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Starz Digital Media Launches ABEToons.com, Unveils Talent Search

Starz Digital Media, a division of Starz Media, has launched ABE Toons, a new online video site for indie animators and a consumer destination for animated shorts.

In addition, the new site is sponsoring the "ABE Toons Talent Search." The contest will award the grand prize winner $4,000 in cash and the opportunity to direct an animated series based on the winning entry with a value of up to $25,000. Cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 will be awarded to the top two runners-up, respectively, with an additional $500 awarded to the most popular video (based on number of views).

"Internally, we saw some pretty good things going on with the launch of Manga.com, our largest ad-supported site right now, which promotes a lot of our anime products, and with the successful launch of STARZ BUNNIES.com, so we realized that our strong animation brand gives us a strong connection to the animation community," explained Marc DeBevoise, SVP, digital media, business development and strategy for Starz Media. "The goal for this site is to exploit what we have internally out into the world," he told AWN.

In terms of launching ABE Toons, he cited the confluence of three determining factors: the existence of an animation library to exploit along with the resources to produce new product from their two animation divisions, Film Roman and Starz Animation Toronto, combined with the monetized potential of the internet as a distribution platform.

"There are hundreds of videos now on the site," he continued. "Animations that we had with different parts of the company, including Film Roman and Starz, and a number of things based on properties that we own over the last 12 months, like our HELLBOY, and new content coming every month from series, like our 30-SECOND BUNNIES THEATER, which has its own site but which will be part of this site as well. And we intend to add new series like that over time. We have several of them now in the hopper.

"And we're a company that creates significant amount of animation ... I'm looking at a short that just came through our Toronto studio and we're determining a release strategy for that right now.

"We're hoping this contest will help us find some new creators and expose them to the world [with a development deal], and we're one of the few companies that can really help in terms of distribution and production resources to help them realize their vision."

Artists whose videos are currently featured on ABEToons.com include Tad Stones, director of the HELLBOY ANIMATED series (http://abetoons.com/shows/hellboy-animated) and longtime vet with stints at Disney and Universal Cartoon Studios; Jennifer Shiman, creator and producer/animator for the award-winning STARZ BUNNIES 30-SECOND BUNNIES THEATER videos (http://abetoons.com/shows/30-second-bunnies); and Sweeney & Laney, head writers on TRIPPING THE RIFT (http://abetoons.com/shows/tripping-rift), from Film Roman.

Videos on ABEToons.com are classified by genre, with such featured channels as "American Manga," "Comic Classics," "Sick & Twisted," "The Underground" and "Wisecrackers."

Starz Digital Media will continue to add new content to the site in the months ahead, including video from the ABE Toons Talent Search winners. The contest runs through Aug. 31, with contest entries submitted online at ABEToons.com. Videos should be two to six minutes in length and follow guidelines detailed on the contest entry page. The grand prize winner will have the opportunity for the entry to be distributed across other sites with which Starz Digital Media partners, and to potentially work with producers from Film Roman and Starz Animation Toronto.

Film Roman's work includes THE SIMPSONS, THE GOODE FAMILY and two new series for Marvel Ent., as well as Starz Media's WOW! WOW! WUBBZY! an animated preschool series that airs on Nick Jr. in the U.S. and in more than 50 other markets around the world. Starz Animation Toronto recently completed Focus Features' upcoming 9 from Shane Acker and is currently animating two more major theatrical features, including GNOMEO & JULIET for Miramax Films and Elton John's Rocket Pictures, as well as a broadcast network primetime holiday special.

Contest judges include DeBevoise, Film Roman Head of Studio Jay Fukuto, Starz Animation Toronto Head of Studio David Steinberg and producer Jinko Gotoh (9, FINDING NEMO).

-- By AWN Senior Editor Bill Desowitz

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