In the preschool series Opie interacts with classmates (real children) as they start school, meeting new friends and teachers and tackling the kind of challenges preschoolers face on a daily basis.
The show concept comes from Barbara Slade (Angelina Ballerina and Rugrats). Canada’s Marblemedia and The Jim Henson Company are making the series.
Marblemedia and Henson had been talking about a collaboration, and Hi Opie! ticked the right boxes, says Richard Goldsmith, executive VP, global distribution and international consumer products, The Jim Henson Company. “Puppetry is The Jim Henson Company’s heritage, and remains one of our core specialties, and Marblemedia has an incredible reputation for creating stellar live-action kids properties, which resonate with international audiences – so the association was perfect.”
Marblemedia developed the idea with Canadian broadcaster TVO, and the finished series will be sold internationally in 13x30mins and 39x7mins formats. Henson will also be selling it as a format with Opie and Henson puppets involved and local kids and environments replacing their Canadian equivalents.
Goldsmith says there has already been an enquiry about a local version from a Latin client. “The series has been designed to be produced in other markets because you simply need a classroom and children, one Henson puppet and one puppeteer,” he notes. “Henson has a talent pool of puppeteers all around the world that networks can hire, and by taking outlines for each episode and the scripts available, it’s a format that is easy to produce.”
In Canada the series will bow on TVO, City Saskatchewan and Knowledge Network in September. An accompanying online component will offer interactive stories, activities and games.
Goldsmith says that the live-action and puppetry hybrid is something different. “The preschool market is heavy with animation, but very few companies are making either live-action series, or puppet series,” he says. “This happens to be a combination of both – the perfect hybrid. As such, we believe Hi Opie! is going to fill the huge void for fresh, innovative content. The networks are excited because unlike animated characters, they can use the puppet for promotion of the channel and the series itself.”
The show: Hi Opie!
The producers: Marblemedia, The Jim Henson Company
The distributor: The Jim Henson Company
The broadcasters: TVO, Knowledge Network (Canada)
The concept: Live-action preschool series with new Henson-designed puppet Opie