LazyTown stands stronger than ever. The company's relatives are big-hearted and seem to have every reason to be optimistic about the business in the coming years. "We have just become part of the Turner group, which in turn is part of Time Warner. Those agreements were finalized late 2011, and the purpose, among other things, to bring on board an owner who has the right distribution channels," say...
Latibær’s operations have been shrouded in secrecy in recent months and the company is now preparing to expand into the US market. Magnús Scheving, the show’s author, and his people have been working hard to build a four thousand square meter studio in Garðabær and in recent weeks they have been filming the episodes, called LazyTown.
Studio built in 80 days
“I feel like I’m in a marathon, but I’m starting to see the finish line and that’s good” says Magnús, where a lot of work has gone into building the film studio, which was built in just 80 days.
The fifth episode was filmed on Friday, and a total of 40 episodes will be produced for the American television company Nickelodeon. The episodes will be shown on Nickelodeon Junior TV, which is one of the largest in the United States.
“Shooting has been successful, but everything you want to do well takes time. We are pushing this big ship out of the dock and that requires a lot of power. We are on schedule for five episodes and it is great so early in the process” says Magnús, and broadcast will take place around September. “Then I do not know what the future holds. It could be that they are asking for another 40 episodes right away.”
The LazyTown series will premiere in the US within two months. Latibær will therefore compete to produce the episodes immediately for the television-thirsty viewers. “Forty episodes is a very large order. Twelve episodes are usually ordered to begin with” says Magnús. “Nickelodeon is behind this and has faith in what we are doing. The company is planning the biggest advertising campaign it has launched and will, among other things, have an event in Times Square.”
Latibær is Icelandic
It is rather unusual for a film studio to be built in Iceland and all the scenes for such extensive episodes to be recorded here. Magnús says that he has competed to keep the film studio in this country, as Latibær is an Icelandic phenomenon.
“Latibær must not be separated from Iceland. Otherwise, a lot of people would try to change the episodes – there are enough changes already. I felt I had to hold on to something, I wanted to have my feet on the ground and have Iceland and my people around me” says Magnús.
It is more expensive to produce the episodes in Iceland than in the United States, where most of them have to be built from scratch. Magnús says that on the other hand, it was possible to create something completely new here and Latibær uses the latest technology in making the episodes. “We managed to set up one of the most advanced studios in the world in this sector. That is why we would never have achieved that in the United States” says the author.
It can be estimated that each episode costs between 35 – 40 million ISK. Although a lot of money is spent on the production of the episodes, Magnús says that he has not yet become rich from them. “I have a fixed salary and am probably a low-paid employee if I were to calculate the salary based on the hours I work. On the other hand, I own a share in Latibær and as a result I hope, if all goes well, to get something back in the end.”
Latibær is a truly exciting project, but it is uncertain what will happen after the forty episodes. If there is a continuation, it can be expected that the film studio in Garðabær will continue to be used. “We leave a hugely fun studio for the future – for Icelandic film, advertising and television production. The studio here is twice as big as the studio at Ríkissjónvarpið” says Magnús.
Europe is showing interest
If LazyTown becomes popular in the United States, it can be expected that various merchandise related to it will flow out like hot cakes. Magnús also hopes to be able to sell the shows to other countries.
“We hope that Latibær will become popular in the United States and then in the rest of the world. There are producers in Europe who have shown interest in Latibær” says Magnús. “Latibær could have sold its products much faster, but it is always a question of when is the right time to sell such entertainment. When such material has become popular, it is much more valuable.”
Magnús and others in the town council of Latibær are on their way to Cannes in France, where the episodes will be presented later on. “The Nordic stations are also very interested in buying the shows, because next year is the year of the movement. It’s all clicking together” says Magnús.
Not a good actor
Magnús is one of three players in LazyTown but he plays the role of the Sports Elf called Sportacus in English. Stefán Karl Stefánsson plays Robbie Rotten, better known as Glanni glæpur, and twelve-year-old Julianna R. Mauriello plays Solla Stirða, whose name is Stephanie in English. Other characters are puppets who are made in the UK but brought here in parts and assembled at Latibær’s headquarters.
Magnús says that he is not the best actor in the world and things get even more complicated when he has to speak English. “It is difficult to play in English and on television. This is very different from playing on the field because I have to be inside the frame of the machine and think more about what I say. This is much harder and I was very poor in the first episode but the fifth episode was quite better. This is all uphill and after forty episodes I might become a good actor” says Magnús.
The elf becomes a superhero
Magnús has been following the idea of Latibær for ten years. He has good ideas on how the show should be, but sometimes has to give in and accommodate the screenwriters and others involved in the show. “I really have to be the rock that stands up to everything and when everything hits I have to know what can be let go and what not. I have had a very good collaboration with the people I work with and I can not complain about that” says Magnús.
Among the changes that have taken place in the original idea is that Goggi mega has a dark skin, Halla hrekkjusvín is Asian and Siggi is Swedish. “The Sports elf has also changed and can no longer be an elf. He has become a kind of superhero” says Magnús, who seems quite happy with the changes. “What I am perhaps happiest with, however, is that I have managed to mix three media parts into one, so that those who see Latibær know it immediately” says Magnús, where in Latibær the actors, puppets and three-dimensional backgrounds are mixed.
LazyTown in the movies
If all goes well, it can be expected that Latibær will not only make it to television. “If the show becomes popular, a movie will be made within three years” says Magnús confidently. Homecoming is slow because Latibær has a contract with the American company Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon and the Paramount film company. Magnús still does not expect to play Sportacus in the movie. “We put the number ten in front of him and that gives us the possibility that a new Sportacus will come in, number one, two or three. I always have the opportunity to get out.”
Magnús says that he enjoys playing Sportacus, although he is certainly beginning to feel certain signs of old age. “It’s not bad to be forty and still be able to jump and while I enjoy it I keep going. The main problem, however, is that the show is recorded in high quality and I’m starting to get wrinkles so I just have to take care of myself” says Magnús Scheving laughing in the end.