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Monday, December 31, 2012

‘Elias’ set to rescue the World (with help from The Jim Henson Company)

A little rescue boat named Elias, a popular character in a Norwegian animation series of the same name, is set to sail into the New Year on more rescue missions overseas. The series is already one of Norway’s biggest TV exports ever, sold to more than 100 countries, and now looks likely to become even more popular internationally.

The Elias series portrays houses, boats, cars and cranes as living individuals, and its main character is a little rescue boat. Humans have no place in its universe.

Each episode focuses primarily on entertainment but also tries to show children how a coastal society works and how important each member is for the community as a whole. There have been 39 episodes of the children’s TV series and two feature-length films to date.

Newspaper Aftenposten has reported that 52 new episodes are in the pipeline for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), after its creators have entered into an agreement with the legendary Jim Henson Company, creators of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. Production will cost around NOK 44 million, and the new series is scheduled to start appearing on children’s channel NRK Super from spring 2014. The new agreement with Jim Henson Company opens up a whole new world for Elias, and in particular for sales of spin-off merchandise, which is by far the most lucrative part of the franchise, far exceeding sales of cinema tickets or TV rights.

Elias to keep Norwegian identity

Series creators Sigurd Slåttebrekk and Alf Knutsen from rights company Animando told Aftenposten that with Jim Henson Company’s backing it should be easier to expand in the international market. They are going to work together with scriptwriters from British childrens’ TV series such as Postman Pat and Bob the Builder, to increase appeal to a global audience. Animando will, however, retain all the rights to the series in Norway. The series will be retold for the Norwegian audience by one of the most experienced of its scriptwriters, in order to hold on to its Norwegian identity.

Jim Henson Company delighted
Jim Henson Company, first set up by the legendary Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, was sold but then bought back by his children, who now run it. The huge American entertainment organization is also reportedly delighted about the new agreement. Richard Goldsmith, director for global distribution at the Jim Henson Company, described Elias as a unique series for pre-school children, and told Aftenposten he thinks it’s one of the best he had seen on the international market for many years.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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