Adapted from the popular Instagram comics by Belgian cartoonist Laura Janssens, “Hamsters” was one of several TV show projects aimed at young adults pitched at this year’s edition of Cartoon Forum in Toulouse.
The 2D series tells the story of Philippe and Giovanni, a couple of gay hamsters who look at and comment on the world from their cage. Born during lockdown, the characters were inspired by the Dutch word “hamsteren” which means hoarding, as people started panic buying household essentials when the pandemic broke out.
The pair have very different personalities which make them complementary: While Giovanni wants to live an Insta-perfect life and is very concerned about what people think, Philippe is easy-going, enjoys eating, and is very supportive of his partner.
“The queerness of the characters is not that important,” producer Stef Wouters told Variety. “They’re just an ordinary couple facing issues most millennials can identify with.”
Wouters was so impressed with the hamsters’ Instagram success that he contacted Janssens – best known under her cartoonist’s name Niet Nu Laura– to ask whether she would be interested in making a TV series.
A Cartoon Forum veteran (“Elvis and Benny,” 2015; “Junkyard Paradise,” 2019), Wouters specializes in scouting young talent with his outfit Haptic, and coached her to direct and co-write her own films. All thirteen five-minute episodes have now been written and the pilot episode is near completion.
What seduced him about this project was the gentleness of the characters, he said. “Like all our shows, it is kind of absurd, but it’s sweet, fresh and different to our other series, and that female approach is something new.”
Asked why the world needs “Hamsters” right now, Janssens told Variety: “While we’re aiming at a (young) adult audience, and while we dig into some serious topics like body image and mental health, I think there is some element of innocent sweetness to it, which can offer comfort and lots of smiles to our audience, particularly in these tumultuous times.”
Janssens is also the author of a dozen comic books on topics ranging from migration to sexual identity and, of course, hamsters Giovanni and Philippe.