Koekedoortjie, the diminutive spin-off of the baking show Koekedoor featuring Afrikaans kids, kicks off this evening on kykNET (DStv 144) at 20:00 themed around a winter wonderland dreamscape and filled with baking flour, tears and triumphs, real TV production snow that's the same type used by Game of Thrones - and even a perched, real-life white owl.
Koekedoortjie as a kids baking show spin-off follows on from last year's brilliant first season of Kokkedoortjie that was a kids version of the Afrikaans food competition show Kokkedoor, all produced by Homebrew Films.
In Koekedoortjie, focused on baking, 10 Afrikaans children from across South Africa between the ages of 10 and 13 will compete in the magical kitchen studio - with a parent looking on - to see who's the country's top junior baker.
The presenters and judges are Mari-Louis Guy and Nic van Wyk - the only two of the show's crew of about 65 people who are seen on screen. "What the kids manage to accomplish is amazing," said Nic van Wyk.
The 10 contestants are Anmi Esbach (11) from Hartebeespoort, Wicus van Deventer (11) from Prieska, Nix Korf (12) from Centurion, Danika Botes (12) from Krugersdorp, Carla Botha (13) from De Hoop, Tanique van der Walt (10) from Hermanus and Anica Skeepers (11) from Centurion; as well as Elsje-Mari Louw (12) from Paarl, Evan Maritz (13) from Pretoria en Minay Vermaak (11) from Pretoria.
The multitude of entries were narrowed down to 300 shortlisted applications who all underwent baking auditions, and from there the 10 kids were chosen.
Koekedoortjie was filmed in the same studio at Atlantic Studios in Milnerton, Cape Town, where kykNET series like Suidooster and Kwêla are filmed. The baking show has 13 half hour episodes, with Sanet Olivier who is once again the director and who was also behind the lens for Koekedoortjie's sister shows.
Editing started in February - a gargantuan task given that seven cameras filmed 60 hours of footage per episode that needed to be edited down to just 22 minutes per episode.
"Koekedoortjie is different from other kids baking shows," said Paul Venter, executive producer, when TVwithThinus last month went on a on-set guided tour of Koekedoortjie.
"One of the dimensions we add are the parents. They have 10 minutes to discuss, and then the parent has to come and sit on the sidelines and watch. Then when the kids have to continue on their own, it's like a soap to see how the mom tries to get the child's attention. And from around the 3 or 4th episode the kids don't want the parents there and says things like 'My mom is irritating me, I just want to bake!"
"We also can't stop filming, you can't start over - if someone forgets to switch on the oven it's sad. You can't start over because it's a competition, there are big prizes up for grabs."
For the set design and look and feel of Koekedoortjie this season the producers went for a "dreamy" winter theme - complete with a snow machine and real TV production snow that's the same version as used by the fantasy drama series Game of Thrones - to create somewhat of a "winter wonderland".
"The kids arrive through snow - as if it's midnight - and they enter the kitchen and get a make-a-wish dandelion and that's the thing they have to hand back if they fall out. Of course the big wish is the dream prize," said Paul Venter.
"The other thing is that all of the kids are under 16, so the camera can only roll for 6 hours per day. They're only allowed to 'work' for 6 hours per day."
"It limits us somewhat in terms of the various baking challenges, since when you start doing bigger challenges - bakes must expand, cakes must cool down - we had to select challenges where you're baking time never exceeds an hour and a half, except for the final that went a bit longer. The laws regarding minors working in TV are extremely strict," said Paul Venter.
Asked about the owl, Sanet Olivier says it took "a tremendous amount of patience. For just the opening theme and to get the owl in there took a whole day of shooting".
"In Kokkedoortjie we had the chick, and in children's tales there's often the wise old owl looking at everything, so a subtle change. And the snow is like icing sugar. The snow isn't to make it a 'cold world', it's to help create a feeling that you're entering a baking world."
"You get snow that's specifically just for close-ups, it glistens; then you get snow that's for far-off, you can play a bit more by given it different textures; and a 'wetter' one; the one where you slide. In the evenings after filming the challenges, we shot the pretties. So then we filmed the title sequence - at the end of the baking day when the kids are gone," said Sanet Olivier.
"We literally had 5 people standing on little ladders on the sides of a door with the snow machine blowing. And it had to have a natural look - it had to fall from the middle top downwards. It took a while to figure out, but we did."