A video sequel to Charlotte’s Web, co-produced with Paramount, plus a fourth quarter release entitled The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus are slated at Universal’s yearling Family and Home Entertainment division, set up to handle sell-through, TV animation and live-action fare. Debuting this fall on Fox Kids is the division’s animated TV series Woody Woodpecker, with new episodes entering production. As part of the same Fox Kids deal, an original animated series is in development-all part of a push by the year-old division to build strong franchises for its burgeoning kids and family brand. Also planned are interactive TV and direct-to-video spin-offs of Universal’s motion pictures, including Curious George, according to Louis Feola, head of Universal Family and Home Entertainment.
The family label is actually somewhat misleading, says Feola, naming projects like Dragon Heart 2: The Star Prophecy, the K-911 sequel to K-9 and Beyond the Mat (a documentary about pro wrestling) as non-kids product on the division’s slate. Feola says the division has evolved to encompass TV animation and DTV for preschoolers to adults, the Universal Cartoon Studios production facility, and acquisitions departments for both video and TV.
Rounding out the division’s video release slate are Alvin and the Chipmunks, debuting in September, and sequel Balto: The Dream Quest.
As former president of Universal Home Video, Feola was responsible for the studio’s entry into DTV with the enormously successful Land Before Time franchise. The six-title series has generated about US$465 million to date.