Tuesday morning’s online pitches at Cartoon Forum may have come without their usual helping of Toulouse croissants, but they did offer a taste of the scripted series currently seeking co-production partnerships.
Standout projects included “Belzebubs” – one of the eleven teen/ adult pitches at Cartoon Forum this year – a thirteen-part family sitcom with a satanic twist and a black metal soundtrack.
Comprising 22-minute episodes, the black-and-white, 2D series frames itself as a documentary that explores “your average devil-worshipping family next door.”
Characters include dad Sloth, who hasn’t given up his dream of death metal stardom; his breadwinning photographer wife Lucyfer and their two teen children, Lilith and Leviathan.
Based on an existing web comic property by graphic novel artist J.P Ahonen, “Belzebubs” is being made through Finnish animation studio Pyjama Films and already has backing from Finland’s national broadcaster YLE.
Over the course of the first season, the story arc sees Sloth struggle in his combined duties as a stay-at-home dad and frontman of a black metal band.
The band also loses its drummer to Jesus (pronounced “He-sus”), gets fired from its record label and end up with a mountain of debt. Yet eventually both family and band stick together and manage to turn their fortunes around.
According to Pyjama CEO Terhi Väänänen, all the storylines are “heartfelt and cute despite the occult imagery” and, she adds, that fans of the comic have likened it to “The Addams Family meets Modern Family.”
Besides the existing webcomic, a virtual band has also taken flight with a first album already under its belt and an international tour planned for next year (coronavirus permitting).
Pyjama came on board as producers of the TV series after making two music promos for Ahonen’s animated musicians.
The fact that “Belezebubs” already existed as a proof-of-concept gave Väänänen the confidence that it would spin out well into a young adult TV series.
Most of the comic’s humor and storytelling, she adds, has resonated well among 16-35 year olds and there are already half a million dedicated followers across Europe, North America and Latin America.
A writer’s room of four – headed by with Ahonen as showrunner – is working on having the scripts ready for next summer, with production slated for 2021.
“The first episode is a festive one so, if everything runs smoothly it will air in Xmas 2022,” says Väänänen.
The first season has a budget of €3.7m ($4.4m) or €285,000 ($370,000) per episode).
While YLE is covering the bulk of the budget, the project is looking for gap financing from co-production partners, distribution and pre-sales to make up the remaining 25%.
“We’d love to have key partners join by November so we can get their notes on the scripts right from the start,” Väänänen adds.