Catalyst’s Racoons enjoying new life

With natpe opening in New Orleans Jan. 25, pages 33-35 look at some of the new projects coming from Cuppa Coffee Animation, Evening Sky Entertainment, Catalyst Entertainment and Calibre Digital Pictures....

With natpe opening in New Orleans Jan. 25, pages 33-35 look at some of the new projects coming from Cuppa Coffee Animation, Evening Sky Entertainment, Catalyst Entertainment and Calibre Digital Pictures.

Versions of these stories also appear in the Winter 1999 edition of Playback International.

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Toronto-based Catalyst Entertainment’s kids’ property Christmas Racoons is celebrating its 20th birthday but remains as popular as during its original launch.

In 1986, the special was developed into The Racoons series, which has been broadcast in over 160 countries, including on Disney Channel. Rights on the 65 episodes have recently been renewed by German distributor Ravensberger, Italy’s Rete Italia, cbc in Canada and the bbc in the u.k., and the show has now been sold to Teletoon.

With interest in the property remaining high, Catalyst has joined with French producer and distributor Teleimages in Paris to produce a new Racoons direct-to-video title called The Knight Before Christmas.

In the holiday tale, Bert Racoon tries to save the spirit of Christmas when Cyryl Sneer, the mean, entrepreneurial pink aardvark who will do anything to make some money, decides to tax Christmas.

Production on the $2.8 million, 45-minute film will begin this April.

Catalyst’s subsidiary company Phoenix Animation will handle most of the animation work in Toronto, with some shipped to Teleimages’ studio in France.

Catalyst’s exec vp Kevin Gillis describes the animation as simple in approach, with stylized heavy lines in keeping with the classical animation look of the original Racoons. The broadcasters around the world which have aired the previous Racoons shows are all interested in coming aboard the new project, says Gillis, and deals should be closed at natpe.

The official treaty coproduction is weighted 75% Canadian and 25% for the French producer. Catalyst holds international sales rights, excluding France and several other European territories.

Following a similar path taken from The Christmas Racoons to The Racoons series, the direct-to-video title will serve as a pilot for a new 13-part Racoons series spin-off – The Adventures of Sir Bert.

The stories will be set in a medieval world and follow the well-meaning Sir Bert – who somehow always ends up in all sorts of scrapes, and pal Squire Cedrick, his sidekick from the original Racoons series.

Teleimages and Catalyst are coproducing, and Gillis plans to drum up interest from European partners at natpe. Broadcasters have not been brought on board. The per episode budget is $550,000.

Catalyst and Teleimages will again team up on a new series combining animation, puppets and live action. Titled Tales From The Longhouse, the series stars Tom Jackson as a spiritual leader among a group of animal puppets that are based on North American native mythology, such as the Raven character who is a trickster.

The puppets exist within an animated setting – 2D animation that is 3D computer generated. In the animated background, native icons flutter by or the northern lights flash across the sky.

Phoenix and Teleimages will share the animation work.

Fraggle Rock’s Larry Mirkin is producing with Jim Corston, who produces Catalyst’s Noddy.

Production is set for late spring on 40 half-hour episodes budgeted at $250,000 each.

The broadcast partners are tvontario, cbc and tvnc in Canada and Teleimages in France will distribute. A u.s. deal is currently being negotiated. Catalyst has all rights except France and several other European territories held by Teleimages.

Another Christmas special set for series is The True Meaning of Crumbfest. Working title is The Crumbfest series and like the original program the story takes a look at life from a mouse’s point of view. The original special is set against the legend of Crumbfest – each winter when the mice are close to starvation, they find the floor laden with crumbs. One mouse says it is he who brings the crumbs and saves all the mice, but eventually it is revealed that the crumbs have been swept off a human table.

‘It’s an enchanting tale that says what we sweep away as garbage is someone else’s miracle,’ explains Gillis.

The series will center on the misadventures of Eckart and will be coproduced with Cellar Door Productions in Prince Edward Island. The 13-part, half-hour series is worth $7.15 million.

David Weale, who wrote the original Crumbfest special, is working on the script.