Animation World Magazine, Issue 3.2, May 1998

Animation World News


Toon Disney Launch. Disney/ABC Networks' new U.S. cable network, Toon Disney, launched on April 18 to an audience of nearly five million basic cable subscribers nationwide who have digital service from DirecTV, Marcus Cable and direct broadcast satellite service EchoStar. In the coming months, Toon Disney will be added to expanded basic cable line-ups being offered by Century Communications, Rivkin & Associates, Galaxy Cable, Classic Cable, Coaxial Communications and Americast, expanding the audience to about six million. Initially the network will not be supported by advertising, but by Disney, who will actually pay cable operators to carry the channel on basic service to reach more subscribers. As the subscriber base increases, this will be balanced out by license fees which will be paid to Disney by the cable operators. The 24-hour, all-animation channel will showcase animation from the Disney library of more than 2,000 series episodes as well as shorts, specials and features produced in the past seven decades. Programming started on a Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT with The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1940) and other classic Mickey Mouse shorts. At 7:00 p.m. ET the channel's nightly prime time block, "The Magical World of Toons," will debut. "Magical World" showcases shorts and series themed around Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto. On Friday nights, the show features animated features, many of which were produced for the home video market, such as The Return of Jafar, as well as theatrical releases such as A Goofy Movie, Alice in Wonderland and The Brave Little Toaster. The majority of the daytime and late night slots are programmed with blocks of series owned by Disney/ABC, such as Gummi Bears, Bump in the Night, Jungle Cubs, Bonkers, The Littles, Gadget Boy, Marsupilami, Madeline, Quack Attack, Goof Troop, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck. Roughly half of these series are shared with sister network, The Disney Channel, which turned 15 years old when Toon Disney launched on April 18.

The animated series, Recess will be included in a
Disney-branded program block on UPN. © Disney.

UPN To Air Disney Block. Viacom-owned cable network UPN has reached an agreement with Buena Vista Television to broadcast Disney animated children's programming. Starting in fall 1999, UPN will air a two-hour block of syndicated, Disney-branded shows which is most likely to include programs from the "Disney's One Saturday Morning" block which currently airs on ABC: Disney's Recess, Disney's Doug, Disney's Pepper Ann and Disney's Hercules. Kellogg's, which sponsored the "Disney Afternoon" syndicated program block, will retain it's primary sponsorship role as the programming moves to UPN. Buena Vista will sell the block in territories which are not reached by UPN affiliates. Advertising time will be split between the two companies. This deal closes over two months of negotiations in which UPN was also talking to Nickelodeon about a similar kids programming deal. "Children's programming has long been a significant priority for me," said UPN CEO Dean Valentine, "This exemplifies our plan to aggressively attract the mainstream television audience to watch UPN and it's a giant step in our growth as a broadcast network." Valentine was actually involved in the development of several of these Disney shows when he was president of Walt Disney Television and Television Animation before being hired away as CEO of UPN in September 1997.

Groening Going To Futurama. Fox Broadcasting Co. has ordered 13 episodes of Futurama, a new, prime time animated series developed by Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. The comedy series is slated to debut on the Fox TV network some time in 1999. It will be produced by Twentieth Century Fox in association with Groening's Curiosity Company. Groening will be executive producer and the show runner will be David Cohen, who has been a writer on The Simpsons. for five years. Rough Draft Animation, a studio based in Los Angeles and Korea, which does production work on The Simpsons, has been tentatively selected as the sole production company. Employees of Film Roman, the U.S. animation studio which currently does The Simpsons. and King of the Hill for Fox, were informed last week that they would not be working on Futurama.

Celebrity Death Match, one of the animated properties which launched as an animated short on MTV's "Cartoon Sushi," will be the first to debut as a weekly series on May 14. Created by Eric Fogel, an NYU Animation graduate who also created the MTV series, The Head, Celebrity Death Match is a clay-animated sketch show which parodies celebrities and public figures by pitting them against each other in WWF wrestling-style fights. Coinciding with the final episode of the NBC sitcom, Seinfeld, the premiere episode of Celebrity Death Match will include caricatures of Seinfeld battling with Home Improvement star Tim Allen. A total of thirteen half-hour episodes have been commissioned by MTV, and will include such battles as "Hillary Clinton vs. Monica Lewinsky" and "Letterman vs. Leno." The show is filmed in MTV's New York studio with a digital camera system, which enables animators to work and edit quickly, without waiting for film processing. This digital camera system, which uses Macintosh computers, was developed by supervising animator Greg Pair, of AMPnyc Animation. Creator/director Eric Fogel said this technique allows for the fast turnaround needed to be able to produce a show that pokes fun at current events. Fogel also plans to make a stop-motion animated feature film of his thesis film, Mutilator, which is currently featured in
General Chaos, Manga Entertainment's theatrical compilation of animated shorts.

