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Film Roman Now Developing Original Programming

Animation house Film Roman is now developing its own original programming and has optioned several properties, including comic book series “The Untamed.”

Starz-owned animation house Film Roman is making a push into developing its own original animated programming, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter.

The Burbank-based company, best known for its work-for-hire animation on The Simpsons, Beavis & Butt-Head and King of the Hill, has optioned several original ideas that it is developing.

Led by general manager and head of production Dana Booton, Film Roman has made a substantial, but undisclosed, investment into an effort to produce and distribute original programming.

“When I came in about two years ago, there wasn't much going on in terms of a development slate,” Booton reportedly said. “But the business template of pure work-for-hire doesn't work anymore. Nowadays you must also own content. You need [intellectual property] you invest in.”

Studios like Film Roman used to get a license fee for their work and hope merchandising would boost a property. “Now there are so many other platforms in the digital age, so you can do apps and games and e-books,” said Booton. “It is a good time to develop and hold on to content.”

With Fox's The Simpsons set for its 25th season starting this fall, the push into original content complements the company's continuing diversification effort to always find new franchises to work on under for-hire conditions. Said Booton: “We're looking for new properties and partners all the time. We can't rely on one property to keep the business up and running. And we have some big franchises we're in talks for 2014. That's separate from our development work.”

Film Roman, which also works on such shows as Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD and has won 21 Emmy awards, has tried its hand at original programming before, most notably with Dan Vs., which came with a network order and recently completed its third season on The Hub.

But the company, which was founded in 1984 and came to Starz as part of Liberty Media's 2006 acquisition of IDT Entertainment, is currently developing its own intellectual property from scratch. As part of that, Film Roman is working on completely original in-house ideas and has optioned eight properties this year that are in various stages of development, with four major projects furthest along.

“We're looking to develop properties that are family- and primetime-focused,” Booton said.

One project in development is The Untamed, based on a popular dark comic book series from Sebastian Jones about a man who strikes a deal with the devil to be released from hell for seven days to reap vengeance on seven people who murdered him and his family. Lloyd Levin (Watchmen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) is involved in the project as an executive producer.

Another development project is 1,000 Bear Band, a quirky family-friendly concept envisioned in the Terry Gilliam/Monty Python animation style mold.

Uncanny Valley, a live action/CG animated spoof show looking at, and poking fun at, conspiracy theories, is also in development at Film Roman. It is described as being in the Adult Swim/Comedy Central vein of programming focused on a male 18-years-plus demo. “Strong comedy is something the market is really looking for,” Booton explained.

Finally, InSecurity is another spoof comedy series in development that looks at the life of TSA agents, including interactions with baggage claim, cafeteria and other airport staff.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.