Franklin Wilfinger talks with Franchise Films head about the revitalizing of classic characters into a new franchise.
Around the world companies are finding new and innovative ways to revitalize franchises and classic characters. Franchise Entertainment Film Co. & Studios Inc. (FEFCSI) is making a bold move in this area by combining famous characters from its own library with well-known cartoon stars from other companies around the globe.
FEFCSI is part of Shanghai-based conglomerate Wee Ra Lu Enterprises, which has its fingers in Middle East oil, West African diamonds, industrial manufacturing, Myanmar Centricom Wireless, cosmetics and cheap promotional toys. If youve seen Made in China on an action figure from a fast food joint it probably came from a Wee Ra Lu subsidiary.
Due to its success in this field, the company felt it would be natural to move into the entertainment business, where they could invest in, control and exploit intellectual property. This is when it acquired FEFCSI, a rights holding company. The small studio only has four employees in its Beverly Hills, California world headquarters an executive, her assistant, an accountant and a part-time masseur but it outsources work to co-production partners in Bangkok, Mumbai and Toronto.
After several unsuccessful attempts at launching a new 3D studio in Singapore, mainly due to internal arguments over the caning of animators for sneaking pencils into the studios, FEFCSI started acquiring well-known companies. With the purchase of U.S. firm, Imaginary Rabbit Prods., the company gained the rights to the famed Franchise Follies characters, which will serve as the basis of FEFCSIs new creation - Franchise.
FEFCSI ceo/chairman/cco/creative director Mahatma Kane-Jeeves said, Our company hopes that by giving a fresh new look and spin to classic cartoon characters, we can attract a new generation to these properties as well as elicit renewed passion in older fans.
Asked about the heated complaints from fans about changing well-established characters, she said, We want to elicit renewed passion in older fans.
The most famous of FEFCSIs characters would definitely be Sid Squirrelly. The wisecracking rodent has long befuddled his adversaries since his debut in the short, Sid Squirrelly Shows his Nuts. Sids catch phrase of, Whats cookin babe, has become a household term around the world. His W.C. Fields-like antics often aroused the ire of censors around the globe, having been banded at various times in Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Tennessee.
However, much like The Simpsons, Sid has grown into an institution of family values. Recently, Rev. Les Hope of the Institution for Advancing Gods Policies commented, Though bumpy, Sid Squirrellys 60-year marriage to Sally Squirrel has become a model of marital unity. Its a shame they never had a child together.
In his new version, Sid will don the mantel of Samurai Squirrel, a kung-fu weapons expert who leads a band of misfit heroes, funded by The Franchise Corp., as they fight an invasion of alien demons that wield the power of karuta oroka, a deck of mystical ancient playing cards. Sids catch phrase has been updated to Whats cookin, beotch.
Commenting on the changes, Kane-Jeeves, formerly an exec at Bechtel, Tyco and Harvey Ent., said, Sid Squirrelly has been brought into the 21st Century as a hip samurai warrior who can kick butt and still leave his adversaries in the dust with a well-timed quip. Sid in now part of the anime age!
As for his beloved wife, Sally Squirrel, she has been revamped as a beaver named Britney Beaver, the lead singer in an extreme-sporting loving, all-girl pop band, the Animal Girls, along with newly created characters rebellious Lil Lizard and cute and lovable Busty Chicken. She is no longer married to Sid in a move to highlight her girl-power independence. The idea for the change came from a 1949 short titled, Bombshelter Beavers, where Sally dressed up like a female beaver to get a part in a USO show.
After catching that episode on late-night cable, our chief character designer [Rekkin Itall] in Kuala Lumpur felt that Sally worked better as a beaver anyway. It also inspired the formation of the band. With bold new names, I think these free-spirited women will be attractive to girls as well as young boys And because the changes are based on material from the original series, I think fans will embrace the new look.
As well, the formation of the band will allow us to seamlessly weave pop singles into each episode. The first Animal Girls CD will be released in conjunction with the launch of the series at MIP-TV. Songs like Do It Like I Do It, Baby and Beaver Bop will encourage young girls to be more aggressive in attaining their goals.
The Abbott and Costello-like duo Abbie Albatross and Telly the Turtle will also be joining the Franchise Force team. Abbie has been renamed Double AA and recast as a Bond-like secret agent who has been investigating supernatural cases for the FBI with the help of modern forensic science like retinal scanning portable game players that detect if a person has committed any kind of crime in their entire lives and a magic pairs of pliers that can get the truth out of any prisoner. Telly the Turtle has been transformed into a teenage robot named 3-TX, who was created by the leader of the alien demons after his own son was killed in a freak genetic enhancement experiment.
Abbie Albatross is more suave than ever and, with added backstory, Telly the Turtle has more to worry about now than whos moved his favorite log in the pond. Kids will quickly figure out that these characters are new and edgy. After all, Tellys new name has a X in it, commented Kane-Jeeves.
But FEFCSI couldnt forget its other classic characters like little precocious 4-year-old canary Baby Birdy and her wise, doting Grandma Goose. Baby Birdy has been aged up to 11 years old and renamed Tweeny. Grandma Goose has been aged down and renamed G-Baby Gosling.
