Ontario Scene

New Schnier tweens series...

New Schnier tweens series

`a Twilight Zone for Kids’

After wading through fairy tales and folk legends from around the world in search of a good, original story to adapt for animation, producer Steve Schnier found his gem hidden in beehive hairdos, New York sewers and smuggled goods.

Freaky Stories, a half-hour pilot for tweens written by Schnier and John May, is based on urban legends. The four-story program is hosted by a puppet named Larry de Bug, a critter who offers commentary from an insect pov. ‘It’s like a Twilight Zone for kids,’ says Schnier, ‘and Larry is our Rod Serling – he sees and knows all.’

Each story has its own quirky spin. Take the beehive tale, Spider in the Hairdo. It’s all about Cindy, the gal in the class of ’65 with the biggest do of them all. Her bouffant is such a source of pride she doesn’t want to wash it so she applies layer upon layer of lacquer until the coif takes on the properties of tempered steel.

Meanwhile, billions of spiders fester underneath Cindy’s hairy dome until one day – yuck – they are discovered. Tucked into this creepy-crawly tale is commentary on the whole beauty myth poor Cindy bought into.

Schnier says each story will be told with a different animation style and he is incorporating an animatic technique similar to the one used in Ken Burns’ Baseball series for pbs. ‘We’ll have more camera moves and more special effects,’ he says, ‘and the camera will be constantly moving.’

John Delmage is executive producer and Schnier is directing. No animators are signed yet.

Schnier is finishing each story on film with the hope that one day they may see the big screen. For now, the bilingual pilot is headed for ytv and Canal Famille.

Paragon International is distributing. Telefilm Canada and Shaw Communications are funding the pilot.

Schnier says he plans to go into production in July.

He will be taking a leave from Nelvana where he was assistant producer on Scholastic’s The Magic Schoolbus since season one.

At your service

Although the pressure in Los Angeles to keep work at home is on the increase, productions are still flowing northwards into the Toronto service pool in significant numbers.

Some of the features that may be headed our way include Carpool from New Regency Productions, Morgan Creek’s remake of that creepy little French thriller Diabolique, which should head into production late July, Caravan’s Grosse Point Blank and Gone Fishin’, Savoy Pictures’ The Honeymooners, Live Entertainment’s (no relation to Drabinskydom) The Substitute, and Universal’s Wilde West. Meridien’s Sabotage, produced by Andy Emilio, is in early stages of preproduction.

Potential tv shoots include the New World tv series The Book, and four mows: Rysher’s A Deadly Affair, CBS Productions’ Murderous Intent, abc’s Picture Perfect, with Julian Marks producing, and nbc’s Secret Abduction.

Also on the tv slates is Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. The Warner Bros. series is set to shoot July 10 through the end of January. David Carradine, Chris Potter and Kim Chan star. Producer is Jonathan Hackett, executive producer is Michael Sloan and production manager is Mark Dassas.

OFDC shakedown

No one at the Ontario Film Development Corporation is talking, but word is the Non-Theatrical Film Fund is headed for the list of extinct funding programs. Changes are a-coming at the provincial agency to be sure following a two-week shutdown in May and some serious restructuring sessions headed by ofdc executive Alexandra Raffe.

Also at the agency, development head Tecca Crosby has stepped down. Rumor is Raffe will take over the position on an interim basis.

Goose Bumps for Protocol

Protocol just finished executive producing a half-hour special for Global Television’s new producers showcase that was written and directed by theater vet Guy Sprung. It’s a dark comedy about a family on the skids that gets tangled in some illegal scam to increase the household income.

Graham Greene, Tom Jackson and mama Jackie Burroughs make three, with Greene and Jackson as the fumbling boys who get in well over their heads. dop is Doug Keough.

