North-Hollywood-based FILM ROMAN has been hired as the production company for the WB's new prime-time cartoon, "The Downtowners," the first animated series to be developed by Castle Rock Entertainment's Television unit, whose live-action credits include "Seinfeld." Thirteen half-hour episodes of "The Downtowners" have been ordered, for debut on the WB network in fall 1999.
The German broadcaster RTL has purchased four Nickelodeon animated series for broadcast in its weekend morning kids programming block. Hey Arnold!, Rockos Modern Life, CatDog and Angry Beavers will be introduced to the networks program line-up over the course of the next year. The sale comes on the heels of Nickelodeons withdrawal from the tough German market [AF 6/2/98] as a network. Nickelodeon ceased broadcasting on German airwaves in May, a decision motivated by weak ad sales and increased competition for viewers.
In celebration of Disneys 75th anniversary, the Disney Channel will air a collection of rarely seen early films by Walt Disney. Films such as the 1920s live-action/animation shorts, The Alice Comedies will air October 16-29, nightly on the Vault Disney programming block, Monday-Saturday at 11 p.m., Sunday at 9 p.m. Although other studios had been putting animated characters into live-action environments, Disney, with The Alice Comedies, was the first to place a live-action character into a cartoon world.
Manchester, England-based animation studio Cosgrove Hall, known for its stop-motion production on series such as Brambly Hedge and The Animal Shelf, is launching production on a new, 26-part, drawn 2D animated series called Foxbusters. The show is about a group of renegade chickens that challenge the process of natural selection and try not to get eaten by foxes. David Freedman and Alan Gilbey are writing scripts. The ITV Network Centre has commissioned 11 episodes for debut in September 1999.
Sydney, Australia-based independent producer and distributor Energee Entertainment Pty Ltd., producers of the animated series Crocadoo, has acquired two cartoon series from the 1960s to sell to the nostalgia niche market. Clutch Cargo follows the seaplane travel adventures of Clutch and his friends Spinner and Paddlefoot, and Space Angel follows the intergalactic adventures of law enforcer Scott McCloud from the Earth Bureau of Investigation. Both are contained in half-hour episodes which can also be shown as five-minute daily strips or used as fillers.
Paris, France-based Salsa Distribution has sold several animated series to the international market.
One-year-old Gloucester, U.K.-based The Little Entertainment Company (LEC Ltd.) has two new series, Magical Mystery Merlin and Charlie Marmalade. The companys first two animated shows have recently secured broadcast spots on BBC (Little Monsters) and ITV (Billy).
New York-based GLC Productions is seeking partners for a computer-animated series called The Buddy System. The pilot episode, titled The Third Ticket portrays a couple of hockey fans at a game, one of whom, to the disappointment of his buddy, invited his girlfriend. Animation was produced on SGI machines with Alias|Wavefronts PowerAnimator and Maya software. The Third Ticket is also being screened as a short film at festivals such as the recent Los Angeles International Short Film Festival.
Copenhagen, Denmark-based Interactive Television Entertainment is launching several new interactive game shows, including two that will incorporate animation, based on the concept used for the series Hugo the TV Troll. Tush Tush will use real-time motion-capture animation to allow viewers to interact with the program via the Internet and telephone. Yo-Yo, developed with Los Angeles-based Dream Entertainment, will offer animated carnival-type games linked to video games which viewers can play simultaneously on consoles in their homes.
U.K. company Fairwater Films has a new series of animated interstitials for the international market, titled World Wide Webley. The 52 one-minute shorts depict the adventures of the title character, a spider, in cyberspace, covering such topics as electronic mail and Internet etiquette.
Dublin, Ireland-based Monster Productions, an animation studio and distribution company formed in 1995 by former management and artists from the Don Bluth studios, has acquired the rights to produce a television series based on 7th Levels video game Arcade America. Monster is also currently distributing the 13-episode animated series The Storykeepers, while seeking co-production partners for several other animated projects including an animated feature film based on Jack and the Beanstalk, a series called Kwiatkowski based on detective nov
Korean company Samsung Entertainment Group is launching a new animated series for adults called "Alexander." Peter Chung, creator of "Aeon Flux," is designing the characters for the fantasy-adventure show, which is set in 4th Century B.C. Macedonia, and is based on the novel "Alexander's War Chronicles" by Hiroshi Aramata. The executive producer is Haruki Kadokawa, the producers are Masao Maruyama and Rintaro, and the supervising director is Yoshinori Kanemori. Animation is being produced at Mad House in Japan. Screenmusic Studios in Los Angeles will handle post-production.
