Wicked Science: articles

TV Movie and 2nd season of the series to be launched at MIPTV

WICKED SCIENCE, produced by Jonathan M. Shiff Productions and distributed by ZDF Enterprises worldwide, has been awarded the prestigious New York Festivals 2005 International Television Programming & Promotion Silver World Medal in the category of Youth Programs (Ages 7-12).

One of the most prestigious television festivals in the world The New York Festivals Awards recognize "the world's best work". This international recognition follows WICKED SCIENCE’s win at the 2004 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Children’s Television Drama.

WICKED SCIENCE is the story of two teenagers, Toby and Elizabeth, who are hit by a mysterious ray and turned into wizards of science. Their normal world of Sandy Bay School is turned upside down by invisible cars, flying lawnmowers, a cloned school principal and a rampaging T-Rex!

A 90’ TV movie special of the first series of WICKED SCIENCE is currently in post-production and will be available at MIPTV. The second 26 half hour series of WICKED SCIENCE are due to complete principal photography in May and will be launched at MIPCOM. The international coproduction with Australia’s Network TEN, Germany’s ZDF, ZDF Enterprises and Disney Channel Australia has proven to be among the very best of children’s entertainment to the screen.

Christian Massmann, Head of Sales at ZDF Enterprises, says: “WICKED SCIENCE has been sold to over 30 countries and is aired by major broadcasters such as France 2, RAI, Disney Channel Italy, Fox Kids Latin America. We are very proud to have this exciting production in our portfolio and are convinced that both the TV movie special as well as the 2nd season of WICKED SCIENCE will leave nothing to be desired - neither for our customers nor for their audiences.”

ZDF Enterprises
January 29, 2005
Press release

Wicked Science

What is wicked about Wicked Science? Apart from the deliciously dark teenage character Elizabeth (Bridget Neval), not much really.

Or am I showing my age? Are we talking “wicked” as in “cool”?

For science is deployed to pretty funky ends in this series. Twenty episodes in (with six to go) and there is a lot to like about this locally made program.

Ten likes it so much a second series has been commissioned and will go to air in 2006.

It will star the same characters except Dina (beautifully played by Saskia Burmeister, whose movie career has taken off, making her unavailable).

Her absence means the loss of the triangular relationship between herself, rival Elizabeth and the innocent Toby (Andre de Vanny) that underpins much of the dramatic action fleshing out the science themes.

While some episodes have revolved around familiar sci-fi scenarios such as bringing dinosaurs back from the dead, others have thrown up a spray that removes friction and a flying ride-on mower.

This week features a new twist on an old theme—Toby builds a time machine, then is horrified when his Nanna (Esmay Melville) is sucked into it then emerges as a precocious 10-year-old schoolgirl.

With the clock ticking, the good children have scant time in which to get the real Nana back in time for her birthday party.

In a series partly designed to show children that anything is possible if they dare to dream, it is also nice to see the use of classic dialogue such as “Why do I get the feeling I’m going to regret this?”

Such phrases are the television equivalent of the pantomime favourite “He’s behind you!” and a great way of signalling to young viewers that something dire lurks ahead.

With the “tween” market about to be saturated with specially targeted feature films and spin-off merchandise, they need all the educating they can get in unpicking visual stories and working out exactly what is going on behind the action.

By Nicole Brady
November 11, 2004
The Age

Wicked Science

Federal Science Minister Rod Kemp launched Ten's new kids' comedy-drama last month, but if that suggests a drearily state-sanctioned brand of science, think again. Instead, the engaging Wicked Science presents a rubber-edged version of physics, chemistry and everything in between, designed to appeal both to brainiacs and their more garden-variety brethren to whom the periodic table is anathema—as evidenced in this week's plot, which involves an "intelligent fabric" judo shirt designed to thwart the school bully.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For those arriving late to the series, four episodes ago good bloke Toby and his nemesis, evil ice queen Elizabeth, were zapped by a ray that turned them into scientific geniuses. Toby (Andre De Vanny) is content to use his new powers to help him pick up girls, but the more ambitious Elizabeth (Bridget Neval, entering into her role with lip-curling conviction) is intent on subordinating the collective student body on her way to world domination.

Enter the judo shirt, which in this week's episode is made by Toby so his mate Russ (Ben Schmideg) can beat the school bully—Elizabeth's ally—via remote-control. Created by prolific children's television producer Jonathan M. Shiff (creator of Horace and Tina and Cybergirl), Wicked Science is aimed directly at the tween market and, although it doesn't display preternatural levels of originality, should nonetheless succeed.

