ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.02 - MAY 2000

The Hottest Family in Animated TV:
Betty and Mickey Paraskevas

by Raymond Palma

How many people in this world are fortunate enough to have their works, whether it is a book, drawings, music or some other creative product shown on TV? How about being lucky enough to have it shown on the big screen across the country in theaters? Few people have had the privilege to do both; Stephen King, John Grisham, Gary Marshall and Neil Simon are among those. Having strong Hollywood ties seems to be a prerequisite. But on Saturday, October 9, 1999 two locals from Southampton, New York bucked the system -- Mickey and Betty Paraskevas, a son and mother creative team. He draws. She writes. They became a part of this elite group when their cartoon, The Kids from Room 402, premiered on the Fox Family Channel. Plus, this is just the first of three cartoons coming to TV. Two other cartoons of theirs are going straight to home video, with yet another cartoon going to the big screen.

Fox Family’s The Kids of Room 402 is based on the book by Betty and Mickey Paraskevas. © Storyopolis.

First Stop
The Kids from Room 402 is based on their book, Gracie Graves and the Kids from Room 402, published by Harcourt Brace and Company in Manhattan. The cartoon "focuses on a classroom full of 10 year-old eccentrics, where the smallest event is exaggerated to its most comical conclusion," says Fox Family Channel’s publicity manager Marlene Zakovich. The kids’ teacher, Miss Graves "is a never-ending foundation of knowledge and compassion," explains Zakovich.

"The great thing about the show is that there really is no main character," says Mickey the creator.

Mickey Paraskevas (middle) with Fox Family executive Brian Casentini and The Kids from Room 402 executive producer Fonda Snyder. © Storyopolis.

The cartoon is being created by the Cine-Groupe Animation house based in Montreal, Canada. After pre-production in Canada, 75 people in Chile complete the animation, a trend in the animation world where most of today’s animated cartoons are being penciled overseas because of the cost-effective labor. These drawings are then sent back to Cine-Groupe, where Wade Konowalchuk, the series director, has them scanned into an SGI computer system for digital ink and paint purposes. The voice tracks are being recorded and produced in LA, and then combined with the picture in post-production in Canada. In post, each 22-minute show takes five weeks, working eight hours a day to complete.

Cine-Groupe Animation does both feature and TV animation. Their feature film, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2, the sequel to the popular Heavy Metal Movie, is among the animation house’s latest endeavors. They also currently have another cartoon on Fox, Bad Dog. "They did a good job," says Mickey. Storyopolis Productions in LA is producing.

Lesa Kite and Cindy Begel, a comedy writing team that has written for sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley and Head of the Class, are writing the series episodes. Mickey and Betty approve the episodes and give comments before the final drafts are completed. Betty works in "our playroom," referring to their Art Gallery on Main Street in Westhampton Beach that they have occupied for six years. "When I’m home, I see all the things around the house that need to be done," she says about the house she shares with Mickey and her husband Paul in Southampton. "Mom enjoys working here and so do I," agrees Mickey. They usually stop by the gallery in the evenings where they can make their numerous calls to LA.

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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