EXCLUSIVE: Dance Monsters and Sexy Beasts producer Lime Pictures and stablemate Lion TV have unveiled grand international unscripted ambitions and hired former Shine development boss Jonathan Meenagh to help with the push.
Lime, which also produces The Only Way Is Essex, Hollyoaks and Netflix kids drama Free Rein, is in the latter stages of production on Netflix format Dance Monsters and MDs Kate Little and Claire Poyser revealed to Deadline they are in the works on two further formats scheduled to air on US networks next year, as the indie takes advantage of the UK unscripted boom.
“The UK is the biggest exporter of formats globally and for a while now we’ve underperformed in terms of making the most of our brilliant format development teams,” said Poyser. “The real focus now is on the global audience.”
Airing next year, Dance Monsters, which comes from Sarah Tyekiff’s unscripted department, is the latest in a line of mystery dance formats that has seen the likes of The Masked Singer achieve global success. It is described by Netflix as a “large-scale dancing competition with a monster twist”, with competitors transformed into lovable and fantastical dance monsters that come to life in front of an expert panel of judges.
The commission was revealed around the time Lime’s All3Media-owned stablemate Lion’s Sexy Beasts reboot dropped on Netflix, a show that originally aired on BBC3 before being picked up by the streamer several years later.
Both Lime and Lion’s central UK hubs have been working more closely with their US offices over the past few months on the push, according to the Lime MDs, who spoke to Deadline a few days before we exclusively revealed that Lion US had promoted Allison Corn and Stan Hsue to Co-Presidents of the Cash Cab firm. Lime US EVP Unscripted Development Ben Crompton drives Lime’s operation in the States.
Jonathan Meenagh hire
In the UK, Lion has hired former Shine head of development Meenagh from All3Media’s Objective Media Group to forge “the next generation of big popular factual formats,” with a remit to look Stateside.
Meenagh, whose Shine credits included Channel 4 double The Island with Bear Grylls and Hunted, along with Sky 1’s The Heist, will link up with Lion creative director Emma Morgan, having worked with her at Tinopolis-owned Robot Wars producer Mentorn Media.
The Objective development label set up by Meenagh in 2019 to co-produce unscripted shows with stablemates Betty, Second Star, Panda and Hitchhiker has now been closed, an Objective spokeswoman confirmed to Deadline.
Little said Meenagh’s hire is a “key part of the Lion growth strategy,” ensuring a “pipeline of formats” flowing directly to the US and beyond.
“We are modernizing the Lion format slate, sprinkling that special bit of pixie dust that will make it crisper, fresher and more imaginative,” she added.
Lion co-founder Nick Catliff is stepping down after almost 25 years at the helm and his responsibilities have passed to chief creative officer and fellow founder Richard Bradley, who will continue overseeing the history and specialist factual slate that has included such hits as CBBC’s Horrible Histories.
On the scripted side, Lime is leveraging its experience in the young adults and kids space, having produced three seasons of Netflix drama Free Rein and recently moved into animation, unveiling a tie-up earlier this month with Moominvalley producer Gutsy Animations.
“The drama market is so busy with some brilliant companies out there and we’re trying to focus on playing to our strengths,” said Little. “We’re exploring the [young adult] space but it’s a hard nut to crack.”
Little said Lime is in conversation with BBC drama boss Piers Wengers’ drama department over a range of younger-skewing scripted ideas.
Having recently cancelled Holby City after 23 seasons, the UK public broadcaster is to air two new continuing dramas to be produced outside of London, one of which will be a reboot of teenage drama Waterloo Road from former Sky drama chief Cameron Roach’s new indie Rope Ladder Fiction and Wall to Wall Media.