Drew Barrymore, Savannah Guthrie and Atomic Cartoons bring Princesses Wear Pants to TV
Princesses Wear Pants is best-described as an antidote for all those treacly role models for young girls. Co-authored by NBC Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and educator Allison Oppenheim, the book about the adventures of Princess Penelope Pineapple gives readers an alternative view on what royalty can do in lieu of tripping over trains and being weighted down with tiaras.
Published in September 2017, the rhyming story about rescuing the castle cat went on to become a New York Times book list No. 1 title.
Now Guthrie, actor Drew Barrymore (Flower Films) and Vancouver-based Atomic Cartoons are joining up to develop an animated TV series based on the bestseller. It’s sequel, titled Princesses Save the World, was released in September. Thunderbird Entertainment CEO Jennifer McCarron says that, as a mother of two girls and one boy, she is pleased to be involved in a project that deconstructs gender stereotypes and tells a different story.
“Ally Oppenheim teamed up with Savannah Guthrie, the star vehicle behind Today, to write the book, in response to having young girls who had all gone through this intense princess obsession period,” said McCarron. “I had been through it with my boy and girl twins as well, even with the same parenting and messaging, and Drew Barrymore — who is a good friend of Allison’s — had as well. We all wanted to see something with a message that said feminine is not how you look, it’s what you do.”
Given the books’ popularity, extending the concept to a TV series made sense. As McCarron notes, in a time of a bit of a vacuum in female leadership, something that says, “if you can see it, you can be it,” can’t be anything but good. The computer generated animated series should be on the market some time in 2019. At the moment, a buyer hasn’t been determined.
Atomic Cartoons is part of the massive Hollywood North animation industry. Always busy as a service bureau for titles such as Max and Ruby, Beat Bugs and the Minecraft miniseries, the company has undergone a significant shift in focus since 2015.
“Since the purchase, the most seismic shift is that we are now about 50 per cent producing fully owned IP and 50-per-cent service,” said McCarron. “With that strategic change, we’re increasingly seen as creators in the marketplace at a time when there is an exploding need for content with all the new platforms — Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney streaming coming and all the channels. It’s an amazing time to be a content provider.”
It’s great for the Canadian industry to be direct creators of content as it means that shifts in tax breaks and other industry moves don’t see work stampeding to the next best shelter. If Vancouver is where the content originates, it’s where the business is likely to remain. In 2017, Atomic Cartoons optioned another NYT bestseller, the Last Kids on Earth series.
“It’s a fully owned property that we sold to Netflix in a 26-episode deal, including three interactive episodes, which is a lot of fun,” she said. “We also have another one to announce that I can’t discuss yet.”
Sounds like Atomic Cartoons will need more room, which is why the company relocated to new facilities at the old Kit and Ace offices in Mount Pleasant.
“Look for the giant mural,” says McCarron. “We’re at about 425 (workforce) where we were 225, and the talent base is incredible here. Although we aren’t looking to expand our footprint too much more here.”
The plan is to grow strategically and another growth move is coming shortly. While it makes complete sense that expansion won’t be in the ridiculously overpriced Lower Mainland, hopefully, it’s still in the province.
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