Don’t mess with success. That seems to be the general philosophy of children’s programmers with regards to the new fall season.
While there are plenty of new shows slated for release, many agree with Summit Media’s executive vice president Terez Kiely, who says: ‘We’re going to be doing some fine-tuning, but basically the formats of our shows will remain the same. We like to stay with a proven formula.’
Mostly, Kiely is referring to Summit’s Mega Man series, which, for the past two and a half years, has been distributed on a weekly basis for one-half hour only. As of September, the sci-fi action adventure video game-turned series will become a daily strip that will air Monday to Friday.
Summit will also bring back its WMAC (World Martial Arts Council) Masters, a martial arts instructional series that began last September and it premieres several FCC-friendly shows: Pillow People, Dream Big, and the Shelley T. Turtle Show.
DIC and Saban Entertainment will also release new FCC-friendly titles, including Inspector Gadget’s Field Trip from DIC, the animated ‘edutoonment’-labeled show The WhyWhy Family from Saban, and The Adventures of Oliver Twist also from Saban.
Not that ‘edutoonment’ can be labeled as a trend. Saban increased its lineup of children’s programming from nine to 13 series for the 1996/97 season, with two of its most popular action adventure strips, Samurai Pizza Cats and VR Troopers, returning for a third season.
Similarly, Buena Vista Television will add the animated shows Duck Daze and Mighty Ducks to its syndicated Disney Afternoon strip in September. And Claster Television will add ATV, an action-oriented strip with two new animated titles, Beast Wars, and R.U.S.H. (Renegade Undercover Street Her’es), as well as new episodes of G.I. J’e: Extreme, launched as a weekly last season.
While John Hess, senior vice president of domestic distribution for Bohbot Entertainment, notes that last year brought more ‘softer, girl-skewing’ programming, as with the Mighty Ducks, the trend this year seems to be both action adventure and in ‘spawning hits from films.’ Bohbot’s hit The Mask, based on the film starring Jim Carrey, will return as a strip, and Hess says that Bohbot is considering the rights to another Carrey film, Dumb and Dumber for the 1997/98 season. Meanwhile, its successful Amazin’ Adventures anthology, a rotating series of half-hour animated shows, will continue to run as a two-hour weekend block while expanding to a Monday to Friday strip. Adventures will also add Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys to its lineup, a program about monkeys in space.
Even an initially low-rated show like DIC’s girl-skewed Sailor Moon will experience only minor fine-tuning. Janice Sonski, executive director, creative affairs, says last year’s initial poor ratings were due mostly to the show’s 5:30 a.m. time slot in many markets. There will be some changes to Sailor Moon, an animated series based on the life of a high school girl who lived a previous life on the moon. This season, Sonski says, it will introduce a few new ‘sailor scouts,’ and continue to ‘Americanize’ the Japanese-created show by adding current teen vernacular and eliminating footage deemed inappropriate for domestic audiences.
Mostly, Sonski adds, DIC will concentrate on duplicating the show’s success in New York. There, in a mid-morning time slot, it was one of the highest rated kids programs.