Guru behind 'Teletubbies' teams up with Korean studio for new series

A photo of Kenn Viselman, an American marketer who turned children’s TV series “Teletubbies” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” into megahits.

SOUTH KOREA - Kenn Viselman, an American marketer who turned children's TV series "Teletubbies" and "Thomas the Tank Engine" into megahits, is up for a new project after his much-hyped big-screen venture bombed at the US box office in 2012.

This time, he will give toddlers an inquisitive bunny, Sunny Tunny, and a mischievous cat-dog hybrid, Lady LuLu, to love and will present them a world that merges the strengths of two cultures ― Korea and America.

Why Korea?

Viselman is partnering with an obscure animation studio based in Seoul, JM Animation, to produce "itsy bitsy Schoolhouse," a US$12 billion won (S$15 billion) undertaking envisioning 40 episodes in total and packaging didactic education with lots of fun.

"I had it in my mind for long. But I didn't think it was possible to do, until I met Jung Mi and (Kim) Seen-seek," Viselman told a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday, referring to the president and vice president of JM.

The marketer, producer and author of children's books said he came across JM through its work "Little Train Choo Choo," which was presented at the MIP Junior International Pitch in Cannes, France, last year.

He was one of the judges and "Little Train" was among the five finalists in the competition for kids' TV content.

"It wasn't global enough. But the complexity of the idea and the simplicity of its message was just beautiful," he said of the series.

The concept of "itsy bitsy Schoolhouse" is mostly Viselman's and the characters were drawn up by his own creative team. "The big ideas are all from Viselman. The work from now on will be handled by our creators in Seoul," said Kim, JM's vice president.

"We hope to be able to premiere the first episode simultaneously in the US and Korea through major networks in 2016," he added.

Viselman says that "Schoolhouse" will be more than a TV series. It will use multiple platforms, and depending on the type of platform, the story will be told from different characters' perspectives.

On TV, the viewers will watch "Schoolhouse" from Sunny Tunny's perspective, but on the other platform, the lead character may be Lady LuLu, revealing the reasons why he acts a certain way on TV episodes.

So, the question is will the Viselman be able to repeat his early success or will he repeat the more recent failure of "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure"?

Viselman said for him all of his projects are like his own children and that he can't compare one with another. And about the joint project with the Korean firm, he just said he was going to make "some" amount of money.

"When I set my mind to something, I make it happen. Korea is going to learn about that soon," he said.