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3D Computer-Animated Popeye Primed for FOX and Artisan

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the "Popeye the Sailor Man" franchise in 2004, King Features Syndicate has christened production of a brand-new 3D computer-animated POPEYE TV and home entertainment special. Mainframe Entertainment will not only animate but, according to DAILY VARIETY, has secured international distribution rights in several markets, including TV rights in Canada and TV/DVD/VHS rights in the U.K. and Australia. FOX Broadcasting Co will air the half-hour special in primetime during next year's holiday season (between Nov. 24 and Dec. 21). This will be preceded by an hour-long DVD/VHS version that will bow on Oct. 1 via Artisan Family Home Ent. (AFHE), containing both new and classic bonus material.

Packaged by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the all-new Popeye 3D special was co-written by actor/comedian Paul Reiser (MAD ABOUT YOU) and Jim Hardison (GARY AND MIKE). Reiser is a life-long Popeye fan, and along with Rick Karo and Frank Caruso, is serving as one of the exec producers on the project. Billy West (FUTURAMA and REN & STIMPY) will voice Popeye. Story will center on Popeye searching for his long-lost dad, Poopdeck Pappy.

"This will further solidify Popeye's worldwide popularity well into the 21st century," commented King Features president Rocky Shepard III. "We are combining cutting-edge animation with a wonderful story featuring the world-famous family of Popeye characters, including Olive Oyl, Bluto and Wimpy, plus many of the colorful characters from Popeye's illustrious history."

"Having an animated family special featuring one of the world's most recognized cartoon characters on our air during the holiday season will be a treat for FOX's viewers," boasted Mike Darnell, exec vp, Alternative Programming for FOX Broadcasting.

The multiple exhibition strategy was structured to give FOX the right to air the special twice during the holiday 2004 period and five annual options to continue to broadcast the special every holiday season. The team hopes this becomes a perennial and leads to other Popeye productions in the future.

"We've hired Mainframe Entertainment, one of the world's leading producers of 3D computer animation, to give Popeye a whole new dimensional look," added Shepard, who nonetheless wants to capture as much of the original look as possible. "During the next year, we'll be working with our parent corporation to build support for the Popeye special through our main media outlets, including Hearst magazines and newspapers, and we are continuing to generate a tremendous amount of excitement among our Popeye licensees."

"We are thrilled to continue the Mainframe tradition of bringing classic characters like Popeye to life in CGI animation," said Mainframe ceo Rick Mischel. "Being a co-distributor also fits with our goal of controlling distribution rights of the best in branded characters.

Commented AFHE president Glenn Ross, "Popeye continues to represent one of the most likeable animated characters of all time. The character's popularity, combined with the highly-sophisticated animation that will bring him to life in this all-new program, will help the special have widespread appeal to both classic and new Popeye fans. With this in mind, we see great potential for the program in the home entertainment marketplace and look forward to helping King Features introduce Popeye to a new generation."

As one of the most recognizable icons of the 20th century, Popeye is an entertainment industry unto himself. Represented by King Features Syndicate, Popeye made his first public appearance on Jan. 17, 1929 in Elzie Segar's comic strip, THIMBLE THEATRE. He jumped to the silver screen in POPEYE THE SAILOR, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon from the Fleischer Studios. The Sailor Man went on to star in nearly 600 Popeye cartoons, produced through the years by the Fleischer Studios, Famous Studios and Hanna-Barbera, among others. In 1980, Popeye returned to the big screen in Robert Altman's live-action POPEYE movie starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall. In 1993, Ted Turner's Cartoon Network celebrated the 60th anniversary of the muscled mariner's film debut with POPUMENTARY, a series of six primetime specials. In addition to his enormous breadth of film and TV credits, Popeye was one of the world's first character licensing sensations and today boasts 500 licensees in 50 countries.

King Features Syndicate is a member of Hearst Entertainment and Syndication Group, which combines The Hearst Corp.'s cable network partnerships, television programming and distribution activities and syndication companies. King Features is a leading distributor of comics, columns, editorial cartoons, puzzles and games, distributing some 150 features to nearly 5,000 newspapers around the globe. Among its most beloved and successful classic characters are Popeye and Betty Boop.

Artisan Family Home Entertainment represents one of the home entertainment industry's pre-eminent children's and family franchises with a roster that includes some of the most widely-recognized brands in the marketplace, including BARBIE, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, CARE BEARS, RESCUE HEROES, HOT WHEELS and the VEGGIE TALES MOVIE.

Mainframe Ent. is best known as a pioneer of computer-animated television series for the groundbreaking REBOOT and the award-winning BARBIE AS RAPUNZEL direct-to-video feature, and is producing 13 episodes of SPIDER-MAN for Sony Pictures Television.