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4Kids, Microsoft Unveil Viva Piñata

On Wednesday, March 15, 2006, 4Kids Ent. unveiled the fruits of its partnership with Microsoft Game Studio at a New York City press event, an entertainment property called VIVA PIÑATA.

In the fall, PIÑATA will both as a debut as a 26-episode CGI series on 4Kids FOX TV Saturday morning block, and as an "immersive" Xbox 360 videogame. In 2007, after the property is an established entity, 4Kids plans to back up PIÑATA with an extensive licensing and merchandising campaign.

Piñata was birthed by London-based game developers Rare Ltd., creators of GOLDENEYE 007, PERFECT DARK, DONKEY KONG 64 and other bestselling games. When it came time to partner up with an animation studio, our first choice was 4Kids, said Shane Kim, Microsoft Game Studios gm, pointing to 4Kids success with entertainment properties ranging from YU-GI-OH! to POKÉMON to the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. 4Kids and Rare collaborated on the property, with 4Kids providing the shows premise based on the then in-development game. Kim described VIVA PIÑATA as Microsofts most important game release this year.

Both VIVA PIÑATA the game and the series are set on Piñata Island, where the paper party animals are born and grow to "maximum candiosity." According to Kim, the game takes place on one side of the island where players custom create an environment and nurture their own piñata characters, while their TV adventures take place on the other. While the videogame is designed for younger players, 4Kids promises that the series (animated by Bardel Ent. in Vancouver Canada) will be skew older and will be humor-based with a SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS sensibility.

The show focuses on a handful of the piñatas with distinctive personalities and names (narcissistic Hudson Horstachio, gung-ho Franklin Fizzlybear and neurotic Fergy Fudgehog), while other characters from the game show up from episode to episode. (Neither the game or the series appear to include any Latino cultural content beyond the piñata concept itself.)

4Kids president Norman J. Grossfeld praised the built-in synergy between the game and series, with the show providing non-stop laughs while teaching kids lessons that will help them master the videogame.

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