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Russian Animation Studio Toonbox Turns to Social Media to Fund New Kids' Cartoon

Kit N Kate Key Art - H 2013
Toonbox cartoon characters Kit and Kate

With a creative team who has worked on "Sesame Street" and Russian hit "The Fixies," "Kit 'n' Kate," aimed at preschoolers and their parents, eyes a $300,000 Kickstarter campaign.

A Russian animation studio is test marketing a new children's cartoon series on a social media fundraising site in a bid to gain wide international recognition.

The decision by Moscow-based Toonbox to launch Kit 'n' Kate on Kickstarter -- where the company hopes to raise $300,000 -- is driven by a wish to avoid artistic compromises that come with the traditional route of offering it to broadcasters first.

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Aimed as much at parents as the target audience of preschool children aged three to five, Kit 'n' Kate is devised by Toonbox creative director Vladimir Ponomarev and developed by an international team that includes American, French and Russian artists and writers who worked on Sesame Street, video game Cut The Rope and Dreamworks' Shrek 2 and Madagascar, as well as Russian hit The Fixies. The English-language animated series features two kitten characters that discover the world through toys in a big play box -- their "Imaginarium." As parents, they wanted to help "kids learn the important lessons in life and have a blast learning them," the producers say.

The show formula has Kit, a five-year-old boy kitten and his three-year-old sister Kate, delve into their Imaginarium for clothing or objects that then fuel an imagination-filled adventure, which involves taking a 'wrong' path before a helpful adult (often their mother) shows them a better way. The first episode plus extracts from planned 52x5 minute shows are available for preview on Kickstarter.

The creative team includes Mike de Seve, an Emmy-nominated animation writer and director who has served as a sequence director and story consultant on Madagascar and directed episodes of Sesame Street; and Michael Mennies, an award-winning producer, writer, voice director, sound editor and performer.

Pavel Muntyan, CEO of Toonbox, told The Hollywood Reporter:  "We designed the project as an international story from the very beginning. Kickstarter might be a good platform to test whether we are moving in the right direction: Do the concept and designs appeal to the audience? Are emotional bonds developed between moms and kids and the characters when they watch the tests? What we can do better?"

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He added: "Sometimes it is important to produce what you actually have developed. When it comes to dealing with big broadcasters, a lot of things are compromised".

Toonbox is the company behind Om Nom Stories, winner of the 2012 iKids awards in the U.S, with more than 100 million views on YouTube. It was the first Russian film studio to sign an animation co-production deal with a French company, when Planet Nemo Animation agreed to collaborate on Qumi-Qumi.

Planet Nemo Animation's president Frederic Puech is also a producer on Kit 'n' Kate.