Captain Hawking and the Space Hawks


Grant proposal for an animated
educational television series







Executive Summary


Problem Statement


Goals, Objectives & Outcomes


Making a Cartoon


Evaluation Processes


Budget Requirements


Future & Additional Funding




About Mess Enterprises






The 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.

Mess 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.

Once 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 Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

By 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 (, 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.





Mess 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:


1)Introducing children to complicated, yet understandable theories related to our current understanding of the universe.


2)Distributing the series by network and cable to over 12,000,000 homes within one year after production is completed.


3)Providing an online community that challenges children’s understanding of the show’s content, and charts their overall learning and testing success.


Tests 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.

The 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:


Writing – 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 production begins.


Storyboarding - 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.


Animation - 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 weeks.


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.


Editing – 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 makers).

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.





The 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.

To 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.

Six 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 regions.

Online 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.

These 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 = $3,000

Music Composer (1) $1,500 each Total = $1,500

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 = $1,000

Promo materials $1,500 Total = $1,500

Miscellaneous $1,000 Total = $1,000

Grand Total                           Total = $25,000





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).

In 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.

Once 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.

Any 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.





Mess 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.





Mess Enterprises was founded in 1996 as a company devoted to providing high quality, online entertainment for children. Our Web site ( 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.

Our 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 equal exuberance.

Mess 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.


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