Hawking and the Space Hawks
Grant proposal for an animated
educational television series
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Goals, Objectives & Outcomes
Making a Cartoon
Future & Additional Funding
About Mess Enterprises
average American child spends more time watching television than in the
classroom. Educators and child psychiatrists have long suspected that extended
and consistent television viewing has a distracting effect on their ability to
teach. However, depending on the nature of the broadcasted content, television
can be a formidable educational tool. In an effort to promote educational
programming on television, the 1990 Children’s Television Act was passed. Since its inception into law, television
stations around the country have begrudgingly turned to more educational
programming. Consequently, there is a new demand for television to provide
educational entertainment, especially for the 8-13 year old demographic.
Enterprises intends to heed this demand by developing a new animated series
devoted to cutting-edge theories in astronomy, chemistry, and physics. Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks will
be a six episode mini-series that highlights the cosmic adventures of
world-famous scientist Steven Hawking, as he and his team face the natural
perils of a future universe. We plan to supplement this content with an
extensive online presence that offers additional information, as well as
community features, and national science contests.
completed, the mini-series will be available for broadcast to all networks,
stations, and cable affiliates. In addition, wholesale copies of the show will
be extended to educational institutions. Although the show is not intended to
make a profit, any funds earned will be donated to SETI, the Search for
producing Captain Hawking in the
animation software tool, Flash, production costs are greatly reduced,
especially in comparison to traditional animation budgets. Each 25 minute
episode will cost $25,000 to produce. With six episodes in total, we are
seeking $150,000 to produce the entire series. Our strategy is to find a
separate donor for each episode. Therefore, we seek $25,000 dollars from your
foundation, to fund an entire episode of Captain
Hawking and the Space Hawks.
Mess Enterprises has a long history of producing popular
content for children ages 5 through 14. What started as a Web company with a
few ‘pet’ projects (www.rufo.org), has evolved into a team
of media professionals, including former Disney animators, established cartoon
writers, and various doctors of science. Mess has already assembled many key
people for this project, and are awaiting funding to create a new cartoon
series that will touch children around the country, and stimulate their minds
with the newest scientific discoveries and theories.
Since the early 1970s, American children from
ages 9-17 years have shown a measurable and steady decline in standardized test
scores relating to their understanding of the fundamentals of science.
According to the National Trends in Science program, children in the U.S. now
test lower than those tested in 1969. In addition, the 1996 National Education
Summit compared science scores of U.S. children to their counterparts from other
developed countries and found that only seven percent of American youths rank
among the top five percent of the total scores.
Many watchdog organizations attribute part of this alarming
trend to the increase in American children’s television viewing. According to
the non-profit organization TV-Free America, U.S. youths spend an annual
average of 1,500 hours watching television, compared to 900 hours in school.
Because of this, "Television is likely to have a more profound impact on
how children grow and learn, what they value, and ultimately who they become,
than any medium that has come before," said Kathryn Montgomery, Ph.D.,
president of the Center for Media Education.
In response to these statistics, President George H.W. Bush,
enacted the Children’s Television Act of 1990. The CTA clearly acknowledges the
teaching potential of television and establishes clear educational programming
guidelines for TV stations around the country. However, even with these new
requirements, TV stations have been marginally diligent in their educational
offerings. Part of this problem stems from a lack of quality educational
programming from which to choose. This is primarily due to a history of low
ratings for most televised edutainment. Consequently, some TV stations have
tried to comply with the CTA by airing popular shows like the Jetsons, citing that the cartoon
introduces children to future technologies. This is obviously not what the CTA
had in mind.
The problem is simple: American children (and TV stations) need a
more diverse collection of high quality, educational programming. In order for
this programming to succeed, shows need to not only educate, but also
entertain. "We have to fold in the education so that kids don't see it
coming," stated Mr. Roche, chief script editor for "Where on Earth is
Carmen Sandiego?" Most television producers and educators agree with Mr.