Among the support cast, Brook Sykes plays Garth as a one-dimensional schoolyard bully, but the stand-out is Emma Leonard as Elizabeth's flittery factotum, Verity.

By Larissa Dubecki
July 22, 2004
The Age

Bridget Neval

Bridget Neval: “All three major roles I’ve done so far have been villains so I figure I must create a mentally unstable character in auditions.”

Nice girl finishes ahead

BRIDGET Neval is relieved. In her new role in Neighbours, which airs from the end of August, she plays a nice girl—a far cry from her conniving character on new children’s show Wicked Science.

“I’ve played a couple of really nasty characters now so it’s nice to actually be someone that everyone likes,” 19-year-old Neval says.

“I was at the stage where I was thinking, ‘Am I deluding myself or do I have to play the evil roles forever?’. ”

Not that the Canadian-born actor regrets doing the Wicked Science series. In fact she’s crossing her fingers the show will come back for a second series on Ten.

“The Wicked Science job was just so much fun—I had my own idea of how I wanted to play Elizabeth and it just all worked out.”

“And I consider myself to be extremely lucky in an industry where it’s hard to get work.”

Channel 10 has filmed 28 [26 actually] episodes of the half-hour program Wicked Science—a story about two teenagers who get hit by a magnetic pulse in science class which changes everything.

Elizabeth Hawke (Neval) uses her power for evil, while Toby Johnson (Andre De Vanny) concentrates on creating pheromones to make him irresistible to girls.

“All three major roles I’ve done so far have been villains so I figure I must create a mentally unstable character in auditions,” Neval says.

She had a role in the short film Ken’s Bad Day and was Reine Davidson in the Canadian/Australian co-production Guinevere Jones.

Neval moved to Australia with her Canadian father and Australian mother when she was 13 and admits it was tough going for the first few months.

“It was a bit daunting being the new kid with the accent, and when Aussies have conversations, they throw in plenty of jargon so half the time I didn’t have clue what they were talking about,” Neval says.

“But once people got used to me it wasn’t a problem.”

Her acting ambitions developed when she arrived in Melbourne.

“I was just amazed at how many Australian shows there were on TV and that shows such as Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday were being made in Melbourne,” she says.

“In Canada just about everything on television is produced in America.”

She signed with an agent when she was 16 and has juggled study and acting for the past few years.

As for the future, Neval loves “acting for acting’s sake. If I know one person watches what I’m doing it and enjoys it, I would be happy.”

 Wicked Science, Ten, Friday 4pm

By Madeline Healy
July 01, 2004
The Courier Mail

Smoke, mirrors… and science

Wild stunts such as flying lawnmowers, hungry cloned dinosaurs, incredible shrinking children, invisibility paint, transporting rays and supersonic rollerblades are all grounded in science, asserts the creator of new children’s series Wicked Science. Really.

The series was made with the assistance of the CSIRO, which made sure the stunts underpinning each episode—extraordinary as they may seem—were linked to real scientific endeavour.

Sitting in a meeting room at Melbourne’s Scienceworks Museum, creator Jonathan Shiff can barely contain his enthusiasm. His series has just been launched in front of an audience including a class of enthusiastic primary school children, Federal Arts Minister Rod Kemp and various Channel Ten executives. The crowd was unanimous in its approval.

To the children, the appeal probably stems from the classroom scenario the program is based around. Essentially, Wicked Science is the story of a science class featuring teacher’s pet Elizabeth (Bridget Neval), cool boy Toby (Andre De Vanny), his skateboarding mate Russell (Benjamin Schmideg), and the pretty object of their affections, Dina (Saskia Burmeister). All are aged about 16.

In the first episode, Toby and Elizabeth get zapped by a powerful machine that transforms them into scientific geniuses. Toby uses his powers to try to impress Dina; Elizabeth uses hers to try to undermine her rival Dina while impressing Toby. Over 26 episodes, the struggle between the two results in weird and wonderful experiments and some wild special effects.

“When it’s boiled down, the series is really about Elizabeth and Toby and the chemistry between them,” Shiff says. “Elizabeth wants Toby’s attention and Toby never fully rejects Elizabeth. He’s such a good guy that he kind of feels deep down that Elizabeth can be turned—she’s bright and she’s interesting and attractive, and maybe, just maybe, one day she can turn away from her evil ways.”

Shiff, whose production house Jonathan M. Shiff Productions has to its credit Ocean Girl, Cybergirl, Thunderstone and other children’s works, says the idea for this series was to explore the frontier where science and fantasy meet. He wanted to push the boundaries of possibility. But could it work?

