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When animation meets live-action

Are hybrids the next big thing in kids TV?

Faced with growing requests for live-action series from broadcasters, producers are looking to hybrid live-action series-a la Hollywood movie Roger Rabbit as a best-of-both-worlds solution. Driven by the popularity of live action shows such as Disney’s Hannah Montana and now Camp Rock, kids TV producers are increasingly looking to blend the worlds of toons and real-life action.

On the big screen there have been numerous live-action/animation shows – from Bedknobs and Broomsticks to Disney’s 2007 movie Enchanted. Sony Pictures Animation is now working on a live-action/animated Smurfs movie. There have been a handful of TV shows mixing the two like Mainframe’s CGI/Live-action show Zixx and the Cartoon Network Studio’s TV movie Re-Animated, which was Cartoon Network’s first attempt at live-action/animation. In the US it aired back in December 2006.

Producers are acutely aware that broadcasters are requesting live-action programs with more frequency as a result of recent hits. "The real trend is clearly in live-action," Jean-Michel Ciszewski, senior VP of international sales and coproductions at Canadian kids’ producer and distributor Cookie Jar Entertainment says. "That’s where the big demand from broadcasters is. I see that with broadcasters in Europe that I deal with day to day and I know that it is the same in Latin America, too."

Cookie Jar has four live-action series in development currently, and one of them will be a hybrid animation series aimed at teens, he said. It hopes to green light production within a couple of months.

Canada’s Breakthrough is working on a hybrid show, Dupli-Kate, but managing partner Kevin Gillis cautions that do it right, producers must make sure to weave animation into the plot so that it feels natural. "You can’t make it too gimmicky, the animation has to fit," he says. "You don’t want your audience wondering, ‘Why did they do it that way?’"