British Columbia

Victoria author's children's book in development as animated series

Chris Tougas’ book about ninja children being looked after by a hapless dojo master has been picked up by a Vancouver-based animation studio for development.

Chris Tougas’ book Dojo Daycare has been picked up by Vancouver-based animation studio for development

Victoria author and illustrator Chris Tougas' book 'Dojo Daycare' tells the story of ninja children who are looked after by an overwhelmed dojo master. (Chris Tougas)

In a way Victoria author and illustrator Chris Tougas' career has come full circle — much like a somersault performed by one of the rambunctious ninja characters in his bestselling children's book Dojo Daycare.

That's because Tougas has found his way back into the world of animation, 16 years after leaving California where he studied the art form and did some work in that field.

Tougas' book Dojo Daycare has been picked up by Vancouver-based animation studio Rainmaker Entertainment for development — a process known in the film industry as an "option".

'Bona fide, real-life ninja prodigies'

Tougas said he and Rainmaker Entertainment have developed a detailed treatment or "show bible" and have recently received multiple offers from both broadcasters and co-production partners.

Tougas' book 'Dojo Daycare' has been picked up by Vancouver-based animation studio Rainmaker Entertainment for development. (Chris Tougas)

Dojo Daycare tells the story of ninja children who are looked after by an overwhelmed dojo master.

"I started off [the book] by saying, 'Have you ever wondered what ninja moms and dads do when they go to work? What do they do with their kids?" said Tougas.

"They drop them off at daycare of course, Dojo Daycare.

"So they are actually bona fide, real-life ninja prodigies, they're ninjas that basically backflipped into this world and this poor hapless master, he's got his work cut out for him."

Having the book possibly turn into an animated series is rather ironic for Tougas, who studied the medium at the California Institute of the Arts.

But he himself hadn't never intended to study animation — he ended up following the encouragement of his mother and father, who was also an artist.

'Mechanimals' is another picture book by Tougas. He said he often comes up with ideas for books (like 'Mechanimals' or 'Dojo Daycare') through wordplay. (Chris Tougas)

"I studied fine art at first and my folks, who were fairly pragmatic and always wondered how I was going to make a living as an artist — because my dad knew that and the struggles that come with it very well — they found an animation school for me," he said.

Studied animation at CalArts

A college in California that had a reputation for parties sounded appealing to the then 21-year-old, so he went.

After graduating, Tougas worked in the publishing and consumer-product side of Disney, and also worked as a freelancer, pitching character designs and treatments to studios in Los Angeles.

He said he didn't continue in the animation world because his passion was always for children's books.

"I remember when I graduated from high school, I thought, 'What the heck am I going to do?' The only thing I really knew how to do was draw. I had to find a home for the drawing and be my own boss, and writing my own stories was a natural evolution," said Tougas.

"I'd been a compulsive doodler in school, and it took me some years later for the writing to catch up, [but] actually that's my favourite part of the process right now."

Chris Tougas went to college to study animation, but always wanted to write and illustrate picture books. (Chris Tougas)

Tougas said he is excited to see what becomes of his Dojo Daycare as, "the core message behind dojo daycare is honour, kindness and respect, so there's no fighting in the series," he said.

"They scuffle a little bit because they're ninjas, but ultimately it's about treating people with kindness and self control, which is really the origin of martial arts."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest


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