With the series still on the drawing board, he organised a meeting with the CSIRO’s education unit to toss around a few ideas and find out if science was wacky enough for him to build the series around. To his amazement, he found science proved to be far more inventive and free-thinking than he’d dared hope.

“I thought, ‘This will probably be two guys arriving in those white dustcoats’; I expected them to look like that,” Shiff laughs. “Wrong! The guy we’ve dealt with from the CSIRO, Chris Krishna-Pillay, is just wonderful. He sat down and he started to tell me stories about things scientists are doing and amazing things that people are dreaming and then suddenly exploring.”

And so the door opened for Shiff and crew to delve into the sort of wild stunts for which his company is renowned: fast-growing and then shrinking dinosaurs; rays that transport people from one place to another; paint that renders things invisible.

With the science taken care of, the writers turned their attention to the relationships between the teenage protagonists.

The challenge was to take those two elements—relationships and scientific stunts—and make them work together.

Judging by the program’s international sales, it seems Shiff and crew have achieved the goal. As well as screening here and in Germany, where a television station partly financed the series, it conceivably could go to air in 100 countries, and a sequel is already under way. All of which is great news for Melbourne and the many people employed on the show. Local companies such as Digital Pictures Iloura created the Jurassic Park-style dinosaur the children clone in the first episode and other special effects.

Wicked Science screens on Fridays at 4pm on Channel Ten.

By Nicole Brady
July 01, 2004
The Age

Minister to launch Wicked Science

Wicked Science, Network Ten’s new television series from Jonathan M. Shiff Productions will be officially launched by Senator Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport at Melbourne’s Scienceworks Museum, on Tuesday 8 June.

‘Wicked Science teaches young people about the exciting world of science while also entertaining them and I congratulate all those involved with the development of this program,’ Senator Kemp said.

‘The Australian Government is proud to support the development of quality Australian children?s television programs like Wicked Science through funding from the Film Finance Corporation.’

The 26 episode comedy series which stars Andre De Vanny (Toby) and Bridget Neval (Elizabeth) will debut on Network Ten on Friday 2 July and will air weekly at 4pm.

Set in a high school classroom the teenagers from Wicked Science find themselves dealing with not just the usual teen concerns—friendship, self-esteem, romance, music, skateboarding and the everyday frictions of school and home, but something more wacky—science gone mad!

The Wicked Science ATOM Study Guide will also be launched at the event. A unique tool to stimulate interest in scientific themes explored by the show, the guide will be mailed out to 8000 primary schools this week

Already a major export success with international sales including Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, the Middle East, Israel, Latin America and Malaysia the series premiered last month on the popular German cable station, KIKA and proved to be a ratings winner and a hit with German kids.

Award winning Jonathan M. Shiff Productions is one of Australia’s leading producers of quality Australian children’s television. During 2001—2004, the company completed over $50 million dollars of television production including Pirate Islands, Horace and Tina and the AFI winning Cybergirl. The company’s BAFTA award winning Ocean Girl and Thunderstone were major successes both domestically and internationally. This year the company completed production on Scooter: Secret Agent, a $10 million, action comedy, and later this year production on Wicked Science 2 is planned.

Wicked Science Launch:

Tuesday 8 June 2004, 10.00 am—Morning Tea and Screening of first episode Scienceworks, High Voltage Theatre, 2 Booker St, Spotswood Victoria.

Key cast and crew will be in attendance.

Network Ten press release
June 02, 2004

This Is How You Do It… Wicked Science Rocks…

WICKED SCIENCE II scheduled for production following international success of WICKED SCIENCE I 2nd season of 26 half-hours of high quality kids’ drama already in development

ZDF Enterprises (ZDFE) and Jonathan M. Shiff Productions Pty Limited (JMSP) today announced that the 2nd season of the $A 10 million ($6.58 million) high quality kids’ drama series WICKED SCIENCE is already scheduled for production. The season will consist of another 26 half-hours and will be produced by the end of 2005.

Fred Burcksen, VP Distribution and Investments of ZDF Enterprises and Jonathan M. Shiff, Owner and Managing Director of JMSP made the announcement. WICKED SCIENCE tells the story of two teenagers who are mysteriously turned into wizards of science. She wants power—he wants to stop her. And as a cloned T-Rex looms over Sandy Bay School their struggle for supremacy begins. “Season one of WICKED SCIENCE was launched at MIPCOM and has been selling very well. We have already closed contracts with France, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rumania, Sweden, Canada, Belgium and even Malaysia. Deals with Korea, the UK, Lebanon, Israel, Italy and the U.S. are in negotiation. Thus, we are delighted to already be able to offer our clients a second season this quickly,” said Fred Burcksen, VP Distribution and Investments of ZDF Enterprises.