Roche and believe that when TV stations air high quality, educational
programming, American children respond favorably. Not only do they learn from
the educational content, but they can also discover an interest in the subject,
be it math, science, art, or the humanities.
Enterprises intends for Captain Hawking
and the Space Hawks to entertain and educate American youths on the wonders
of our universe. We hope the show will instill in children a deep-seated love
for science that can be carried with them throughout their lives, and possibly
also through their careers. Our specific objectives include:
children to complicated, yet understandable theories related to our current
understanding of the universe.
the series by network and cable to over 12,000,000 homes within one year after
production is completed.
an online community that challenges children’s understanding of the show’s
content, and charts their overall learning and testing success.
by the American Center for Children’s Television (ACCT) have proven that most
educational television programming has a direct, and positive impact on
children’s aptitude for any given subject. This project will be no exception.
Just as “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” has proven to improve awareness
of geology, Captain Hawking will have
a similar effect for the sciences, especially astronomy and physics.. Mess
Enterprises believes an improved understanding and increase in scientific
knowledge will become apparent when supported by the feedback we receive from
teachers around the country, and online input from the students themselves.
Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks
will be a six part, educational animated series. Methods for this project
include assembling a production team, producing the animated show, and
marketing and distributing the series to different audiences and mediums.
first step is to assemble a production team. For this project, this will
include three writers (story and dialogue), two artists (storyboards), four
animators, two sound designers, voice talent, one composer, and one editor. The
selection of these professionals will be decided by the Mess creative team [a
description of the creative team can be found in the Mess Enterprises bio at
the end of this proposal]. Hiring decisions will be based on applicant’s
credentials, demonstration reels, and required wages. All creative production
staff will work on a freelance, contract basis from their own homes, and are
responsible for providing their own production tools.
Producing this show is similar to the procedures in making any
Flash animated program. After the team is assembled, many production steps will
occur simultaneously. The production process breaks down into five major areas
of work: Writing, Storyboarding, Animation, Music & Sound, and Editing.
Before production begins, there will be a one-time period of pre-production,
where writers will decide upon stories, and allocate script assignments. Also
during this time, artists will develop characters, props, and scenery designs
for the show. After this one-time, four week period of pre-production, the
timeline for the production cycle is as follows:
Once the six episode basic plot outlines have been decided, each of the three
writers will be assigned a story. Writers are expected to deliver fully
scripted teleplays within one month of being assigned a story. An editorial
process follows, and the scripts are fact checked by the volunteer science
expert on the Mess Enterprises creative team (see company bio). Also during
this time, the scripts are circulated to the other writers for additional
revising. The editorial process lasts for two weeks, at which point the script
is deemed ready for production and the writing
cycle repeats. This writing cycle will produce three drafted scripts within
six weeks, and all teleplays will be finalized within twelve weeks after
When the first three teleplays are finished, they will go into storyboard
production. Storyboards are the blueprints of the entire animated process, and
each episode’s storyboarding process will take two weeks to complete. The first
three scripts will take six weeks to storyboard.
With the first episode storyboarded, animators can begin to produce the episode
animation. The bulk of animation takes place during this step (except for lip
syncing). For each 25 minute episode, the animation process will take six
Music & Sound –
Once scripts have been approved, sound designers can begin to assemble the
show’s audio. The voice talent is recorded first, in order to give the
animators time to include lip syncing in their work (Once the dialogue is
finished, animators will require an extra two weeks to animate character lip
movements). Next, sound designers will gather sound effects, and begin
composing incidental music for each particular episode based on the
storyboards. The show's composer will also submit a theme song for the entire
series during this sound cycle. All of these tasks happen concurrently with the
animation cycle, and will take six weeks to complete.
Once the entire episode is animated, the editor pieces it all together with the
dialogue, music, sound effects and title sequence. This final editing process
will take two weeks per episode.
