Work is proceeding apace on a new CGI animated series Aliens in my Backpack, currently in production at the Toonz animation studios, created by former Beano cartoonist Rob Lee and Jim Driscoll, the latter probably best known as the creator of international hit The Shoe People, first broadcast on TV-am in 1987, which went on to be broadcast in 62 countries around the world and span off into its own magazine, merchandise range and more.
Aliens in my Backpack introduces us to Riley, a boy like any other, living in the quiet, normal town Edgemoor. He loved his parents, Gummy bears and his Nintendo in that order. As for the future, well, that was a long way away, until one fine morning, the future landed in his lap. More accurately – his backpack! A future about to be inhabited by super intelligent, pint size aliens, who-with Riley in tow-will set out to protect their new home, planet Earth – oh, and in their spare time save the universe. Riley’s life would never be the same again.
In a distant corner of the galaxy nestles a tiny planet with a perfect micro-climate and resources plentiful. Under the growing threat of extinction by the notorious, evil Destruktors, within the doomed planet’s hi-tech nerve centre, the alien inhabitants are thrown into a race against time.
Desperately they scour for a planet to relocate to and beam down to as their planets explodes to extinction. But arrival at the destination throws the Aliens into confusion. It slowly dawns on the incomers that they’d beamed down into a backpack, on a planet which was thousand times bigger than theirs!
Riley, the owner of the backpack, discovers the aliens are advanced far beyond humans’ limited intelligence. They are instinctively attuned to conservation, eco system and sustainability. They are natural recyclers. This, unfortunately for Riley’s family, means they can’t resist upgrading household appliances etc, and fixing things – whether asked to or not!
Aliens in My Backpack is the creation of Rob Lee, a self taught artist and writer from Cardiff, who moved to London aged 19, where his political cartoons caught the attention of IPC. The next two decades of his life were spent creating cartoons for children’s comics such as the Beano, Buster and Whizzer and Chips before eventually moving into the world of animation.
After working on Superted, Rob began originating his own cartoon concepts as well as developing cartoons for a wide range of clients. including many episodes of Fireman Sam, The Shoe People, Joshua Jones and others.
His work has received two BAFTA nominations, while one of his cartoons designs, Digswell the Dog, had the distinction of being adopted by the Young Astronauts Council before being painted on a Soyuz Rocket and launched from Russia.
In recent years, between cartooning, also developing projects such as Barbarian Bears and Calling Oscar India, the latter currently also in development as a pre–school animated series, and writing crime novels, Rob has also occupied himself painting, primarily in acrylics, his work offered for sale through the Rob Lee Gallery.
Aliens in my Backpack went through a number of name changes before the final series title was decided. Lee Garrett, owner of Stourbridge’s Create a Scene Studios, is working on the pre-production and has written and recorded a theme song for the series, as well as working on creating an outer space radio station for the project – Aliens Intergalactic Digital Radio.
Last year Russian production company, SMF (Soyuzmultfilm) Studio, entered a strategic partnership with Toonz Media Group to co-produce Aliens in My Backpack. Production of the 52×11 show started last year, with the first episode expected to be available to show potential media and broadcast partners by mid/late 2021.
Toonz and SoyuzmultFilm Studios will co-produce the series, and will also share in the distribution, licensing, and merchandising of the property, a deal negotiated by former Disney executive and EVP at Toonz Media Group, Paul Robinson.
“Partnering with Toonz is a significant milestone for SMF Studio growth, as one of our strategic goals is to establish our company in the international market,” commented SMF chairman of the board, Yuliana Slascheva. “Both our companies have powerful creative potential and Toonz has an undoubted experience in the global promotion of content. The defining reasons for this partnership are, of course, the values that the animated series introduces to the audience: animation is the best way to convey to children complicated issues in a simple language.”
“We are delighted to partner with a studio of such deep heritage as SoyuzmultFilm,” added Toonz Media Group CEO P. Jayakumar. “For Toonz this is a very exciting project as it upholds the universal value of environment conservation, which would appeal to kids and families across the world.”
Kidderminster-based entrepreneur and cartoon creator Jim Driscoll, who has worked with Rob for over 30 years, and who was awarded an MBE for services to publishing in the 1990s, said last year that he was delighted to have teamed up with the Russian animation studio, feeling like he has come full circle.
With high hopes for the animated project and its ability to help spread important conservation messages, Jim has already been thinking up possible merchandise ideas such as an array of collectible children’s toys.
“I had massive success in Russia in 1990,” he told his local paper, The Shuttle, “when The Shoe People became the first cartoon from the west to be networked on TV, and it is still fondly remembered today by many people in Russia who are now parents themselves.”