The hit ABC teen show Sabrina the Teenage Witch will spin off into an animated series, developed and produced by DIC Entertainment for Buena Vista Television, in conjunction with Paula Hart/Hartbreak Productions, producers of the live-action series.
Interestingly, Buena Vista Television’s primary broadcast outlet for Sabrina the Animated Series is UPN’s newly created Disney block, Sunday to Friday afternoons starting in Fall of 1999. UPN reaches 75% of the U.S., and the block will air in syndication in areas not covered by UPN. The show will join Disney’s Doug, Disney’s Recess and Disney’s Hercules within the two-hour syndicated package. The series will also air on ABC, either within Disney’s One Saturday Morning block or in a timeslot leading into or directly following the branded block.
According to DIC president Andy Heyward, who shepherded the project through an eight-year development process, it was born out of a 12-year association with Archie Comics, from which DIC procured the rights to the comic book property. Heyward says the Sabrina the Animated Series deal was worth the wait, as top tier talent was secured and DIC Entertainment garnered an unusually high 65-episode order from Disney.
The animated series is a prequel to the live-action show, depicting the young witch at the age of 12, before she has full command of her magical powers, and will be voiced by Melissa Joan Hart’s younger sister Emily.
According to Paula Hart, producer of the hit teen show, the younger-skewing animated property lends itself to kids merchandising better than its live-action predecessor, which excelled in teen-related categories like makeup and CD-ROMs. ‘Maybe this will finally sell those lunchboxes,’ Hart quips. According to Heyward, Viacom Consumer Products and DIC split the series’ merchandising rights 50/50.