MIPCOM: APTN’s Guardians Evolution takes on the world

Producer Doug Cuthand tells Playback how an international approach to his Canadian stop-motion series helped save its second season.
Resized Guardians - Evolution

Indie producer Doug Cuthand got Guardians Evolution to launch on APTN in Canada, and is this week at MIP Jr. to get the stop-motion animated TV series into the international market as coproduction partners get on board to help fund a third season.

The thing is, Guardians Evolution isn’t lacking in overseas credentials.

Cuthard and his producer partners got the second season of kids sci-fi adventure TV series made at Moppet Studios, India’s largest stop-motion animation studio in Goa.

The irony of Aboriginal Canadian animators working alongside animators in India isn’t lost on Cuthard.

“We had Native Canadians and Indian Indians working together. It went really well,” he told Playback Daily from the annual tyke TV bazaar in Cannes.

Shifting production to India was prompted by APTN dramatically reducing the licence fee for the series’ second season, a move that left the producers of Guardians Evolution with a funding gap. Enter one of the producers, Karma Film principal Anand Ramayya, who is Canadian, but has an Indian family background.

Ramayya contacted Moppet Animation Studio, a subsidiary of Animation and Art School Goa founded by Ruturaj Arolkar. The stop-motion animation facility has done work on The Chronicles of Narnia and for TV commercials, but had never produced full TV episodes.

“They’d never done seven half-hours of stop-motion animation production. So we were the biggest project that had ever been done in India,” Cuthard of Saskatoon-based Blue Hill Productions, said.

Five Canadian animators went to Goa, where stop-motion animators from Mumbai were relocated for the five month production run.

The budget savings to the series producers were significant, due to the time- and labour-intensive nature of stop-motion animation that requires technicians working around elaborately designed sets and props.

Guardians Evolution directors Dennis and Melanie Jackson (Wapos Bay) set up each scene, while animators manipulated action figure-like characters so a still camera could capture each movement frame by frame.

Cuthard said stop-motion animators in Canada earn around $300 a day, while an animator in India earns around the same amount for a week of production work.

“Labour is incredibly cheap in India. It’s really sad, but for us it worked,” he added.

Now the producers of Guardians Evolution are shopping the series at MIP Jr., the kids TV bazaar for international buyers and sellers.

Presently, the Canadian series is done in separate English, French and Cree language versions.

The sci-fi storyline, which follows young teens who wake up from a deep cryogenic sleep to discover that civilization has been destroyed and they are 41 million years into the future, has legs for international travel, Cuthard said.

“All our characters are aboriginal from around the world. It’s a mixed bag and they are brown-skinned,” he added. “So we can do this in other languages and send the series around the world.”