Can you handle so much cuteness? Toonz and Herotainment talk about creation of ‘Smighties’

If you have played with these small yet mighty characters from Herotainment, wouldn’t it be a pleasure to watch them come together create an engaging story? In November 2016, India’s Toonz Media and New York-based Herotainment entered a partnership to extend the brand Smighties into a digital series and rolled out the first three episodes on YouTube and YouTube Kids on 6 July, 2017. 
Herotainment’s co-CEOs (from left) Caryn and Wade Teman
Smighties is Herotainment’s first co-production with an Indian studio. “We decided to partner with Toonz because we were very impressed with the high quality of the animation and their knowledge of the digital space,” says Herotainment co-CEO Caryn Teman. Toonz has been working on the series from development to post-production in close creative collaboration with Herotainment, which is also investing in it. Toonz Media CEO P. Jayakumar agreed to work on the project as he found the concept interesting. The show is built around themes of empowering kids – emulating positive behaviour, encouraging emotional development with an emphasis on teamwork. “Smighties is entertaining and child-friendly. Their love for friendship, fun, and celebration of individuality captures the hearts and imaginations of kids around the world,” says Jayakumar, discussing the reason why he found the idea appealing. The Smighties were introduced to the world in Herotainment’s games and co-CEOs Caryn and Wade Teman immediately saw that kids and families loved the characters. Thus with Toonz and their creative teams, they expanded their world and narrative. “Before developing games, we created backstories for the Smighties. Each Smighty is unique with its own personality, power, likes and dislikes; so the characters and their worlds lend themselves to great story-telling,” says Caryn, explaining how they wanted kids and families to engage with the brand on many platforms.
Visual of the Central Region in ‘Smighties’
The main  and support characters were developed by Toonz for the series. Also, concept backgrounds, locations and colour styling had to be done afresh. The series is directed by Prakashan U.K. and produced by Ansal Rahiman, while the storyboard comes from a team of seven artists- Mark Zaslove, Jymn Magon, Pamela Hickey, Dennys McCoy, Jordan Gershowitz, Jon Daalgard and Joe Vitale. “From the start, the team was passionate and excited about creating the adventures of the small and mighty heroes,” exclaims Caryn. “Given the expansive worlds of the Smighties and the breadth of characters (which are over 130), there has been no shortage of amazing storylines and ideas from the writers.” “We created the Smighties stories to appeal to  boys and girls around the world. It was important that each episode was filled with humour and lots of adventure,” adds Caryn. “In the series, Smighties discover that being small is mighty, being unique is a strength and friendship is powerful.”
Visual of the Magic Region in ‘Smighties’
Made on a budget of approximately $2 million (Rs 13 crore), the show follows a style aligned to international  audiences. Why was YouTube and YouTube Kids chosen as a platform over TV networks? Jayakumar explains: “The digital medium is the future and more popular these days. OTT platforms have greater reach and the client is also keen on taking Smighties over digital platforms. Nothing is stopping us from taking it on TV.” Caryn also reveals that discussions are on with global partners for licensing and merchandising. “Kids everywhere love the small and mighty heroes. There are over 130 Smighties, and toys and merchandise are a natural extension of the brand. Publishing is another licensing opportunity as each seven minute episode is filled with great story-telling and comedic adventures.” While Jayakumar’s favourite characters are Zip, Zap, and the highly intelligent Nardy – the Smighty who dazzles with knowledge and culinary creations to create a big bang – Caryn feels that the little characters are like her two beautiful daughters. Within a span of just 48 hours, the first video of Smighties has garnered 80,000+ views on YouTube. With Smighties, Toonz and Herotainment promise characters that everyone can connect with and embrace their quirkiness and individuality.