These five steps outline a basic production
timeline for completing a single animated episode. From beginning to end, each
episode will require 16 weeks or four months to complete. With this staggered
production cycle, we can complete multiple episodes much faster than a
sequential cycle will allow. The total production cycle time period for the
entire series is estimated at 36 weeks, or eight months.
After the first episode is
complete, the entire series will be shopped to networks, television stations,
and cable affiliates. This will be handled by an animation agent, whose fee is
factored into the production costs. The agent will help bring the show to the
right people including producers, directors, and other broadcast decision
Once the series has been sold,
Mess Enterprises will work with broadcasters to promote the show. By launching
a modest education package campaign to educators around the country, we hope to
promote the show in ways most television content cannot. In addition, Mess will
develop the Captain Hawking Web site,
which through cross-promotional agreements with key online resources, will help
promote the show to our intended demographic, and beyond. Both the educational
package campaign, and the Web site’s creation and maintenance, are factored
into production costs.
goal of Captain Hawking and the Space
Hawks is to introduce modern science theories to as many youths as
possible. The success of this goal depends on two things; establishing the
largest potential audience, and confirming that our academic message is clearly
communicated to the children. Evaluating the level of our success will be done
three separate ways; through traditional broadcasting statistics, teacher
survey packages, and online quizzes for children. These evaluation processes
are factored into the production budget, which also include promotional
materials, and mailing costs. The creative production staff will volunteer to
provide research, print and online collateral design, analysis of educational
and broadcasting statistics, and also provide analysis of the raw data
collected in each evaluation process.
calculate the success of our broadcast reach, we will take an inventory of the
networks, television stations, and cable affiliates that buy the series. A
brief analysis of each broadcaster’s demographic numbers will give us a solid
understanding of who is watching the show, and where. This evaluation will
continue for two years after production is completed.
months after production is completed, Mess Enterprises will mail out a one-time
press packet to teachers in key demographic schools (determined by districts
with the lowest science scores, and highest audience numbers). These packages
will include the complete series on DVD, a small teaching compendium, before
and after examinations, and an extensive teacher’s survey. The results from the
exams will help illustrate the show’s effectiveness in communicating
information to children. The survey will allow teachers to describe the
effectiveness of the show from a personal review of their students, from an
academic viewpoint. The press packet survey combined with the student exams
will provide a clear picture of the show’s effectiveness in improving
children's retention and understanding of the show in different American
quizzes extend the concept of the press package surveys to a larger, global
audience on the Internet. The Captain Hawking Web site will launch
once the series is completed, and will be produced by volunteer artists from
the show. The Web site will include additional information for each episode, as
well as quizzes. Quizzes will be announced during each show, with prizes (small
pieces of promotional collateral) awarded to the highest scores. Also, an
annual science essay contest will be conducted, with the writing staff also
donating their time to decide the winner.
three evaluation processes will provide a complete view of the show’s
effectiveness in achieving its objective. By combining focused broadcast
numbers, direct teacher feedback, and actual quiz and essay testimonies from
kids using the Web site, Mess Enterprises will be able to effectively quantify
the success of the series.
Production Expenses (per episode)
Writers (3) $1,500
each Total = $4,500
Artists (2) $1,000
each Total = $2,000
Animators (4) $1,500
each Total = $6,000
Sound Designers (2) $1,000 each Total = $2,000
Voice Talent (6) $0,500 each Total
Music Composer (1) $1,500 each Total =
Video Editor (1) $1,000 each Total = $1,000
Project Manager (1) $1,500 each Total = $1,500
Animation Agent (1) $1,000 each Total =
Promo materials $1,500 Total
Miscellaneous $1,000 Total
Grand Total Total = $25,000
FUTURE & ADDITIONAL FUNDING
Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks
is a one-time, six episode mini-series. Episodes are budgeted at $25,000 each,
and Mess Enterprises is seeking a single sponsor for each episode. Production
will begin once funding has been secured for each episode ($150,000).
