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    "The Gaudins" is an idea of Abilbo, the Catalan production company which is working on the project with Phil Roman, producer of "The Simpsons." One hundred channels around the world want to carry the series.

    BARCELONA. - From heavenly altars to cathodes. While an ecclesiastical commission will soon begin assessing the possible beatification of Antoni Gaudí, television will extend the popularity of the Catalonian modernist architect par excellence throughout the world by Christmas. Abilbo, a Barcelona production company, allied with Phil Roman, producer of hits like "The Simpsons" and "Garfield," has carried the world of Gaudí to animated cartoons. The result is "The Gaudins," a colorful fantasy series set in the Pedrera, in which three nice little inhabitants of the unique roof of Casa Milŕ face a wicked, clumsy witch who lives in the mountains of Montserrat.

    Since a pilot Christmas special episode was presented at the most important shows in the world, in Cannes, Singapore and New Orleans, one hundred television channels have already expressed interest in the series, including BBC, Canal + France and two of the large American networks, which are currently disputing broadcast rights. Given this initial success, the producers have gone to work on the scripts of the 26 initial episodes that will tell about the adventures of the inhabitants of the surprising world of Gaudí. They will be finished by next year.

    The idea came from the producers of Abilbo, regular collaborators on projects of the Caixa de Catalunya Cultural Centre. Pep Sant, director of Abilbo, thought of the series as a vehicle for spreading knowledge about Gaudí and his work, which, "since it takes place in Barcelona and Catalonia, disseminates some of our cultural values, our symbols and traditions, without falling into the 'barretina' trap," joked Sant (barretinas are the traditional Catalonian caps still worn during many popular festivals). "In fact, the mountain isn't called Montserrat in the series, and the people who build human towers are not called 'castellers.'

    First we want them to become familiar with it, to take it in. When it has become an interesting value for them, then we can tell them that it's here, and what it is," he explained.

    In an initiative with few precedents, the producers have decided to work with an "advisory committee," which will examine the values transmitted by the series. The committee will include the Department of Education of the University of Barcelona; Ramon Folch and the Territori i Paissatge Foundation will to examine environmental aspects; and Daniel Giralt-Miracle will oversee the treatment of the life and works of Antoni Gaudí. "We don't want to promote violence or male chauvinism," summarized Sant. "In addition, the characters will be complex, not simple caricatures of good guys and bad guys. There will be adventures, the situations will be funny, but the dialogues will be very well written, so children can have fun but adults can see it again, as with 'The Simpsons.' In fact, the target age group is 6-100 years old," he added with a smile. Since the product is being made for an international audience, there had to be give-and-take between the Catalonian producer and Roman, the American partner, in regard to characters and their adventures, so they can be assimilated by any culture. Although the three main characters were going to be modeled on the famous chimneys of the Casa Milá, the final result is quite different, in shape and color: they now look like colorful little elves. "The series will be quite syncretic," stated Sant. The Christmas special will include Santa Claus, the Three Kings, and Christmas trees, as well as the star. There will be a great cultural diversity."

    Designer Cristina Moreno has been responsible for giving life to the characters of the series. "The idea is that Gaudí took nature and made it into structures. We're turning this around: we're taking the structures and returning them to nature," she explained. Some of the stories' main characters include: the stars, two boys and a girl; Katchia, the wannabe witch, who is wicked, but not too much, and very clumsy; her servant Marlin, a sort of Groucho Marx; the bees that steal ideas, the abdomen of which is a light bulb; and the unforgettable "ha-ha" dragons, which make their victims "die laughing." Many of their shapes are obviously inspired by Gaudí; this also applies to the highly organic backgrounds The animation, on the other hand, is done in the United States. For Sant, this is not the optimal arrangement of "Les tres bessones" ("The Three Twins"), which are integrally done here, but it's alright for once for "us to be the creators here, the intellectuals, and for them to be the grinders over there."

    Justo Barranco
    La Vanguardia
    Sunday, March 12, 2000

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