CBC and Discovery have a cow

Toronto: A cow from San Diego is getting his own series on CBC thanks to producers in Vancouver and animators in Ottawa.
Chilco Productions and Mercury Filmworks have partnered to turn out a 52 x 11 run of Wilbur for the Ceeb's kids programming block - putting the pro-literacy bovine on the little screen for two- to four-year-olds by spring. It will also run in the Ready Set Learn! block on Discovery Kids.

Toronto: A cow from San Diego is getting his own series on CBC thanks to producers in Vancouver and animators in Ottawa.

Chilco Productions and Mercury Filmworks have partnered to turn out a 52 x 11 run of Wilbur for the Ceeb’s kids programming block – putting the pro-literacy bovine on the little screen for two- to four-year-olds by spring. It will also run in the Ready Set Learn! block on Discovery Kids.

The Wilbur character is the brainchild of three entrepreneurial moms from California and has appeared in a series of self-distributed educational videos since the late ’90s, including Wilbur Sings the Classics and Wilbur Visits the Farm. The new series will combine live action, puppetry and ‘Shadowmation’ – a combination of animatronics and CG effects developed by U.S.-based animator Mitchell Kriegman.

Shadowmation has previously been used in series including Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House and PBS’ upcoming It’s a Big, Big World. Mercury has the rights to the process – which allows for greater detail and camera movement – in Canada.

‘We think we’ve got a very unique look,’ says exec producer and creative consultant Cathy Chilco, noting the ‘hug-ability’ of her star. ‘It doesn’t look like a puppet. It looks like very high-end animation.’

Production on the $6-million shoot is ramping up, with the puppetry and live action set to shoot in Toronto and southern Ontario while Mercury turns out the animation in Ottawa. The voice talent – with Julie Lemieux (Undergrads, Care Bears: Big Wish Movie) in the lead – was hired via casting director Dee Shipley.

Wayne Moss (The Big Comfy Couch, Fraggle Rock) directs under supervising producer Marianne Culbert (Little Bear) and execs Lynn Oldershaw, Amy Sprecher and Erin Wanner. Kate Barris (Max and Ruby) is head writer. Funding comes from the casters and the Shaw Rocket Fund.

CBC International Sales has the rights for all territories except the U.S. and Latin America, which will be handled by Discovery Kids.