Kids Upfront Moved Ahead. Usually by this time of the year, U.S. TV and cable networks have sold most of their advance advertising time slots, following the advertisers' buying spree induced by the announcement of network programming line-ups for the 1998/99 season. But this year, the ad buying period referred to in the industry as the "kids upfront" advertising market, was postponed until the end of April. The networks have announced their programming, but the advertisers aren't buying yet. One of the reasons for this is that the upcoming August 1998 launch of Saban/News Corp.'s new cable network, The Fox Family Channel, will give advertisers (and kids) an additional seven days a week of kids programming to choose from, on top of what's already being offered by Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Kids WB!, Fox Children's Network, ABC, The Disney Channel and now the new, commercial-free animation network Toon Disney. The increase in kids programming outlets as well as other distractions such as computers, sports and video games, is spreading kid audiences thin, and lowering ratings, thereby delivering fewer viewers for each advertising slot. Plus, more kids' fare is being introduced later this year with the launch of Pax Net in August and CBS' return to Saturday morning in the fall. The future also holds the possibility of new family-oriented channels from HBO and The Jim Henson Company. Nickelodeon beat other broadcasters to the punch in 1995 and 1997 by pre-selling advertising for two-year blocks, so many of the biggest kids' advertiserssuch as cereal, toy and fast food companiesalready have half of their 98/99 ad budgets committed. Meanwhile, other networks will have to wait for the kids upfront market to get started as buyers wait to see what this season's going prices are. The buying frenzy usually lasts only a day or two after a major buyer sets a deal with one or more of the networks.

For further reading on this subject, delve into AWN's September 1997 issue and read Buzz Potamkin's article, "
The Cost of Eyeballs: Advertising Dollars & TV."

News From MIP.
The MIP TV market took place April 3-8, 1998 in Cannes, France. Animation World Magazine also has a
full review in this issue, but here we'll report the latest deals and breaking news. Saban/News corp. co-venture Fox Kids Worldwide announced the expansion of Fox Kids Europe with the launch this month of three new programming blocks in Spain, Scandinavia and Poland. Fox Kids Europe managing director Ynon Kreiz said the company aims to launch Fox Kids programming in every country in Europe, and will add at least two more networks in Europe by the end of the year. . . . The French network FRANCE 3 has signed a deal with Nickelodeon to air the entire library of Rugrats episodes. . . . U.K.-based Polygram Visual Programming has made a deal with Walker Books to produce 13 half hours of an animated series based on the "Maisy" books by Lucy Cousins. The series has been pre-sold to Nickelodeon in the U.S. and ITV in the U.K. . . . VARGA tvc has signed a co-production deal with Link Entertainment for Preston Pig, based on a book by Colin McNaughton. Link will handle worldwide licensing and distribution for the series. . . . Ellipseanime, a subsidiary of French broadcaster CANAL +, announced plans to produce one animated feature film every two years and to double it's TV production output to eight series by the year 2000. The first features will be Babar (with NELVANA and Trickompany) in 1999 and Bécassine in 2000. Ellipseanime's upcoming new TV series include Fantomette, Ixcalibur, Pirate Family, Cairo Cops, Agrippine, The Busters and Frog.

DIC Pacts With PAX.
Disney-owned DIC Entertainment will provide five hours of animation programming a week to Paxson Communications' new U.S. family entertainment network, Pax Net. An exclusive, two year agreement reached between the two companies names DIC as the sole provider of children's programming for the television network group, which will launch on August 31, 1998. Much of the programming will be from DIC's existing animation library, packaged as an educational program block called "Freddy's Firehouse," which will air for three hours on Saturday and two hours on Sunday. In addition to airing on Pax Net, "Freddy's Firehouse" will also be sold internationally as an independent formatted package. Distribution is being handled by Disney arm, Buena Vista International.

