'Alvin and the Chipmunks': PGS Entertainment Takes Global Rights to New TV Series
Paris-based brand manager PGS Entertainment has clinched worldwide media rights, excluding the U.S. and France, for the upcoming ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks TV series -- the three critters' first small screen foray in 20 years.
The 52-episodes show from husband-wife producing team of Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman will be presented for the first time in CGI and feature the Chipettes with all new, original songs.
The Bagdasarians -- one of the few remaining independent families of children's program creators -- will voice the characters; Karman will even sing some of the songs. She told The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday that 26 of the 11-minute episodes have so far been completed.
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"The Chipmunks are the number one family property and number one characters for kids 6 to 12," said PGS co-founder-president Philippe Soutter. He began discussions with potential foreign buyers Saturday morning during Mip Junior.
"The new series produced by the Bagdasarians, together with France's Genao Prods., has stunning CGI and the original music is fantastic," he added.
Specializing in kids and family content, PGS plans to take its time to seal licensing deals, Soutter explained, given that the series is fully funded already -- and because, he emphasized, "we want to be as painstaking and careful of the product as the Bagdasarians are in creating it."
Typically, a 22-minute kids TV property runs about $500,000 to produce.
Soutter also said he expected the series to resonate "across generations" so that entire families all over the world -- "from grandpa on down" -- may actually watch and enjoy together.
For her part, Karman said the new storylines reflect current life issues: "It's not just chipmunks run amok" but rather, she revealed, "there's a take-away": plots about growing up and being embarrassed about one's parents, or helping one's single parent get into the dating game, or even one about bullying at school.
"But they're not preachy. The show is really an animated sitcom a la Modern Family," Karman stressed.
The Chipmunk saga began in 1958 when Ross Bagdasarian Sr. created "The Chipmunk Song," which sold 4.5 million records in seven weeks and went on to become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. The Chipmunks first appeared on television in 1961. After Ross Sr.'s death in 1972, his son Ross Jr. and his wife sought to carry on the tradition. (Their own two children, now in their early 20s, are now involved in Bagdasarian Prods. as well.)
Blockbuster movie success came in 2007 when the Bagdasarians produced the feature film, Alvin and The Chipmunks, for Fox. Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked followed. Together, the three pics have grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide.
ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks will premiere on air in early 2015. Ross Bagdasarian told THR that they're speaking with all the usual suspects Stateside but that no deal has yet been struck for American play. (The old series ran for years on NBC, but that was long before the rise of kids niche cable channels.)
Headed by Boris Hertzog and Sandrine Nguyen since 2008, French-based Genao has produced seven animated series in three years. The partners are writing half the episodes of the Chipmunks' TV series, which is why the show qualifies for European Union subsidies.
"The Chipmunks are a safe place for kids -- and that's what parents seem to want nowadays for their offspring," Soutter said, referring to what program buyers have been telling him about stations' needs at Mip Junior. PGS is showing a promo reel and some recorded songs to potential customers this weekend.