Kane-Jeeves said, Tweeny will have to balance the issues of a typical middle school student with the added pressure of being part of an international team of heroes given the task of saving the planet from raping and pillaging alien demons. As well, shes the only 4-foot 5-inch canary at her school, which adds another level of drama in that she has a hard time making new friends. I think kids will be able to identify with these same issues Because Grandma Goose was an old bird, we felt that she needed to be age modified to fit the new feel of the series. We felt that an octogenarian waterfowl could not be a realistic member of a superhero team. Shes now a cross between Jack Jack from The Incredibles and Stewie from Family Guy with a little dash of former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno to add a touch of femininity to the character. Additionally, shes changed from wise to wisecracking.
As well, the changes give us a chance to have Tweeny babysit G-Baby, creating an ironic role reversal from the original characters. In this day in age of pop cultural references replacing well-time humor, irony will really work with the 5-35 age demographic.
Like FEFCSI did when it acquired the Funny Follies characters, the firm has obtained other important characters through its purchase of various animation studios. From Uzbekistans Curtain Cartoons, FEFCSI has obtained Melon Collie, a depressed, hard-drinking former animal star, who ended every episode by passing out in the gutter. The character is more popular than Mickey Mouse in Uzbekistan and several other former soviet block countries.
Out of all the characters, Melon Collie remains relatively unchanged. We felt this angst-filled character fit right into the current anime craze displayed in series like Teen Titans, said Kane-Jeeves.
When asked about Melon Collies tendency to cross-dress, she said, Were keeping that part of the character intact. It was an innocent part of the original series, so we feel no one will have a problem with it. And if it inadvertently attracts the new growing alternative lifestyle dollar than we succeed in more areas than one.
Through its acquisition of Hoboken, New Jersey-based CelN Cartoons, FEFCSI will add K-9 the Cranium Crusader to the Franchise series. The character starred in four episodes of the short-lived The Cranium Club series, which aired on PBS during the mid-1980s.
Commenting on the seeming obscurity of the character, Kane-Jeeves said, We found a website on the Internet that is completely dedicated to The Cranium Club and Super President. Its this kind of cult following that can build an unexpected foundation for a relaunched series.
K-9 was a talking bloodhound who helped brother and sister Timmy and Tonya Record solve a mystery for four non-consecutive weeks, which included hot topics of the time like where do missing socks go in the dryer, why did my mom get mad when Timmy and I played doctor, can I catch AIDS from dust and why do we need New Coke?
The Cranium Club was a progressive show even in its time, dealing with sensitive topics. Even though, we will not be telling kids to dust thoroughly after having an HIV-positive person over for cookies and milk, we hope the new K-9 will add edutainment value to the Franchise series, said Kane-Jeeves. In addition, the New Coke episode was a trailblazing example of strategic integrated advertising within the content of the show, which will be a major part of the new franchise. We have already struck deals with Kelloggs Cookie Crisp cereal, Wal-Mart and Smith and Wesson, which will soon launch a line of official Franchise Force action 9mm 14 shot auto-pistols.
In revamping K-9, FEFCSI has added a retired K-9s hip son, 65 Sent to the Franchise team. He is a younger hip-hop version of his father, who has street smarts instead of book smarts. Inspired by the hip-hop flavor of 65 Sent, Timmy and Tonya Record have been renamed Timmy and Tonya Turntable and cast as the central characters of the show. They will find themselves inadvertently involved in the adventures of the superheroes and ultimately learn a lesson at the end of each half hour.
The message will be confirmed with a Bible verse at the close of each episode. This will be replaced with writings from the Koran and Torah for various foreign markets. We still havent chosen the religious texts that will be used in India and countries with large Buddhist populations. Were currently in talks with several prominent religious organizations and spiritual licensing consultants to work out the specifics.
Kane explains where the focus of the franchise originated from, We couldnt decide whether to make the series for girls or boys so thats when we came up with the idea of casting Timmy and Tonya as the leads with 65 Sent as their D O double G. Thats slang for dogg or partner. Also by making 65 Sent K-9s son, we can have special guest appearances by the older K-9 for those retro throwback episodes, said Kane-Jeeves.
If you dont think one Franchise is a bold enough move, FEFCSI is offering the franchise as a programming block of four series, a TV special and an IMAX 3D film. The core series will be Franchise Follies modeled after Tiny Toon Adventures. The more action oriented show is titled 2F Unlimited. The more comedy centered show is titled The Uncanny and Ironic Misadventures of Timmy and Tonya with the Franchise Force. The action/comedy series is titled The Franchise. In addition, FEFCSI will offer an alternative adult version of 2F Unlimited titled 2F Unlimited 2 the X-treme, which will feature additional graphic violence and tentacle sex.
All the shows will be animated in Flash with some scenes in 3D to appeal to adult viewers and continue the recent trend of eliminating opportunities for skilled 2D workers.
We hope that within six months we will be able to spinoff various characters into their own series, which will have a cast of new exciting characters for which we can spinoff at a later date, said Kane-Jeeves. Franchise will serve as our franchise creating machine.
Franklin Wilfinger is a bogus name for AWN managing editor Rick DeMott, who wishes everyone a happy April Fools Day and thanks iStockPhoto.com for the use of the photographs used in this article.