From ‘Marble North’ comes Splatalot

If viewers can watch upcoming obstacle course series Splatalot and feel like they can put themselves in the shoes of the contestants, Mark Bishop will be a happy man.

Inspired by other shows such as Wipeout, MXC and even quirky Japanese shows like Unbeatable Banzuke, the marblemedia partner and executive producer says, “It has to feel surreal and accessible, but kids should be able to look at it and say, ‘I think I can do that.’”

The medieval-themed series takes place in a castle and was also inspired by the magic and fantasy elements of early action-adventure games found in the classic King’s Quest series. Marble also enlisted comic book artists and game designers were consulted in the early stages to get the feel of the show just right.

Filming is currently taking place in Orangeville, north of Toronto, on 50 acres land in the prodco’s name, dubbed ‘marble north.’ (The Adrenaline Project was also filmed in the same area.) The Splatalot set and castle takes up 2.5 acres and is a permanent set consisting of 30,000 square feet of foam, treated with three layers of paint and a team that works constantly at touching it up.

In total, 312 local youngsters will have run through the course, with a girl and a guy competing to be crowned King and Queen of Splatalot. The series will air on YTV during spring 2011, then it will hit the airwaves in the territories of its co-pro partners, ABC (Australia) and BBC (U.K.). Bishop says there’s already interest in season two.

Partner and executive producer Matt Hornburg says the team also derived some light inspiration from similar shows like American Gladiators and WWE, in that the Defenders of Splatalot aren’t merely obstacles, but they “give the series a core cast and even more of a reason for kids at home to tune in,” he adds. That, in turn, then helps marble start discussions about licensing and merchandising opportunities, which are already in the works.

The Defenders also have their own story that helps anchor the series. Hornburg says they were cast based on their improv and comedic abilities, and the series writers worked with the creative team to flesh out their characters.

There are nine Defendors in total – three from Canada, three from the U.K. and three from Australia – to represent the co-pro territories and also to give some local flavor to Splatalot when it hits international airwaves. Marble is also casting a pair of hosts for each territory, to be filmed separately on green screens and voice-over to add to the localization.

Meanwhile, the interactive components were designed concurrently with the series from the very beginning, which will translate the Splat action through a host of Flash games.

Bishop and Hornburg are also in talks with advertisers for branded on-air and online spots that show highlights and best moments from the series.

Stay tuned for Emily’s first-person account this Thursday, as she tackles the Splatalot course in her role as Playback‘s own stunt person/staff writer.

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