Galaxy Pop may not attract the same level of attention as some of Australia’s biggest production houses, but the Melbourne-based producers behind a new animated series are certainly making their mark.
Youthful producers Dina McPherson and Gian Christian were both music theatre performers before they developed kid’s series Rock It! The 26 episode series about “the coolest pop group this side of the Milky Way” aired on TEN in 2007.
Their newest series Get Ace premieres on ELEVEN this Sunday, following a nerdy 11 year old boy fitted with high-tech braces after going to the wrong dental surgery.
As Gian Christian explains, the series is a mix of comedy and positive adventures for its target audience, 6-11 year olds.
“Ace is a really lovable character and when things get bad he’s able to use his own smarts to get out of situations,” he says.
“The braces are one of those things he doesn’t really know how to use. So he works with his hologram buddy, Hugo, who is the conduit in which the braces are used.
“When you’re building characters you have to give them someone to talk to. We had a genius at school who could work out how to use the braces then we realised you’d have to have the kid with Ace all the time. Even in situations of peril.”
The voice cast includes David Myles Brown as Ace McDougall plus Lyall Brooks, Amanda Harrison, Ian Bliss, Emily Wheaton and Tara Whyte.
“Ace deals with real life situations: the bully, liking the girl at school, and day to day situations the kids would understand. It’s Comedy first and then Adventure springs out of it because of the braces.
“But at its heart it’s really a buddy comedy between Ace and his hologram buddy, Hugo.”
McPherson and Christian are the showrunners behind their output, from conception, writing, directing and even composing.
“We wanted college band sort of music, a bit Blink 182. We wrote a theme song that encapsulates the story. A bit Gilligan’s Island.”
The series uses a mix of international characters and accents as part of its pitch to overseas broadcasters. McPherson and Christian will be showcasing the series at KidScreen in New York next month and MIPTV in Cannes in April.
Each episode is around 11 minutes, and takes around 18 weeks for the animation stage to complete.
“We knew it would be hard to do the animation here so we found a studio in the Philippines. So it was very economical but it also gives us a fantastic end product,” says Christian.
“We showed them a very detailed outline at the beginning, an animatic of what the episode is going to look like.
“We supply them with the voice track and all of the designs for the characters and background.
“We have a pre and post facility here with animators, designers and artists in our office. We have a team of about 10-12 people. At its peak there was about 60 or so.”
While TEN’s Head of Children’s Cherrie Bottger was the first network exec to back the series, Christian says his experience with broadcasters is usually more receptive overseas.
“We were looking at different co-productions with Canada, Singapore, the UK. But if you’re sold in one country there’s just one planet to align and as a co-production there are two planets to align. And even trickier as a three-way co-production. If you’re lucky they all come together at the same time but in our case it was hard to get the two moving at the same moment,” he says.
“So we financed it straight out of Australia, amazingly.
“We have less problems getting to broadcasters in America or Canada than we do here.
“Overseas you can have done nothing and they love you for what you have in front of them. In Australia you have to pay your dues a little bit more.
“In North America they are ready to do business in Entertainment, always. They know that an idea that’s going to make a billion dollars can come from nowhere, so they see them all.”
That said, Galaxy Pop has other projects in various stages of development and more on its slate, including adult programming.
“We’re in development with two different broadcasters on two different shows and a sitcom with DHX in Canada called The Pods, which is a Big Bang Theory for kids. Live action, 26 x 30 min sitcom. And we have a telemovie we’re financing at the moment,” he notes.
“We have about 18 shows on the slate ranging from sexy primetime drama to family movie to Young Adult dramas. Dina absolutely has the talent to pull it off on the page. What she is writing really cuts through and speaks to broadcasters.
“But it’s still early days. We haven’t had a lot of runs on the board yet.”
Given their personal and professional lives are so heavily embedded, how do they juggle work-life balance?
“Dina is a workaholic, so she does talk about work all the time, and she’s also a night-owl. I’m someone who likes to get to bed at a reasonable hour and hit the emails early in the morning,” he laughs.
“But I think we were flexible enough to know how to make it work. I’ll tackle this, she tackles that, and we respect each other’s input into each other’s situations.
“We’ve been together 13 years and we’ve never had a day apart. It’s not something we structured, it’s just something that’s happened.
“We’re best friends as well, which is a fantastic situation. I think it’s our strength.”
Get Ace premieres 11am Sunday on ELEVEN