Also up for Protocol is a series for Fox based on the popular kids series of books, Goose Bumps. For those who don’t have eight- to 12-year-olds scrambling for the next issue of Goose Bumps (they come out monthly and have sold more than 60 million copies stateside over the last three years), the books are made up of twisted, outlandish tales. There’s the one about the camp from hell where the snakes bite and the counselors don’t care, or the one about the scuzzy sponge beneath the kitchen sink that is, in fact, a pulsating, growing monster.

Protocol is producing a one-hour special for Halloween and 13 half-hours (that producer Steve Levitan says are slotted to replace The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on Friday afternoons).

Plans are to go into production July 17 in Toronto for 14 to 15 weeks, with a balance of about half in-studio and half on location.

Levitan says one of the greatest hurdles will be finding enough talented 12-year-olds for the series because there are no recurring characters and each program will require two or three leads in that age bracket. Could be a real nightmare. Casting is being handled by Ann Tait.

Directors are not signed yet. Writers on the series include Canadians Chuck Laser, Rick Drew, Bruce Edwards and Sean Kelly, with l.a.-based executive story editors Dan Angel and Billy Brown also scribbling a couple of episodes. Patrick Doyle is line producer, production manager is Charles Braive.

Levitan says there will be lots of special effects – some digital, some prosthetics – and he is currently talking to an animation company. The overall budget is $7.5 million. Levitan says he is in negotiations with a Canadian broadcaster.

My how the Kids have grown

The Kids in the Hall feature is shooting in Toronto through Aug. 21 with the four-dimensional tv comedy troupe on board and such familiar faces as the series’ exec, Lorne Michaels, acting as producer on the film.

It’s a satire about a discovery made by a scientist that promises to cure one of society’s perceived illnesses.

Executive producer is Joni Sighvatsson, coproducer is Barnaby Thompson (Wayne’s World), Martin Walters is line producer and Armand Leo is production manager. Kelly Makin, who directed the film clips for the tv show, is directing. Brother David Makin, dop on the series, is taking the same role on the film.

The writers on the feature are the stars of the series – Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Dave Foley – along with Norm Hiscock. Production designer is Greg Keen (Trapped in Paradise).

Paramount Pictures holds foreign distribution rights. A Canadian distributor is not signed. Casting for cameos is being handled in Canada by Ross Clydesdale.

Pathfinder shoots

The Pathfinder, an mow directed by Don Shebib and produced by Telegenic, is shooting in and around Midland and Penetanguishene July 10 to Aug. 5. The story is based on the 1840s novel by James Fenimore Cooper about Native star-crossed lovers in 1750s America.

The executive scroll has not been nailed down, but Tom Lynch, Michael Taylor and Robert Hallmark are the likely names. Producer is John Danylkiw. Jim Miller is writer with Bruce Reisman. Production designer is David Davis (Women of Windsor).

Susan Forrest is casting.

Telegenic is producing with Lynch Entertainment (The Secret World of Alex Mack). Hallmark Home Entertainment is distributing.

Four on the go

Dufferin Gate has four tv movies for Showtime on the go this summer in Ontario.

Homecoming begins shooting all over southern Ontario July 10 for seven to eight weeks. Starring Anne Bancroft, it’s the story of four orphans who travel the eastern seaboard looking for their grandma (Bancroft). Director/writer is Mark Jean, producer is Jack Baran and pm is Brian Gibson. Deirdre Bowen is casting.

Losing Chase, which will shoot in Toronto Aug. 8 to Sept. 1, is being directed by actor Kevin Bacon and stars Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren and Beau Bridges. Sedgwick is hired to help Mirren who is recovering from a nervous breakdown and becomes her love interest. Producer is Milton Justice and pm is Carmen Arndt.

The End of Summer shoots through July 21 and stars Jacqueline Bissett, Peter Weller, Julian Sands and Amy Locane in a romantic tale of old love rediscovered. Director is Linda Yellen.

Wrapping July 8 is Moonshine Highway, starring Kyle MacLachlan and Randy Quaid in a moonshine saga which one crew member calls ‘big boys with period toys.’ Directing is Andy Armstrong, producer is Becky Arntzen and line producer is Chris Danton.