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Disney Int’l Kicks Up L.A. Screenings

Buena Vista International Television kicked off the start of the L.A. screenings for some 1,000 TV buyers from around the world in high-spirited style, unveiling six new and seven returning primetime series, with most of the cast and key creatives from each show on stage of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood May 23, 2004, followed by a party across the street at The Annex, which featured a live performance by rocker Cyndi Lauper.

Disney led off the week of screenings that attracts TV programs buyers from around the world to view and license upcoming series on the major U.S. networks.

Hosting the BVITV International Upfronts were Laurie Younger, president, Buena Vista Worldwide Television Distribution; David Hulbert, president, Walt Disney Television International; Tom Toumazis, svp/gm, Europe Middle East & Africa; BVITV and Steve Macallister, vp/gm, BVITV (Asia-Pacific). Also adding their own inimitable touch to proceedings were The Muppets stars Kermit The Frog, and Statler and Waldorf, in live appearances, interacting with the hosts and audience. The Walt Disney Co. acquired The Muppets property from The Jim Henson Co. earlier this year.

ALIAS exec producer/writer/director J.J. Abrams revealed his new series, LOST, a one-hour drama for ABC, about an international mix of survivors of a plane crash forced to live with each other on a remote island a dangerous new world which poses unique threats of its own. ALIAS is returning for a fourth season on ABC.

Animation was well represented in the opening promo reel, but the main event seeks to dazzle broadcasters and press with nearly 100 stars, key producers and writers from the new evening shows. Animation buyers are accommodated with their own special screenings and meets throughout the week.

Hulbert was put thru his acting paces, as talented promo artists inter-cut him into scenes from many feature and TV scenes, interacting with the characters in a script to promote Disneys offerings, done much in the manner of the opening to this years Academy Awards telecast that featured Billy Crystal as part of many famous movie scenes. Hulbert told AWN it only took one day performing in front of a green screen to capture his footage to be transformed by the digital artists in a very entertaining presentation. The good-natured and self-effacing executive credited his director for making him look good.

Hulbert told assembled buyers there was a strong resurgence at Disney, despite the management challenges by shareholders and the attempted Comcast buyout. He and Younger sought to dispel any doubts or uneasiness of buyers.

Hulbert said the coming year, is going to be a fantastic year for the international TV industry, and I believe the entertainment industry overall. There has been a tendency for us all to over analyze the last few years, he said. But even in what has been called a recession, most broadcasters were still profitable businesses.

Hulbert said Disney will launch a new international channel called ABC1. This is the first time we will have launched a non-Disney branded, wholly owned channel outside of the United States, he said.

One of the attending buyers, Len Cochrane, founder/president of TELETOON, the 24/7 animation channel in Canada, said he was attending with his team to pick up programming to launch a second channel, likely to be called TELETOON Retro. It will offer animated programming like Looney Tunes cartoons for a more mature audience. The concept is similar to Cartoon Networks sibling net, Boomerang, but will be branded with TELETOON.

BVITV also announced a series of multi-genre, multi-year partner agreements across Scandinavia for live action series, first-run and repeat features, TV movies and made-for-video features. With these agreements, the SBS Broadcasting S.A. channels TV Danmark and K5 (Denmark), TVNORGE and Kanal 5 (Sweden) will share TV broadcast windows with TV2 Denmark, TV2 Norway and TV4 Sweden in their respective countries. The announcement was made by Alison Homewood, vp, sales EMEA, BVITV; Bart Soepnel, svp acquisitions, SBS Broadcasting S.A.; Peter Parbo, md, TV2 Denmark; Jan Scherman, ceo of TV4 Sweden; Nina Lorgen Flemmen, head of acquisition, TVNORGE and John Ranelagh, director of acquisitions, TV2 Norway.

In a separate agreement facilitated by BVITV, these same broadcasters have licensed animation from the Fox Kids Europe portfolio of programming, of which BVITV services the distribution.

Homewood also announced, with Vladislav Ryashin, chairman of Inter TV, a new multi-year agreement with commercial TV broadcaster Inter TV. Viewers across the Ukraine will be able to watch a selection of live-action and animated series, first-run and repeat features and TV movies. The agreement includes the launch of a Disney branded timeslot on the channel, in August 2004, that will showcase a selection of Disney classic and contemporary animation, including HOUSE OF MOUSE and the animated adventures of KIM POSSIBLE.