Magazine article Variety

Tuning in for Beatles, Motown, Dylan Shows

Magazine article Variety

Tuning in for Beatles, Motown, Dylan Shows

Article excerpt


Eight years ago, Australian writer-director-producer Josh Wakely began pitching Sony/ATV, the music publishing company that administers the rights to the songs of the Beatles, on his passion project: an animated children's television series plotted around lyrics from the Fab Four. On Aug. 3, Netflix will begin streaming "Beat Bugs," the original series Wakely wrote, directed, and produced through his company Grace, along with the TV and movie production group Thunderbird and Beyond Screen Prod. Last week at the Television Critics Assn, press tour, Netflix said that a second season will premiere Nov. IS.

Also at TCA, Netflix announced that Wakely will direct, produce, and showrun an animated children's series based on the legendary Motown catalog, with Smokey Robinson as executive music producer. Inspired by Detroit's soul music legacy, the as-yet-unnamed show follows a boy named Ben alongside a cast of "enchanting street art characters." Each episode will include covers of songs by Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, the Suprêmes, and Stevie Wonder.

And Wakely has yet a third project in the works: "Time Out of Mind," an hourlong drama inspired by Bob Dylan's 600-plus-song archive. In development for Amazon Studios and Lionsgate TV, the series scored unprecedented rights to the catalog on the strength of Wakely's unique vision for the material.

"Beat Bugs," about a quintet of insect kids living in a suburban backyard, incorporates covers of songs from the Lennon/McCartney Northern Songs catalog performed by hitmakers such as Eddie Vedder,Sia,Aloe Blacc, the Shins, Rod Stewart, and Pink. Season two will feature Stewart, Jennifer Hudson, and Chris Cornell, among others.

Damien Trotter, managing director of Sony/ATV, says Wakely's kids-skewing pitch fit into the company's mandate to keep the Beatles "relevant for the next generation." Each of the 26 ll-minute episodes of "Beat Bugs" is structured around one song; for example, the 1965 hit "Help!" involves a character getting rescued from a jam jar.

Trotter acknowledges that entrusting an unproven showrumier was "a leap of faith." Wakely -just 27 when he first approached Sony/ATV, and possessed of only a handful of short films and Down Under TV credits - had little background in animation and less standing in Hollywood. …

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