Video deal for Fisher-Price preschool toy line

Alliance Communications and Fisher-Price have entered into a production agreement to create a direct-to-video animated release that will serve as a pilot for a proposed series based on Rescue Heroes, Fisher-Price's recently announced new preschool action figure toy line....
March 1, 1998

Alliance Communications and Fisher-Price have entered into a production agreement to create a direct-to-video animated release that will serve as a pilot for a proposed series based on Rescue Heroes, Fisher-Price’s recently announced new preschool action figure toy line.

The agreement marks the third time that Toronto-based Alliance has partnered with a toy manufacturer to create an entertainment property. Previously, it had created the successful series Beast Wars and ReBoot in association with Hasbro.

Rescue Heroes, Fisher-Price’s first entry into the preschool action figure line, is expected to be available at retail in the second quarter of this year. The line consists of four everyday action heroes, such as construction workers and firemen. The video is scheduled for retail release in July.

Alliance is working up storyboards for 13 episodes and plans to sell the series at MIP-TV in April. Pictor Entertainment will do the animation.

Anytime a children’s entertainment series is created from a toy line, it raises the antennae of industry watchdogs who fear that the collaboration is merely a thinly disguised means of marketing the toys. But Jeff Rayman, chairman of Alliance Multimedia, a division of Alliance Communications, says that it shouldn’t matter where source material originates as long as interesting character-driven stories can be created from it.

It was Rayman, not Fisher-Price, who saw the series potential in the characters. Rayman had passed on a different concept that the toy manufacturer had proposed when he stumbled upon the Rescue Heroes and realized that they offered a natural appeal to young children.

‘What Fisher-Price likes about the characters is that they are everyday heroes,’ he says. ‘What we did was put them together as a team.’ He describes the series as ‘Rescue 911 meets Indiana Jones,’ in which the Rescue Heroes come together to resolve crises through teamwork and ingenuity as opposed to weaponry and brawn.

Toy-based series often put production companies and toy manufacturers at loggerheads over the goals of the show. Rayman believes that this tug of war doesn’t need to exist if all parties involved take the view that interesting, engaging and entertaining programs with good storylines will encourage children to seek out the toy to extend the TV experience. As with its experiences with Beast Wars and ReBoot, Alliance has received autonomy over the direction of the scripts. Fisher-Price will be consulted, but won’t have a final say on the project.

The companies have also worked out a shared arrangement for new characters or gadgets created specifically for the series that may affect the direction of the toy line.

In a related story, Trendmasters has announced that it is nearing an agreement with Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment to develop a 40-episode series based on Trendmasters’ War Planets toy line. The program has been cleared in 86 percent of the United States, representing 110 markets. It is slated to debut in the fall.

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