ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.05 - AUGUST 2000

Adventurous Action Abounds on Stanlee.net
(continued from page 1)

And Just What Is This Super Hero Stuff?
Showcasing Lee's signature style -- encompassing irresistible elements of conflict, suspense, heroism and humanity -- the studio's first two Flash produced series 7th Portal and Accuser launched in February and May of this year, respectively. The response has been overwhelming as both series (with new Webisodes biweekly) attract millions of devoted fans each month. And Hollywood is taking quick notice, as well. Working in "Internet time," it was mere weeks after its Net debut that 7th Portal was marked by industry heavyweight Mark Canton for a big-budget theatrical co-production deal.

Stan Lee working with the Backstreet Boys? © Stan Lee Media.

Their third original series, a dramatic techno-punk styled property The Drifter, is soon to make its on-line debut -- and, garnering a lot of advance heat, is the company's new franchise called Backstreet Project. In a team effort with music phenom the Backstreet Boys, SLM has co-created an animated Web series and elaborate comic book line starring alter-ego super heroes based on the tremendously popular teen-throb band. With a major $15 million Burger King promotion set to roll, the premiere will be Webcast 'live' on August 27th from the Hard Rock in Orlando, Florida. IBM will power the on-line event to a worldwide audience. Then, mixing in another music genre property, SLM also recently announced a partnership with Mary J. Blige to co-venture a Super Heroine franchise based on the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," herself. Preceding the Webisodes' launch (expected sometime this fall), SLM produced a short animated video that is playing to terrific response before Blige's live concert audiences -- and can be previewed now up on stanlee.net.

Other co-branded ventures currently positioned to get Stan Lee's personal treatment are a futuristic extension of the long-running TV series Cops, something wild with the Wu Tu Clan, a new franchise based on the recently acquired and highly successful Conan, The Barbarian character -- and, in the science fiction sphere, a property based on sci-fi master Gene Roddenberry's unpublished Starship material.

Clearly, plans for all SLM projects encompass strategies for spreading out from their Net 'worlds' (filled with Flash animation, puzzles, games, trivia and community) to any and all multi-platforms of traditional TV, video, features, print and merchandising. Paul is confident SLM has the chops for these mega-endeavors, stating, "We actually have the ability to create fresh properties, understand brand, and to attract other best-of-breed partners from each niche market of the global popular culture -- to continue to enhance our brand and build our audience as an amalgamation of all these other audiences for different entertainment genres." With the power of creative and technical partnerships across the world, he is secure Stan Lee Media will soon be "the largest independent aggregators of globally branded entertainment content deployed on the Internet."

So, Who's Making All This Fly?
Tapped to creatively spearhead Stan Lee's Web-launched productions are three of the top animation action-genre producers of our times. A major coup for the company's roster came in January when producer, director, writer and artist Will Meugniot joined forces as Executive Vice President of Creative Production and Development. His vast credits include numerous animated series including The X-Men, Exosquad and the current Spider-Man Unlimited. Meugniot garnered early acclaim as a comic book artist, best known for his own long-running co-creation DNAgents franchise. Long a fore-runner on the animation front, he has won numerous industry awards including the 1999 Monitor for best director, a Genesis Award and double Emmy nominations for episodes of Captain Planet and The Real Ghostbusters. Having crossed paths with Stan Lee many times in the past, Meugniot's uncontrollable excitement about working with him again is infectious and he's keyed up by the overall level of expertise at his new home. "Across the board, the hiring of this company has been phenomenal." Collaborating with Peter Paul for the first time, Meugniot enthuses, "Peter's business plans and vision for the company are just amazing." In a very short time, he predicts, "This place will be an astonishing company."

A scene from Stan Lee Media's first Web series, The 7th Portal. © Stan Lee Media.

Meugniot's responsibilities are similar to an editor-in-chief -- supervising script development and the production of Webisodes as well as developing innovative content for overall Web site expansion. "Our first initiative, even before I got to the company," he explains, "was to try to get on the most high-end programs that were possible. And now that we've learned how to do that, our new commitment is to find ways to make those programs more user friendly." Designing stunning, visually stimulating stories within the realities of limited bandwidth, Meugniot admits, is an ongoing challenge. "What I found when I was producing The Drifter episodes was that it's almost like filmmaking but not quite. It is its own medium and it requires a little different thought process to maximize the entertainment value in relation to the download time." He goes on, "I think in time, the Webisodes -- the whole Flash animation thing -- will develop its own aesthetic."

Meugniot has also been working eagerly with SLM's Web site team on the radical re-design of their site, scheduled to unveil sometime later this month. "It's very streamlined," he says. "It has a consistent global navigation system at the top of every page and it's just graphically compelling. It'll be very different from what anybody else is doing at the moment." Additionally, they will be adding more features with original animation including short cartoons and character "specials," together with fresh and inventive series themed games. "We're really straining to make sure that every day you go up to stanlee.net, there's some fresh content for you to see."

When considering some of the new aspects of creating for the Internet, Meugniot states, "I'd say the number one thing now is that, as I'm looking at our new slate of development, it is the interactivity issue. It's like: how can we get the audience involved, give them something that functions as an entertainment with a linear story but still gives them the opportunity to be involved in the story in a way that they can't in a TV show." He readily believes that focusing on story and strong characters remains the classic bottom line; but notes that with Web production, the focal point is now enhanced with the challenge of figuring out "what are the needs of this medium and how do we make it work in our favor instead of against us."

 

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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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