addition to your foundation, Mess Enterprises is seeking funding from the NASA
Educational Foundation, the Kennedy Space Foundation, and many others. With
such a low production budget, and potentially high exposure, Mess Enterprises
hopes this project will appeal to many different giving organizations.
funding is secured for all six episodes, there will be no future need for
additional funding. The only exception to this would be if the show became
successful enough to warrant additional episodes. If necessary, a decision to
create new episodes will be made by Mess Enterprises’ creative team six months
after production is completed. Announcements of this decision will be made to
all donors one year after the date of the initial donation.
profits from this series will be donated to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial
Intelligence (SETI), a non-profit organization that shares a similar interest
in what Mess Enterprises hopes to convey through Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks. If any donor has an objection
to donating the show’s profits to SETI, alternate arrangements can be made with
each sponsor individually.
Enterprises is committed to providing high-quality, educational entertainment
for children, with a focus on astronomy and physics. Through the power of
television, and the unlimited storytelling potential animation provides, Mess
hopes Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks
will capture the hearts and imaginations of children everywhere. We intend to
accomplish this with a compelling lead character based on the famous scientist
Steven Hawking, and a diverse supporting cast. These characters, combined with
the scientific expertise and stylistic aesthetic of the Mess Enterprises’
creative team, promises to deliver a classic animated series, as well as an
effective teaching tool. The educational benefits of this series will be
exciting, valuable, and substantial in both volume and diversity.
ABOUT MESS ENTERPRISES
Enterprises was founded in 1996 as a company devoted to providing high quality,
online entertainment for children. Our Web site (www.rufo.org)
has helped thousands of youths explore and enjoy a variety of cat-related
content. As a result, Mess Enterprises has over 10,000 registered members who
share in our passion for feline inspired entertainment and education. With this
success, Mess Enterprises plans to expand beyond the subject of cats by
developing media projects that deal with a variety of topics.
Our company’s primary goal is
to educate and entertain children. In addition to continually developing Rufo
content, we are pushing forward with new animated projects that focus on
showcasing modern scientific concepts. Our latest project, Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks, will not only provide an
accessible and comprehensive introduction to cutting-edge scientific theories,
but will also include characters designed to empower children through their
action and ideas. We aspire to expand beyond the limitations of the Internet,
and into the more widely accessible realm of television broadcasting. This will
enable Mess Enterprises to reach many more children, and truly enrich their
educational experience through instructional stimulating content.
In an effort to expand our
audience and the scope of our projects, Mess Enterprises has aligned with the
San Francisco Film Arts Foundation. The Film Arts Foundation is a non-profit
organization dedicated to promoting independent film and video artists. Film Arts has a 25 year tradition of funding
and assisting pioneering artists, which has earned them the admiration and
respect of a national audience. As a fiscal sponsor of Mess Enterprises, the
Film Arts Foundation is providing a variety of financial services and technical
guidance, which will greatly contribute to the success of our projects.
youth constituency frequently praises Mess Enterprises production work. On
average, Rufo’s Web site receives 10,000 visitors a day, with each visitor
spending an average of 20 minutes on the site per visit. In addition, Mess
Enterprises receives at least 30 emails a week, each one containing unique
feedback. Nine year old Devon Hassle, from Bakersfield California recently
wrote to say, “Rufo’s Web site is my favorite place on the Internet. I laugh
and learn all about the kitties. When will you make more stuff for me to like?
I want cartoons.” Through this solicitation, and many other requests like it,
Mess Enterprises is confident our future, educational projects will be met with
Enterprises is composed of volunteers from the technology, education, and
entertainment industries. The founder of Mess Enterprises, Jason Heffel, is a
freelance writer and music composer, with a keen interest in developing high
quality, youth based media. Our primary animator, Dick Franklin, has worked for
Disney Studios and is currently a principle director for Chomp Studios,
producers several animated feature films. Stuart Shickle acts as our head
science writer who currently teaches astronomy at the University of South
Springfield. Our chief administrative advisor, Mary Burk, is the CEO of Mess
Enterprises and a long-time project manager.