This is a TV pilot treatment I was assigned to write for an online creative writing class. I wrote this with the idea that it would be used for an animated cartoon targeted at girls under age 12, though given the violence I think an older target audience would be more appropriate. For some reason I’m not quite satisfied with the outline I wrote for the hypothetical pilot episode, but I am still fond of certain character and setting concepts behind the project. If this doesn’t actually become a TV series, I might use it for prose stories or some other project.
IKABA THE JUNGLE QUEEN
TV Pilot Treatment
Ikaba, the young Queen of Mayombi, has to protect her jungle kingdom’s citizens from perils such as dinosaurs and other wild beasts, bandits and pirates, and renegade cults; all while managing the responsibilities of her office and her rambunctious little brother.
IKABA – The protagonist of the show. She is the twentysomething Queen of Mayombi, having inherited the throne from her departed mother Mwala. She venerates her mother’s spirit as a role model and a source of guidance for her burdensome responsibility; she wants more than anything else to follow in her mother’s footsteps as Queen. On the other hand, she finds the day-to-day running of the kingdom and its bureaucracy to be tedious at best, and she would much rather hunt or go on adventures in the jungle with her younger brother Kengo.
KENGO – He is Ikaba’s younger, teenaged brother who is studying to become the next military advisor and highest general in Mayombi. He has absorbed enough information from his studies to develop a tactician’s cunning, but his adolescent restlessness and craving for adventure drag him and his big sister into trouble on a regular basis. On the other hand, he has a passionate, idealistic heart under his rambunctiousness and shares with Ikaba a ferocious opposition to injustice.
BOMNA – This plump, middle-aged woman is Ikaba’s majordomo, or second-in-command. But in practice she functions as an advisor and almost a substitute parental figure for the Queen and her brother, constantly lecturing her on her responsibilities and holding her accountable for the day-to-day running of Mayombi. Though she comes across as nagging and pompous, Bomna has a genuine desire to steer the young Queen to the right track and can be affectionate and even huggable when she calms down.
LUKO – A gaunt and bald older man who is the High Priest of the Sun, the almighty creator and supreme deity in the Mayombian pantheon. He is a scholarly gentleman with a broad and extensive education, with his strongest passions being the natural sciences and medicine (he has experience as a healer as well as a priest). He has a cheerful disposition and a mischievous love for pranks and jokes, much to the irritation of his peers (especially Bomna), but his encyclopedia’s knowledge of science, history, and religion make him a valuable source of information for Ikaba’s leadership. Plus, even Queens need something to lighten the mood every now and then.
NYIRO – A potential major antagonist in the series. She descends from a former dynasty that Ikaba’s grandfather, King Goma, dethroned and exiled for tyrannically forcing a monotheistic and violently imperialistic religion onto the people of Mayombi. Nyiro now runs this cult, the Sunlit Defenders, somewhere in the jungle beyond Mayombi’s frontier, and she has vowed above all else to seize the kingdom back and “make it great again”. Despite her villainous agenda, she is a charismatic and polite young lady who believes she’s ultimately doing the right thing and has a talent for manipulating others’ sympathy.
CHIVUNGE – Another potential antagonist, who shows up in the pilot episode. He comes from a poor rural background and out of desperation has fallen into a poaching career, cutting off the horns of Torosaurus (relatives of Triceratops) for cowrie shells on the black market. A harsh upbringing and the criminal underworld’s cutthroat environment has hardened him into a cynical and ruthless old man, but since he is in large part a victim of poor circumstances, he could be considered a tragic character as far as villains go.
BAO-YAN – He is a young prince of Zhongchou, a Chinese-styled empire across the ocean from Mayombi. His mother, Empress Pei-Wang-Xi, indulged his every whim when he was growing up, so he has developed this inflated, egoistical sense of entitlement to all his desires. When he hits on Ikaba on a diplomatic in the pilot episode, he does not take the rejection he receives well at all and becomes an antagonist.
MAYOMBI – The fantasy jungle kingdom that is the show’s main setting. All its people (including the main characters of course) are dark-skinned with tightly curled black hair and Central African facial features, and their names draw from a mixture of Central African (particularly Bantu-speaking) influences. Technologically they are at least on par with historical African civilizations like Egypt, Kush, or Ethiopia; they have agriculture, ironworking, a written hieroglyphic script, and monumental stone architecture as represented by walled cities and royal necropolises. Their royal capital is the grand walled city of Mbanza Mayombi (“Mbanza” meaning “city” in the Kikongo language of Central Africa).
