Britt Allcroft, producer and rights holder of THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE, has signed distribution deals that will send the little engine that could and other properties to Nickelodeon, Paramount and Disney. The deal with Nickelodeon will see THOMAS aired on the station daily and ties into the release of the feature based on the TV series entitled THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD. A 15-year Paramount pact will bring 39 30-minute episodes of the pre-school animated MUMFIE to video.
Noggin, the new network from Nickelodeon and the Children's Television Workshop, has announced it has greenlit three new animated series. The new projects will converge the educational opportunities of the Internet and TV and target the higher end of the channel's demographic of kids 6 to 12. Two of the projects will be produced by SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK creator, Geomar Philms. The first, THE MARTAINS ARE COMING! THE MARTAINS ARE COMING!, will follow a time-traveling rock band who will draw connections between seemingly unrelated events in history like science and literature.
Starz Encore Entertainment's STARZ! Pictures will present the premiere of the sci-fi animated feature film HEAVY METAL 2000. The eagerly-awaited follow-up to the 1981 cult classic HEAVY METAL will bypass theatres in the States and debut on STARZ!, Friday, July 14, 2000 at midnight. "STARZ! Pictures is pleased to offer the many rabid fans of cult classic HEAVY METAL the never-before-seen premiere of HEAVY METAL 2000, the eagerly awaited and already much talked about follow up -- chat rooms have been buzzing about it for months," said Robert Leighton, president of Starz Encore Entertainment.
THE RUGRATS ruled the May rating sweep by topping both of its Saturday morning time slots. The top toon, RUGRATS, gained 2.4 million viewers at 9:30 am and 2.1 million at 9 am, placing that episode in the second slot. Nickelodeon shows ROCKET POWER and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS took the third and fourth spots respectively. ROCKET landed an audience of 1.8 million at 8:30 am and SPONGEBOB sank 1.8 million viewers into their couches at 10 am. The regular champion POKEMON slipped to 5th place, only luring in 1.74 million viewers for its 10:30 am broadcast.
Pokemon has caught new deals with several eastern European countries and renewals from around the rest of the continent. New locations of Pokemon infestation include Polsat in Poland, RTL-Klub in Hungary, Nova in Czech Republic, ETV in South Africa and Fox Kids Scandinavia Satelite service. The countries that renewed the second seasons 52-episodes were TV2 in Denmark, TV2 in Norway, TV4 in Sweden, Star Channel in Greece and RTL in Belgium.
Comedy Central and iN DEMAND have struck a deal that will provide 25 episodes of SOUTH PARK on a pay-per-view basis. IN DEMAND executive VP entertainment Mark Sonnenberg said that the pact illustrates that video-on-demand is vibrant. "It's not just movies," Sonnenberg said. "It's everything consumers want -- movies, library products, TV series, local programming." Both companies plan to work together in the future to bring other Comedy Central content to PPV, like uncut stand-up shows.
On Sunday, June 11, 2000 at 9 pm, Cartoon Network will present an hour of cartoons never-before-seen on television during "The Lost Cartoons" TOONHEADS Special. Airing on "Lost Cartoons" will be Spooney Melodies' CRYIN' FOR THE CAROLINES, Leon Schlesinger's short-lived collection of musical "Vitaphone Varieties," which feature abstract animation using paper cut-outs and double exposures to create visual accompaniment to arranged music.
Warner Bros. Television will announce its fall schedule this week and it will include claymation series THE PJS. The Hollywood Reporter published the news saying that the official announcement will go before advertisers in New York on Tuesday, May 16. Earlier this year, WB had signed a deal with THE PJS producer Imagine TV/Touchstone that gave the network the option of picking up the show for the fall 2000 season. Previously airing on Fox, THE PJS future was uncertain even as late as last week.
Cartoon Network has unveiled the line-up for their "Voice Your Choice Weekend." Starting on June 9, 2000, the toon home will air the first of ten animated pilots that will compete for spots on the channels 2001 schedule. On the weekend of August 25-27, viewers will vote on-line for their favorite, of which the top three will become original series. Airing June 9, THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY AND MANDY was created by Maxwell Atoms. BILLY AND MANDY is a quirky cartoon where Billy and Mandy win the friendship of the Grim Reaper during a competition for Billys hamsters soul.
Studio City, California-based Phil Roman Entertainment company, in partnership with Quarter Star Productions (QSP) of Charlotte, North Carolina, will produce SOAP ON THE RANGE, a new primetime animated half-hour comedy TV series. Headed by animator and producer, Phil Roman, RANGE lampoons soaps and Westerns with a story about two rival family ranches in Colorado. Twenty-six episodes of SOAP ON THE RANGE will be set for delivery in time for the 2001 television season. Serving alongside Roman, as executive producers will be the husband and wife team of Joyce Wade-May and Patrick W.
Pushing the boundaries of bedtimes everywhere, Nickelodeon will extend their Friday night line-up to 10 pm. Cyma Zarghami, Nick exec VP and general manager, said that the new hour block might be filled with U-PICK, a show that gives kids the chance to vote on what Nick series they want to watch. Currently, U-PICK airs on Friday nights and Zarghami said, "[U-PICKs] performing very well right now. We may expand that to 10 pm. We may put an anchor block in there. We havent decided yet." This decision comes amid rumors that ABCs TGIF Friday family programming is on the skids.
SOUTH PARK creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have signed a three-year deal with Comedy Central. The profanity purveyors announced an exclusive multimillion-dollar deal with the cable network ending rumors they were fleeing to ABC for a $1 million an episode pact. The deal calls for 30 new episodes of SOUTH PARK and a new live-action series to debut next year. "For the last three years we have been exceptionally lucky to have our show on a network that respects creative freedom," said Parker.
