Two prime-time original series will debut on Cartoon Network this November, both from outside producers. Mike, Lu & Og comes from Rugrats creative producer Chuck Swenson, whose Venice, California-based Kino Films will co-produce with Pilot Studio in Moscow (animation will be completed in Korea). Courage the Cowardly Dog, produced by Stretch Films in New York, was spun off from a John Dilworth What a Cartoon! short called Chicken from Outer Space, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996. According to Linda Simenski, VP of original animation, Cartoon Network’s increased budget for original programming-US$450 million for the five-year span ending in 2003-has allowed the network to commission higher-profile projects such as the two new series, which both received initial orders of 13 episodes.
Courage the Cowardly Dog is about a timid dog who has to protect an old couple living on a farm from paranormal phenomenon. The series uses an innovative animation technique in which realistic objects are scanned into the computer and used as backgrounds. When combined with drawn images, the effect is both scary and funny, Simenski says. Mike, Lu & Og is about a female exchange student called Mike, a city girl who finds herself looking for adventure on the open seas and making friends with tropical islanders Lu and Og.
According to Craig McAnsh, senior VP of marketing, the shows will be launched in prime time, where their proximity to Cartoon hits such as Dexter’s Laboratory and Cow and Chicken will lend maximum exposure. Both series debut November 12, with Mike, Lu & Og hitting screens at 8 p.m. and Courage the Cowardly Dog at 9 p.m. Both target Cartoon’s primary audience of kids ages six to 11, although VP of programming Dea Perez admits the audience skews to the older end of the target in the later evening slots.
The Cartoon Cartoon Friday block is the centerpiece of the net’s fall marketing strategy, and will be heavily promoted off-air in an effort to hook in lighter Cartoon viewers to the sub-brand (see ‘Cartoon goes underground,’ June 1999, page 44). TV and in-theater ad campaigns, plus a 50-foot Times Square billboard will tout Cartoon Cartoon’s new ‘You With Us?’ tagline. Fall promos include a Cartoon Cartoon sweepstakes offering 40 to 50 people a chance to win a trip to Bora Bora. An additional Warner Home Video tie-in provides sneak previews of Courage the Cowardly Dog on the fall video release of Scooby-Doo and The Witch’s Ghost.