DINOSAUR TRAIN, Featuring Animation from Singapore, Premieres on PBS KIDS® in the U.S. this Fall

By AMRITA VALECHA | 3 September, 2009 - 13:13

SINGAPORE: Headed by eminent technologist Dr. Wong Kok Cheong and industry veteran Jyotirmoy Saha, Singapore-based Sparky is commencing work on a slew of new projects and co-productions even as it is in the midst of delivering several others. Going on air soon is a co-production deal (which is supported by the MDA) with U.S. based The Jim Henson Company for 3D animated series titled, "Dinosaur Train., The show will air daily on PBS KIDS and premieres in the U.S. on Labor Day this year.

Sparky started work on Dinosaur Train in November 2008 and the complete series is expected to be ready in the 1st quarter of 2010. The first season of Dinosaur Train comprises 80 x 11 mins and is also available as 40 x 22 mins.

Talking to Animation Xpresss Asia Pacific about the co-production with The Jim Henson Company, Jyotirmoy Saha, Co - CEO, Sparky said, "The Jim Henson Company has been a leader in family entertainment for more than 50 years and it is obviously a delight to co-produce a series with a company of this stature. Additionally 'Dinosaur Train' is sure to be a favorite with audiences since it is educational, entertaining and about a topic that is a favorite for kids around the world irrespective of geographical or cultural boundaries." Best known as creators of the world famous Muppets, The Jim Henson Company is the recipient of over 50 Emmy Awards and 9 Grammy Awards. The company is recognized worldwide as an innovator in puppetry, animatronics and digital animation.

“Dinosaur Train is a really exciting new show for us here at The Jim Henson Company,” says Lisa Henson, CEO, The Jim Henson Company. “We wanted to create an educational series that allows parents and their kids to explore and discover natural and life sciences in a fun, imaginative way. They’ll be inspired to ask interesting questions about both dinosaurs and trains, and will be eager to investigate the answers together.”

Dinosaur Train is set in a whimsically realistic, prehistoric world of jungles, swamps, active volcanoes and oceans. Each day, the show will help kids 3 to 6 years old to apply scientific thinking as they discover new types of dinosaur species, compare and contrast dinosaurs to today's creatures and embrace the living sciences of paleontology and natural science. The half-hour shows feature two animated episodes, each followed by short live action segments with a real paleontologist interacting with kids who love to explore the world around them. Based on input from paleontologists, science educators and early childhood education experts, Dinosaur Train promotes critical thinking skills for preschoolers based on an engaging and creative curriculum.

The series is created by Craig Bartlett, an animator best-known for creating the television series "Hey Arnold!" Bartlett also co-wrote the computer animated film "Unstable Fables: 3 Pigs and a Baby" as well as "The Skrumps" both for The Jim Henson Company. Additional writing/producing credits for Bartlett include "Rugrats" and "Ren and Stimpy."

With a team of 65 artists working on Dinosaur Train, Sparky is responsible for all physical aspects of the production from the modeling to the final rendering. Talking about the challenges on working for the series, Wong Kok Cheong, Chairman Sparky Entertainment said, "A big challenge for this production is that Dinosaur Train is being produced at a very tight schedule with two episodes delivered each week."

"The series is in HD and has a comparatively higher quality than most other TV series. To achieve this, we are employing our proprietary project management system that helps boost our workflow efficiency and keeps the pipeline running smoothly. Handling a big pool of people with individual skill sets, preferences, and styles presents another challenge. Maintaining the level of quality unique to this particular series and its genre is important. Weaving all the strands together properly is central to keeping the show as an integral whole."

The series will be showcased by The Jim Henson Company at MIPCOM this year and has already shown great potential for success in broadcast, home video, licensing and merchandising.

Talking about other projects and future plans of Sparky, Dr. Wong added, "In addition to Dinosaur Train, we are about to announce a big property that includes Playhouse Disney within the co-production mix. This property is being launched at MIP Junior and MIPCOM this year." As seen with their involvement in these two productions, Sparky continues to be involved either as the lead or at least an equitable shareholder in co-productions. The company is focusing now on building expertise and infrastructure for global distribution and exploitation through their new "Sparky Entertainment" brand.