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.
ï ITE opens Japanese office
The Danish company Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE), producer of the interactive game show Hugo the TV Troll, has expanded its presence in Asia with the opening of the company’s Tokyo office. The Tokyo office is ITE’s first in Asia. The expansion to Asia follows the opening last year of a Los Angeles office headed by company president Ivan Solvason.
ï Watership Down up and running
London-based Alltime Entertainment is developing an animated television series based on Richard Adam’s classic children’s novel Watership Down. Alltime has teamed up with Martin Rosen, producer, writer and director of a 1978 animated feature film modeled after the book, and Telemagination to help produce the series. Alltime is currently setting up deals with distributors and broadcasters for the first 26 half-hour episodes, which are scheduled to air in 1999. The series follows the adventures of rabbit heroes Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and pals as they navigate through the down. Since it was first published in 1973, Watership Down has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.
ï More characters ride into Nick’s stable
Nickelodeon has created a cartoon series that will feature at least three new characters in every episode and a variety of animation styles. Each half-hour episode of Oh Yeah! Cartoons! will contain three seven-minute shorts. In all, 39 new characters will appear throughout the series’ first 13 episodes. Storylines for Oh Yeah! Cartoons! will involve depictions of kids and animals living in a kid’s world. Woven throughout each show will be live-action testimonials of real kids commenting on the cartoons. Oh Yeah! Cartoons!, set to air in July, will be the first cartoon produced at the new Nicktoons animation studios in Burbank, California.