TV Summit Supports Co-Production.
At the second World Summit on Television for Children, held recently in London, broadcasters, producers and educators from 81 countries gathered to exchange ideas. A common concern was that children worldwide are experiencing a globalization of culture and an erosion of cultural diversity. The World Summit is now overseeing what is believed to be the largest co-production in the world: a television series called Animated Tales of the World. Co-producers from 26 different countries will each produce a story from their culture and animate it in a style consistent with that culture. The result will be 26 short animated films, or 13 half-hour episodes in all, by April 2000. It is hoped that an additional block of 13 episodes will be created each year. Co-producers in 20 countries have confirmed their participation thus far and 17 additional countries are expected to commit for the first and second seasons. The total budget for the first 26 films is U.K. £5.2 million. Financing for individual films will be on a sliding scale factoring market share and value; industrialized countries will pay more than developing countries. All equity, distribution advances and future revenue will be held by and used to fund The World Summit on Television for Children. Combined, broadcast territories and satellite partners will air the series in 80 countries and 27 languages. The project will provide work for more than 2,000 people over three years. Chris Grace, director of animation at S4C in Wales, initiated the project in fall 1997 while preparing a session on co-production for the World Summit. The concept is consistent with S4C, BBC and Channel 4's previous animation co-productions such as Shakespeare-The Animated Tales, Operavox, Testament-The Bible in Animation and Animated World Faiths.

Confirmed production partners for Animated Tales of the World are: CBC/TFO (Canada), HBO (U.S.A.), Discovery Kids (Latin America), Channel II (Mexico), SABC (South Africa), TVB (Burkina Faso, Africa), TVP (Poland), KRO (Holland), La Cinquiéme (France), Channel 4 (England), S4C (Wales and Russia), T na G/RTE (Ireland), PTV (Pakistan), S4C (China), TCS (Singapore and Malaysia), NRTV (Nauru), SBS (Australia), NZTV (New Zealand) and ART (Gulf States, Middle East). Additional countries which are expected to commit include Brazil, Israel, Korea, Japan, Latvia, Slovakia and others.

Bohbot Syndicating Second Kids Net. Bohbot Entertainment & Media is launching a second syndication network in September 1998. BKN Kids II will offer programming to stations not granted an affiliation to The BKN Kids Network, Bohbot's first syndication network launched in September 1997. "In certain top 50 markets, we had several offers from stations to become our affiliate," said John Hess, Bohbot's senior vice president of affiliate station sales. "We created a second feed to satisfy this demand." Station groups which have already signed for a BKN II affiliation include Sinclair, Tribune, Clear Channel and Acme. "All BKN I stations will still receive Syndex protection as the shows will be totally different," added research manager Marci Cohen. The BKN II lineup will include Bohbot's library series, "Mighty Max," "Highlander-The Animated Series," "The Mask-The Animated Series," and "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog."

CN Surveys Euro Kids. Cartoon Network U.K. and Continental Research recently conducted a survey of 2,250 European kids aged 5-11, that comprise their viewing audiences in the U.K., Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Hungary and Poland. An average of 39% of kids surveyed have a television in their bedroom (60% in England!). Polish kids have the highest readership of magazines, comics and newspapers. Spanish kids read the least, but watch the most home videos (averaging 2-3 per week). Personal computers at home are highest among kids in Holland (69%), but Sweden has the highest percentage of Internet-using kids (34%). Asked which parental traits they were most annoyed by, the kids gave top votes to smoking and nagging.

Castle May Rock In Prime Time. Castle Rock Entertainment has sold an animated series pitch to Warner Bros.' television network, The WB, and is currently developing the property for possible debut in a prime time slot on the U.S. network in late 1998 or early 1999. The untitled series was created by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, former producers of The Simpsons. If green lit for production, Oakley and Weinstein will be the series' executive producers. The show revolves around and is aimed at the young adult demographic, and features a pair of brothers living in New York City. Glenn Padnick, president of Castle Rock's Television unit, said this is the first animated series to be developed by the company, whose live-action credits include Seinfeld.

Seven year-old Tyler Samuel Lee devised
the concept and voice track of the 50th
episode of Dexter's Laboratory.
Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Dexter Plot by Devoted Tot. A story idea submitted to Hanna-Barbera by a young viewer was adapted as a seven-minute episode of Dexter's Laboratory and aired on Cartoon Network on April 29, 1998. Seven-year-old Tyler Samuel Lee of Long Island, New York sent in an audio tape of his original story idea (complete with believable Dexter voice impersonations!) at the encouragement of his mother, whose voice is also featured on the tape. Series creator/director Genndy Tartakovsky liked it so much, he is using the unedited tape as the actual narration and voice over for the 50th episode of Dexter's Laboratory. The episode, titled "Dexter and Computress Get Mandark" is animated in the style of a second-grader, with crayon-colored backgrounds and crudely-drawn characters. Lee was compensated for his contribution, but fans need not rush in with their story ideas. The show's producers say the cooperation with Lee was a one in a million fluke. "We get lots of letters and comments from fans, but Tyler's tape just floored us," said Tartakovsky. "His story demonstrated a great understanding of the show and genuinely captured the imaginative kid perspective we're always striving for." Dexter's Laboratory debuted on Cartoon Network in 1996 and was the network's highest-rated series in 1996 and 1997.

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