE in Finland, Télé Quebec in French-speaking Canada, RTBF in Switzerland, and Hop in Israel. Go-N had the first finished episodes at MIPJunior.
The show: Simon
The producer: Go-N Productions
The distributor: Go-N International
The broadcasters: France 5, Télé Quebec (Canada), RTBF (Switzerland), YLE (Finland), Hop (Israel)
The concept: Adaptation of the popular Stephanie Blake book series