THE JUNGLE – This is the vast rainforest-swathed basin that spreads around Mayombi, where Ikaba and Kengo go hunting as a hobby. It is a dark and overgrown environment, dominated by colossal trees with twisting boughs dressed in vines, moss, and epiphytic plants. All this plant life supports an innumerable and colorful diversity of creatures small and great, including dinosaurs, pterosaurs, oversized snakes and crocodiles, and various primates (among many, many others of course). Strewn within the jungle are the ruins of earlier civilizations related to Mayombi, and the Mayombian people still revere them as hallowed abodes for their ancestors’ rest.
ZHONGCHOU – An empire across the ocean west of Mayombi that has a medieval Chinese aesthetic. They are the most technologically advanced civilization in the world, as they have giant steam-powered treasure ships and the unique invention of gunpowder. They are ruled by the Empress Pei-Wang-Xi, Bao-Yan’s indulgent mother, and look down on all foreigners as primitive barbarians.
PILOT EPISODE OUTLINE
TEASER OPENING – Ikaba and Kengo are hunting in the jungle together, chasing a flock of small dinosaurs for their evening meal. Their hunt gets interrupted by a rogue Torosaurus that charges them, almost trampling Kengo before Ikaba swings to his rescue. Not only are both of them scared for their lives, but Ikaba knows she’ll be late for a meeting with Bomna.
ACT ONE – After the incident with the Torosaurus, Ikaba returns home in Mbanza Mayombi to a very flustered Bomna. The majordomo scolds her for neglecting her regal responsibilities, inducing severe guilt and shame on Ikaba’s part by saying “What would your mother have thought?” Ikaba promises her that she won’t not to leave the city until after all addressing all her royal duties for the day.
Having grounded herself so, Ikaba gives an audience to Prince Bao-Yan from Zhongchou, a Chinese-flavored empire across the ocean. The prince promises to send Mayombi giant ships full of his empire’s technology (e.g. gunpowder!) on the condition that she open trade relations…accept his hand in marriage, of course. Turned off by Bao-Yan’s smug attitude and self-serving diplomacy, Ikaba rejects his offer and has him dismissed, after which he offers an ominous threat: “Deny it all you want, but you will regret casting away a prince of Zhongchou!”
That evening in the countryside outside the city, a rural village gets attacked by a rogue Torosaurus herd, led by the one Ikaba and Kengo had escaped earlier. The last shot in this act shows a burnt gunpowder wound in its hip, suggesting an explanation for its misanthropic violence.
ACT TWO – The following morning, Kengo asks Ikaba if she’ll go down with him to investigate the Torosaurus stampede, aware it might have some connection with their earlier misadventure. Ikaba tells him that she is too busy and wants him to stay in the city, but he grows restless and sneaks out to the village anyway. Meanwhile Ikaba asks her High Priest Luko what could have provoked the stampede, and he suggests they might have been previously antagonized by humans.
After interviewing the villagers about what they witnessed, Kengo tracks the Torosaurus herd into the jungle where he finds one of their kind rotting dead. Both of its horns cut off and a hunk of its flesh strangely blasted away, leaving behind a charred wound. He is ambushed by a territorial pack of raptors that chases him into the clutches of Chivunge’s poachers. Notably the poachers are armed with the very Zhougchounese muskets used to kill that Torosaurus. Chivunge decides to use Kengo to ransom Ikaba’s treasury, but then Bao-Yan comes in and proposes they bait Ikaba herself into their trap so he can have the exotic bride he desires.
ACT THREE – Horrified by the news of her brother’s abduction, Ikaba wants to run out and rescue him. But Bomna objects to her throwing herself into more danger like her brother and pleads her to let Bao-Yan marry her instead. Ikaba hatches an alternative plan: pretend to humor Bao-Yan’s request so that he will let Kengo go, and then organize an ambush during their wedding and arrest both Bao-Yan and Chivunge.
Once Kengo is released and his sister prepares for the “wedding”, he sneaks into the jungle and tries to lure the Torosaurus herd into running the poachers’ camp. This plan backfires when a Tyrannosaurus rex bursts into the scene and distracts the herd while Chivunge catches him and drags him back to camp. Since the poachers and Bao-Yan have figured out what Ikaba and her brother were up to, the wedding is canceled and Bao-Yan decided to kill her with his own sword instead.
ACT FOUR – Ikaba evades Bao-Yan’s attack, and she and Kengo fight and leap their way to the camp’s gunpowder cache to blow it up. The T. rex, attracted by the commotion, charges into camp and terrorizes what remains of the poachers, ultimately killing and eating Bao-Yan. Our heroes escape and make peace with the Torosaurus herd, with Ikaba administrating Luko’s medicine to their leader’s wound. And so the episode ends on a happy note, though Chivunge is still out there and vengeful.