Bohbot Kids Network (BKN) is launching the animated series "Roswell Conspiracies--Aliens, Myths and Legends" for a Fall 1999 U.S. debut and BKN affiliate debut in 2000. It's unusual format will be comprised of 20 one-hour episodes that can also be split into 40 half-hour episodes. With a production budget of U.S. $850,000 per episode, the show is described as Bohbot's most ambitious children's series to date. The science-fiction show, based on the concept that a NATO Alliance was formed to seek out and destroy alien trespassers, is aimed at kids aged 7-13.
World Entertainment Events is introducing a new animated series to the international market. "Voltron: The Third Dimension" debuted in September in over 180 U.S. markets. The 3D computer-animated show is based on the original "Voltron" cartoon made in the 1980s. The first 26 episodes of the new series were produced by Mike Young Productions ("Prince of Atlantis") and Netter Digital Entertainment ("Babylon 5").
One year ago, CANAL + Distribution launched KIDS + to handle international sales of its more than 800 hours of children's programming. Kids + has since sold programming to Italy's Disney Channel Italy and RAI, Germany's Super RTL, Ireland's RTE, Switzerland's Television Suisse-Romande and France's France 3. Kids +'s new animation being launched at MIPCOM this year includes a feature-length version of "Trouble With Sophie," as well as new episodes of "Fennec" and "Blazing Dragons."
Budapest, Hungary-based Varga Studio is working on a new, stop-motion animated special, "Don Quixote de La Mancha," based on the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. The 30-minute program has been in development for two years, and is now being co-produced with S4C, HBO America and BBC for Spring 1999. The stop-motion materials used--metal skeletons with rubber and clay heads--were developed by studio founder Csaba Varga, who will assume the role of director for the first time since his 1993 short, "Beasts."
New York-based 4 Kids Entertainment is bringing the popular Japanese animated series "Pokémon" to the international market. The show started in U.S. syndication in September, and is signed to appear on Italy's MediaSet network, Australia's Channel 10, Mexico's Televisa, Canada's YTV and Brazil's Globo TV.
Nelvana Limited has greenlit production on 13 episodes of their new animated series, "Redwall" based on the book series by Brian Jacques. The show is about the legends of a mythical medieval abbey populated by woodland creatures. Nelvana co-CEO Michael Hirsh said, "It has all the elements of a medieval fairy tale."
Bonjourno, Mickey! The Italian version of THE DISNEY CHANNEL will begin broadcast on October 3, launching with the country's first TV broadcast of the animated feature, "The Lion King." All programming will be dubbed in Italian. The channel is being transmitted daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, as part of a digital bouquet of channels offered by Telepiu. Disney Channel Italy is headquartered in Milan and headed up by vice president and managing director Janet Scardino. The former Sunbow Entertainment VP joined the company in March 1998.
NICKELODEON plans to launch a 24-hour version of its network in Russia, per a recently-signed agreement with Metromedia International Group. Programming will consist of Russian-language dubbed U.S. shows such as "Rugrats." This will be Nickelodeon's sixth territory-specific network, following existing channels in Australia, Latin America, the Nordic countries, Turkey and the U.K.
Santa Monica, California-based Epoch Ink Animation and Phoenix, Arizona-based Todd McFarlane Entertainment collaborated on a fully-animated music video for Pearl Jam's song "Do the Evolution." The four-minute video was produced in just 12 weeks with a budget of U.S. $220,000.
The National Film Board of Canada (NFBC) has entered into a license agreement with Los Angeles-based producer Jean Madar to develop new TV series and films based on a collection of popular animated shorts from its library. Madar, a Montreal native whose background includes work with Pixibox and Medialab, will use the animated shorts as ready-made pilots for new projects. He has grouped the NFBC films into four collections: "Kids" for children's animation, "Tunes" for musical shorts, "Crazy" for more adult-oriented films, and "Insane" for late-night fare.
As of this Sunday, The Simpsons will become the longest-running sitcom currently on television. Creator and executive producer Matt Groening said he is surprised the show has gone on this long, but, he added, The real surprise is that this coming season is as good as any we've ever done. The writers, led by executive producer Mike Scully, are fantastic. They get the characters and they are creating original stories that don't repeat what we've done or anything else I've seen on television. Audience: you be the judge!
U.S. network NBC aired only three episodes of the prime-time animated series Stressed Eric before pulling it off the air due to disappointing ratings (Nielsen average 4.8). The show, produced with British broadcaster BBC by Klasky Csupo and Absolutely Productions, had been specially dubbed with a new voice track for American viewers, and was slated to air for six episodes through the end of the summer season.