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Collaboration secures export for animated series

From Flux Animation Studio 33 George Street Newmarket, Auckland Date 19 September, 2005

Collaboration secures export market for animated children's TV series

The biggest-ever home-grown animation production in New Zealand is now under way at Auckland's Flux Animation Studio – and it's already booked for export.

The $10 million project is believed to be the first official animation co-production between New Zealand and Australia. It brings together award-winning animation company Flux with Australian-based Yoram Gross-EM.TV, an internationally renowned producer, director and writer of movies and television series.

Flux is set to employ a further 15 to 20 animators, and form a special division Flux Television, before 'Staines Down Drains' swings into full production over the next few months.

Each of the 26 half-hour programmes in the children's series made for television require 27,000 drawings – 702,000 drawings in all. The front-end pre-production work, the design of characters and the show's 'look' will be done by up to 40 traditional animators based in New Zealand.

'Staines Down Drains' grew from an idea mooted in 1997 by broadcaster, television presenter and Director of Hot House Productions Jim Mora, and award-winning animator Brent Chambers who is Managing Director of Flux Animation. The two have shaped their original concept over the past eight years and collaborated with specialist Australian writers to complement Flux's animation work.

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The programme, aimed at primary school-aged children, will screen on TV2 at the end of next year.

'Staines Down Drains' tells the story of three Staines children who discover the weird and intriguing Drain World after being accidentally sucked down a plughole. Themes range from respect for other cultures, the value of the environment and concern for others' feelings, to learning to be happy with who you are.

"It wasn't hard for me to imagine Drain World," laughs Brent. "When I left school I worked as an apprentice drainlayer and became familiar with all kinds of pipes and things underground for two years before entering graphic design school. It's funny to think that I'm back working with drains!"

The project has been a success story of national and international collaboration. Flux approached Sydney-based Yoram Gross-EM.TV, with which it has worked on many other international projects, to help with preselling the programme overseas. This led to numerous presales, including to Yoram Gross-EM.TV's parent company, EMTV in Germany.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise enabled Flux to pitch 'Staines Down Drains' at the huge international children's and youth television programme fair MIPCOM Junior in France – leading to more international deals.

"Murray Jeffrey – our Client Manager at Trade and Enterprise – helped to arrange funding for our trips to meet with our international partners. His help has been invaluable," says Brent.

"Though it was written and designed in New Zealand and New Zealand kids will recognise aspects that look and feel like New Zealand, part of the beauty of 'Staines Down Drains' is that it is set in a weird, underground world – it could be anywhere – and that's why it appeals to such a wide international audience," says Brent.

"Drain noises have universal intrigue for kids," says Jim, "and so does the whole idea of what may lurk below. It's an extension of the monster-under-the-bed fascination. In our series, drains are a way of inspiring children to face their fears, take on responsibilities and achieve their goals. In Drain Land the kids can be free and they can be spectacular problem-solvers, something not allowed in the world above. Good things happen down the drains, though perils await as well..."

Brent Chambers established Flux in 1997. Today, Flux employs 34 people, including traditional and 3D animators, and is about to move its staff and state-of-the-art technology from central Auckland premises to Grey Lynn.

The more spacious new base will house the new Flux Television division as well as the Flux Commercial division, which is well known for its award-winning animation work such as for the Anchor Milk 'Anchorville' campaign and the Westpac 'Doodle' campaign. The studio won a global award for its Lotto 'Cog' campaign.

Flux Animation Studio also created, directed and produced the animation for a dialogue-based dating game designed specifically for the Nintendo Dual Screen. The project was done in collaboration with Hornet, a prestigious United States commercial, film and design company with which Flux has worked together on more than 40 projects.

Flux Animation Studios already has the beginnings of a number of other animation projects underway including another children's television project; a second series of 'The Adventures of Massey Ferguson' which will feature adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary in a cameo role.


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