Thursday, 17 November 2011

When Animation Goes AWOL: Orsum Island (2005/08)

Another blog post about plans that were stopped before they could begin or releases that never came to fruition:

ORSUM ISLAND (2005/08)
Co-written with Ryan Healy =)

During his lifetime, David Mitton had made a firm name of himself as Director, Producer and Writer for television – more famous for his 20 years of work on Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (from 1984 till 2003) and for creating Thomas's “sister” series, TUGS (1989).

David left Thomas in 2003, following the HIT Entertainment takeover, and later began working with long-term business associates David Lane, who he had known from his days working with Gerry Anderson on the set of Thunderbirds (David Lane directed a number of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and other Century 21st productions – as well as working on feature films such as Superman and Muppet Treasure Island), and mutual friend and colleague, Michelle Fabian-Jones. Together, they set up Pineapple Squared Entertainment – their first major series being Adventures On Orsum Island, based on books featuring the adventures of Monty Dragon.

Orsum Island was intended for older children, in terms of more dramatic storylines and sharper humour. The series would follow the adventures of a boy traveller called Kodi and his struggle of survival with his friends Divine Flower, Monty the Dragon and Fidget the Chameleon, as the evil Zarkan tried to rid the island of all life using his terrifying army of The Viners, led by Malus.

Its original website had everything for its first planned series – character sheets, episode outlines, etc – all the perfect ingredients of filling a gap in the market for the 7 to 11 age group demographic, which is felt to be sorely overlooked by broadcasters and producers in the UK, who are currently more geared toward the preschool market. The team also intended for Orsum to be ground-breaking in terms of visual and technical innovations, with live action sets and 3D / CGI characters and effects.

Production on Orsum Island was ongoing between 2006 and early 2008. However, whilst the series was intended to begin with a 13-episode first series run when deals with broadcasters had been agreed and finalised, only four episodes were produced when production came to an abrupt halt. David Mitton, who had been a major financier of the project, suddenly died of a heart attack in May 2008.

Very short-lived - the logo for Pineapple Squared Entertainment Ltd
All three partners in Pineapple Squared Entertainment were passionately committed to the project, but David felt it a great opportunity to pass on his 40 years of experience in the film industry to a new generation. He was very enthusiastic about Orsum Island and the future for his new company and team. Production on Orsum Island never started up again following David’s passing, and Pineapple Squared folded – with Michelle Fabian-Jones and David Lane abandoning the company and setting up a brand new venture to carry on the legacy that the previous project had left behind. 
As of now, it seems very unlikely that the episodes will actually air – however, clips from the series have been scattered across the internet to view from. A full episode is currently available on YouTube to watch (See Below). Interestingly enough, David wasn’t the only member of the Thomas crew to feature on the Orsum team – Robert Gauld Galliers, who had been Art Director on Thomas from Series 1 to 7 also came on board to help with the project, and Martin T. Sherman, who would go on to provide the USA voice of Thomas from 2009, was also part of the voice cast for the series!

In a strange way, whenever I hear a company bearing the word “pineapple” today, I don't think of that loopy Louie Spence and his Pineapple Dance Studios – I just think of one of my childhood heroes and what could have been truly “orsum” to watch...


  1. The story that Orsum Island stopped production because of David Mittons death is is a convenient re-arranging of the past. The production was doomed long before Mitton's death, thanks to incompetence, mismanagement and inexperience. Half way through production when 12 episodes should have been finished only one episode had been close to finished. The series also had only been sold to Al Jazeera and they were going over budget and running out of money, eventually declaring bancrupcy which meant most of the people working on the show never saw any pay for one and in some cases several months. Michelle Fabian Jones and David Lane have managed to set up business again, but it would have been nice if they paid back to money to all the people they owed first.

  2. Crooks, they cleaned Mitton out of his money, continued to tell the staff everything was ok when in fact the project was going bust. And they made sure they got paid whilst telling the staff that the reason they hadn't been paid was because they were changing bank accounts. They ripped everybody off.