The co-pro deal is for a kids show, Nori RollerCoaster Boy, conceived by Korean Xris Sohn. The show is being produced by Sohn’s company XrisP (pronounced Chris P), and is being animated in China. POW is managing the production, from casting to final product, and has commissioned original music for the series as well as overseeing all editing and the sound mix.
“We think Asia is very fertile ground for collaborative projects, especially animation,” McKay said. “We’re a post house and animation is virtually all post.
“Being a service provider is a bit of a dead end. Co-production is different.”
It’s a fair bet that Wellington probably has more Oscars per head of population than any other city except Los Angeles.
“Our emphasis is on building relationships in China and Korea. We’ve been having talks with companies in Asia for two years,” McKay continued. “Over 18 months ago we met Chris in Beijing. Our aim is to help companies crack the US market. Part of doing that is the voice work. Our voice recording for Nori is very US-centric.
“We’re already seeing some opportunities in Europe. Italy’s largest distributor of animation, Mondo, has picked up Nori.
The 52 episodes represent a year’s work for the equivalent of five full-time staff, plus the seven actors who’ll do most of the voice work on the series. Work on the series started in Wellington in July. Half the episodes are already recorded, and the first 13 are on their way out the door. Even assuming no more episodes are commissioned (and McKay obviously hopes that’s not what happens) there’s work at POW through until October 2017.
Triggering the NZSPG incentive was necessary, McKay believes, because NZ is a high-priced commodity compared with what’s available in Asia. The sweet spot for NZ lies in the areas where there’s limited capacity or ability in North Asia. “They’ve got plenty of animators,” MckAy says, “but a lot fewer top-notch sound people and native English speakers.”
POW has created a good workflow and systems around the show, and also implemented cloud-based media management and review processes to ensure smooth workflow.
There are other projects too. When Crewed spoke with McKay, POW had not long since come off Matt Murphy’s upcoming feature Pork Pie, which McKay described as a lot of fun and “nice to get back on the tools”.
Despite the opportunities of feature films, McKay believes there’s more opportunity in TV series. Having said that, XrisP has two features in development that POW intends to be a part of. One is a feature expanding the Nori universe, the other about pandas in space. No prizes for guessing the target market for the second one.
“We’ve put in effort visiting the Beijing and Shanghai markets to develop relationships,” McKay said, “as well as attending MIPCOM, and the Asian Animation Summit in Brisbane. In February we’ll be at Kidscreen in Miami.
“We’re actively pursuing film and TV projects,” he adds while being cautious. “Quality projects aren’t lying around under every tree.”
XrisP will be attending to present Nori merchandising and opportunities. It’s a crowded market, but a valuable one as many of the Asian animation houses who exhibit year in and year out will attest.
For Nori merchandising, there’s a radio-controlled car with a camera that the driver can view through an iPhone – the same tech that many drones use. The bulk of the show’s characters are vehicles, so naturally there are toy cars, figurines and the obligatory plush versions. “The shows are ads for the toys,” McKay says of much of the animated fare on offer around Asia.
While NZ is too small a market to create much of a business in licensed product for local content, McKay is open to exploring all opportunities around shows such as Nori in larger markets. “We’re a boutique factory. Our whole aim is more work.”
Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.