It's not a three-hour tour, but a school-bus ride that goes horribly wrong, casting away its young occupants – three best-pal geeks and a knucklehead jock – on a desert island. But wait. The island isn't deserted after all.
Aimed at the six- to 11-year-old set, Nerds and Monsters premieres March 12 on YTV, the brainchild of Slap Happy, a brand-new Vancouver animation studio. Slap Happy was formed by four friends who met working on projects for other companies, and realized they shared a sensibility. For years, they Skyped on Wednesday nights – three of the partners live in Vancouver, the fourth, who is also Canadian, in Los Angeles – to brainstorm show ideas.
When Nerds and Monsters – with influences that include Lord of the Flies, The Big Bang Theory, Lost and, of course, Gilligan's Island – was green-lit by YTV, they were able to quit their day jobs and launch their own studio.
"We sort of did things backward," explains Kathy Antonsen Rocchio, one of the partners. "Most places will open a studio and start doing service work and then start pitching their own projects. We didn't want to do that.… We really just wanted to make our own shows."
With post-production on season one's 20 episodes close to wrapping, the studio – set up in a former clothing warehouse – continues to think up and pitch ideas, but is also now looking to partner with other companies and do some service work.
"The reality is," says partner Josh Mepham, "we've got to get more work in here now."