Hit Entertainment has revealed that pre-school smashes Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder will now be produced in CGI animation.
CGI will bring a bright, fresh and modern look to the two evergreen brands, and also allows for more enhanced, fluid movement of the characters while remaining true to the show’s core values and strengths. In addition, refreshed style guides, offering an array of new opportunities for licensing partners, will accompany the new series.
Thomas & Friends – which will be celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2010 – has already begun pre-production on the first CGI series in partnership with Nitrogen Studios, a Canadian-based production company which worked on the latest series introducing CGI elements to its existing live action format.
The new series will debut in late 2009 on Five’s Milkshake block in the UK and on PBS Kids in the US, as well as other selected territories (excluding Japan). For the first time, the faces of Thomas and his engine friends, as well as Sir Topham Hatt, will move as a result of the CGI – opening up opportunities for new Talking Thomas and Talking Engine products.
Bob the Builder, meanwhile, will move from stop frame animation to CGI. Hit and LA-based SD Entertainment are now in pre-production for the new CGI series, which is scheduled for delivery in late 2009 on Cbeebies in the UK and PBS Kids in the US.
Hot Animation, Hit’s wholly owned animation studio in the UK, will continue to produce Bob the Builder: On Site, a new direct-to-DVD series of live action and stop frame animated specials.
Christopher Skala, executive producer and SVP production and programming at Hit, said: “Bob the Builder and Thomas & Friends have been delighting children all over the world for many years, so it was important to us that any change to the programming format retained the intrinsic charm of the characters and remained true to the core values of the brand. With our world-renowned production partners Nitrogen, SD Entertainment and CGCG, we felt it was the right time to refresh and update these loveable characters in CGI and take Bob and Thomas into a new era.”
Peter Byrne, EVP of consumer products worldwide at Hit, added: “We are really excited about Bob and Thomas moving to CGI as it heralds a new generation of consumer product for our licensing partners, in particular a new range of Talking Thomas products. With new style guides in 2009, we look forward to bringing new lines of consumer product to market throughout the year.”