The heirs of Chico and Harpo Marx dont like being left out of the Groucho estates desire to go ahead with an animated series based on the three silly siblings. Friday, April 28, 2000, U.S. district judge Dickran Teverizian stopped the distribution of a new toon until the three brothers estates can come to an agreement over financial issues. Chico and Harpos heirs contest that the Groucho estate bamboozled them by hiding the TV deal and not sharing the US$130,00 paid for the rights.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS rules cable. The original U.S. broadcast on April 16, 2000 drew nearly 10.7 million people. The show was seen as a three-hour special on the Discovery Channel instead of a six-night mini-series as it was originally shown on the BBC. The large audience made it the most-watched non-sports event on cable TV during the 1999-2000 season with a rating of 8.0. Based on Discovery Channel numbers, approximately 40 million viewers saw some part of the special during its back-to-back Sunday telecasts at 7 pm and 10 pm.
FAMILY GUY and THE PJS are among the animated series seeking new network homes for next season. Fox is in early talks with UPN to bring THE FAMILY GUY to the channel. The edgy animation has seen low ratings on Fox, however rates high with young men 18-34, which makes it prefect for the testosterone, targeted TV network, UPN. The only thing hurting the deal is the high price tag dangling from the toon. Fox is also speaking with UPN about sending stop-motion series GARY & MIKE to the network. The show, produced by Big Ticket, was scheduled to debut on Fox this summer.
BROADCASTING AND CABLE has reported that SOUTH PARK creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are currently being lured by ABC to create new material for the network. Currently, Comedy Central pays the team of tastelessness between US$400,000 to $500,000 per episode for SOUTH PARK. Reportedly, ABC is offering the cross-dressing crew $1 million per episode for the new programming. THE NEW YORK POST reported that Comedy Central has countered ABC by offering the SOUTH PARK partners artistic freedom on a new series, an offer ABC could never make.
Prague-based SAF Studia Animovaneho Filmu.a.s. is currently producing a series of short inserts for a Disney TV pilot, NONE OF THE ABOVE. The primary client for the project is Tapehouse Toons in New York. The clips are being produced by Zdenka Deitchova, senior producer at Animovany Film Prague. The project is being produced in cooperation with Frame, s.r.o., who are providing the computer animation and special effects facilities.
Walt Disney has announced that the new animated series TEACHER'S PET will join ABC's "Disney's One Saturday Morning" line-up this fall. Tony award-winner Nathan Lane will voice the knowledge-fiend dog, Spot, who disguises himself as a boy to go to school. TEACHER'S PET is being produced at Walt Disney Television Animation by the team of cartoonist Gary Baseman and Emmy Award-winning primetime sitcom writers Bill & Cheri Steinkellner (CHEERS, THE JEFFERSONS).
U.K. football hero and sports anchorman Gary Lineker is about to get the cartoon treatment from the BBC. Lineker's animated alter ego appears in a regular slot on a new BBC1 Sunday morning magazine programme, FOOTBALL FEVER. The segment has been created by Alive Animation, which built up a library of Lineker's movements and expressions on computer. This means the character can be animated at the last minute, allowing for topical script changes. According to the UK newspaper EVENING STANDARD, the technology is so advanced that the cartoon could even be created 'live' on air.
Twentieth TV has signed a cable-TV rights deal for KING OF THE HILL with the Fox Channels Group. Either FX or Fox Family Channel will get the series in September of 2004 on a four-year licensing deal. Twentieth TV has licensed out the series to syndicated networks for US$3 million dollars per episode. The series will start airing off-network in the fall of 2001. So far, Twentieth TV is nearing $300 million in off-net syndication deals for the series.
On May 27, 2000 in Europe, Turner Broadcasting will launch Boomerang, a brand new animation channel from the Cartoon Network stable. The new network will feature over 2,000 characters such as Top Cat, Wacky Races, Yogi Bear and the Hair Bear Bunch. The new channel will run from 6 am until midnight and will be available along with Cartoon Network and Cartoon Network Plus to all Sky Digital homes. Discussions with operators for digital cable and DTT carriage are also underway.
Nelvana Limited has acquired the worldwide development, production, distribution and merchandising rights to LITTLE CRITTER. The series will be based on the best-selling books by Mercer Mayer. Beginning in 1976, the 90-book LITTLE CRITTER series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. The story follows the everyday life of Little Critter and his friends Tiger and Gator. As the oldest sibling of five, Critter has to balance his responsibilities with playing sports, going to the mall and reading comics.
THE MIRACLE MAKER is set to air on Easter Sunday at 7 pm screening on ABC. Set in 1st Century Israel, the story follows a sick young girl, Tamar (Rebbeca Callard), her Pharisee father Jairus (William Hurt), and her desperate mother Rachel (Julie Christie) as they encounter the charismatic preacher Jesus (Ralph Fiennes). Can Tamar be healed before those in authority strike against Jesus? THE MIRACLE MAKER was created by Christopher Grace of S4C following the success of SHAKESPEARE: THE ANIMATED TALES, TESTAMENT: THE BIBLE IN ANIMATION and THE CANTERBURY TALES.
POKEMON is still going strong. KIDS WB! has ordered 52 more episodes of the phenomenon for September 2000. The latest broadcasters to catch the series are TV4 Sweden, TV2 Denmark, TV2 Norway, MTV Finland, RTL-Klub (Hungary) and RTL-TVI (Belgium), as well as Cartoon Network in Australia and New Zealand. The total number of episodes for the series is now 156.
Portuguese broadcaster RTP has begun airing the interactive gameshow STINKY AND BEAVER. The ITE property is created using Silicon Graphics software and 3D animation. The series introduces players to CGI characters who test the participants and serve as the show's hosts. The series is included in RTP's Interactive Hour next to ITE's successful HUGO series.