“We are very excited to be starting a second season of Wicked Science which demonstrates not only the strength of the series concept but also what a great partnership we enjoy creatively with all at ZDF and ZDFE,” said Jonathan M. Shiff, Owner and Managing Director of Jonathan M. Shiff Productions.

In addition, ZDF, German pubcaster, ZDFE (ZDF’s commercial arm) and JMSP will collaborate on several further children’s series in the near future. The companies will jointly develop program concepts; the productions will air on ZDF and ZDFE will handle the worldwide distribution of broadcast and merchandising rights. The next project already in production is the 26 half-hour comedy series SCOOTER:SECRET AGENT targeted at an audience between 8 and 12 years. SCOOTER:SECRET AGENT will be launched at MIPCOM 2004.

press release from ZDF
date unknown

ZDF Announces Second Season of Kids' Live-Action Series

Following the successful launch of Wicked Science at MIPCOM 2003, ZDF Enterprises and Australian producers Jonathan M. Shiff Productions (JMSP) are teaming again for a second season of the live-action kids’ series.

Another 26 episodes of the $6.6-million series is expected to be delivered by the end of 2005. The first season has already been licensed into a range of territories, according to Fred Burcksen, ZDF Enterprises’ VP of distribution and investments, including Canada, France and Malaysia. “Deals with Korea, the U.K., Lebanon, Israel, Italy and the U.S. are in negotiation,” he says.

ZDF and JMSP plan to work on new properties together in the future that will air on ZDF and be represented worldwide by ZDF Enterprises. The comedy series Scooter: Secret Agent is already in production. The tween-targeted series will be launched at this year’s MIPCOM.

April 20, 2004
World Screen News

Wicked Science heading to Disney US

A deal is being finalised with Disney US and its other international networks for rights to ZDF Enterprises’ latest live-action teen property, Wicked Science (26x30’), it has been revealed.

Negotiations to roll the US$6.5m show across several Disney networks were said to be “in advanced stages” by a ZDF representative.

The copro between the German pubcaster and Australia’s Jonathan M Shiff Productions is set to air on Germany’s Ki.Ka kids channel in February 2004 and on fta parent ZDF in April.

In Cannes, ZDF Enterprises also generated Wicked Science sales into French-speaking countries, Holland, Belgium, Slovakia, Indonesia, Korea and Hong Kong, but no network details were forthcoming.

Wicked Science tells the story of two teenagers who are mysteriously transformed into opposing wizards of science—she becomes power-mad and he tries to stop her taking over the world. Their battle for global supremacy begins when she unleashes a cloned T-Rex at school.

On the factual front, ZDF Enterprises has also finalised a sale of its Mission X documentary series to Discovery US, while new episodes of crime drama A Case For Two are heading to Rai in Italy and to an unnamed channel in the Czech Republic.

Viasat picked up new episodes of ZDFE’s Rosamunde Pilcher Collection for its Russian network, while M6 France and RTBF Belgium also took titles from the telefilm franchise.

ZDFE also wrapped a coproduction deal with France2, for the upcoming cop miniseries Frank Riva, starring Alain Delon and Sophie von Kessel. A new season of the animated show Laura’s Star will also be coproduced with Italy’s Mondo TV.

In all, the commercial arm of the German pubcaster said most of its Mipcom revenue was generated by clients in France, Italy and the US.

By Lianne Stewart
October 16, 2003
C21 Media 2003

Dinosaurs return in Oz-German copro

Australia’s Jonathan M Shiff Productions and ZDF Enterprises of Germany have wrapped production on a new US$6.5m series: a live-action kids drama series that mixes science and magic.

Wicked Science (26x30’) tells the story of two teenagers who are mysteriously transformed into opposing wizards of science—she becomes power-mad and he tries to stop her taking over the world. Their battle for global supremacy begins when she unleashes a cloned T-Rex at school.

“While based in science, the series is full of adventure and comedy,” said Shiff, owner and md of Jonathan M Shiff Productions. ZDF Enterprises, the commercial arm of public network ZDF, will be shopping the cgi-laden series at Mipcom this October.

The project is the latest coproduction between the Aussie and German partners: they have so far produced the swashbuckling kids drama Pirate Islands (26x30’), sold by Tele Images International, and are developing the series Scooter: Secret Agent. Both of these series also involve Network Ten and Disney Australia.

By Ed Waller
August 20, 2003
C21 Media