FANS of cricket and science fiction will be delighted to know that a local animated series, Howzzat!, is combining the two interests! The producers will be taking the project to the Cartoon Forum Pitching Event in France in September 2020.
The series was developed by René Holder and Tracy Hutchings of Farr Creative, best known for their work on Destra’s Lucy video. According to the synopsis, Howzzat! is set in the future, where cricket is the sport that holds the world together following the Great Collapse. Cricket is the deciding factor upon which a winning colony gets political sway, funding, and media dominance. The World Incorporated Cricket Council (WICC) created the Cricket World Cup where regional WICC teams go head-to-head in a Global Test match played every four years. It challenges players’ drive, perseverance and teamwork with the winners having complete global control until the next test.
The series, which is targeted to children aged eight to 14-years-old, follows cricket prodigy Luke and a newly-formed junior squad of misfits as they attempt to restore one of the lowest-ranked colony teams in the world to its former glory in the Cricket World Cup. The mixed regional team comes together “for an adventure in friendship, the love of cricket, and teamwork to bowl out those who would use the game and its grand prize for their corrupt agendas.”
Holder said attending the Cartoon Forum will give the team the chance to pitch the series to European broadcasters and major media investment groups who attend the event each year to get a sneak preview of the latest animation projects for TV and pick the future hits.
According the Cartoon Forum website, producers can pitch their project in front of 1,000 broadcasters, investors, and other potential partners from 40 countries, over three days. Since its creation in 1990, 814 series have found financing, representing a total budget of 2.81 billion euros.
Holder said he has always been a fan of sport and cartoon/anime shows as a mirror for teamwork, friendship and how the underdog overcomes challenges. He said he wanted to tell that story from a Caribbean perspective and background.
“We set it in a post-apocalyptic world because Tracy and I wanted to creatively create a world where we can both reference things that people know and also play around in this new sandbox with all new things that we want to do, like what if the Caribbean was actually one nation and the federation worked? What if sport was used as a unifier for the world and cricket was that sport after a great catastrophe? We wanted to play around these big world building set pieces to have these characters interact in, where things are both familiar and referenced but also gives us the opportunity to have the Caribbean connected via solar powered air lifts and things like that.
"It will be a melting pot of different accents and cultures, with a diverse cast. We have a male and female lead who will be our main protagonists through the series, and that’s just a hint as there are up to 12 people on a cricket team and we have a diverse cast of teammates lined up with their own stories, drives and motivations. Also, in our future, cricket is a mixed game sport.”
Hutchings said the series is a cool marriage of all the things he loved growing up.
“I used to love taking in cricket. The excitement of a good test series, that feeling when there's one ball left and you need four runs and you're watching the screen hoping the batsman gets it! That's a feeling the entire Caribbean felt. In
that moment, all of us were one, and I wanted to take that oneness far beyond this present, into a world where, honestly, people don't recognise the Caribbean.
"When we think of post-apocalyptic, it's usually Europe and the like rebuilding the world. But what if a united Caribbean was front and centre in that process and what if sports – something that was at our core – was the fuel that drove that process? Cricket always unites us, so we used it as a tool to unite and rebuild this parallel world.”
Holder said the main factor behind Farr Creative, which grew out of his previous company Lab 206, being selected for the European event was that he has digital citizenship in Estonia.
“Becoming an e-resident of Estonia allowed me the ability to set up a company, which I did because there are so few opportunities for content development in the Caribbean and there are lots of opportunities in the EU for content. The Cartoon Forum is a European Union (EU) event for EU-based companies, so I need to be an EU-based company to get into the pitch. I wouldn’t have had access if I wasn't registered in the EU.”
Holder said he has been in the animation sector for almost nine years. He formed Lab 206 in 2011, working with IOM Caribbean to develop a virtual reality game for Mackeson, a mobile game teaching financial literacy for the Central Bank, Destra’s Lucy video and a couple of others, along with developing original intellectual property (IP). He took a break for two years while he was creative director at Toucan a local advertising company. He said his passion has always been animation and content creation, so he made the decision in 2019 to refocus and restart his love for animation.
“Developing content past the idea stage is very hard to non-existent, so I’ve had to find ways and means to get ourselves out there that are very non-traditional. Being selected to pitch at the Cartoon Forum event is a huge opportunity for Caribbean content to network and for us to be seen.”