Kids’ WB! wrapped last month’s kids upfront presentations with a new ‘Fraturday’ block of original programming, seven animated debuts and a pledge to continue building its Pokémon-fueled ratings with ‘high adventure, humor and heart.’
The freshly-named 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday afternoon block will center around a next-gen Pokémon series called Pokémon GS. A whopping 52 episodes have been ordered from U.S. distributor 4Kids Entertainment, allowing the WB to anchor both the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning blocks with the series starting this fall. The show will introduce 100 new critters and tie in to the launch of Nintendo’s new Gold and Silver Game Boy games, set to street later this year. Other originals slated for the Friday afternoon block include Cardcaptors, Generation O!, and The Zeta Project.
Cardcaptors, produced in Japan by Kodansha and distributed in North America by Toronto’s Nelvana, is a sort of Pokémon for girls featuring a female lead who must recapture a flurry of magical cards. WB entertainment president Susanne Daniels says that the series has enjoyed a strong following among both boys and girls in Japan since its 1996 debut on NHK. Generation O!, a co-pro between Sony Wonder and Germany’s RTV, also features a girl lead, (see ‘Top Toon Talent,’ page 47). Tying up the new block is The Zeta Project, produced in-house, a Batman Beyond spin-off about a robot who escapes his destiny as a weapon of mass destruction.
The remaining fall animation debuts will be slotted into the 8 a.m. to noon Saturday block. Batman Beyond will kick things off, followed by Pokémon (the original), Jackie Chan Adventures, Max Steel, Pokémon GS, Static Shock!, Men in Black and X-Men Evolution. Sony Pictures Family Entertainment debut Jackie Chan Adventures features an animated version of the martial arts star fighting an evil crime family called The Dark Hand. Chan may appear in live-action segments. New addition Static Shock!, produced at Warner Bros. Animation, is billed as featuring ‘the first teenage African American superhero.’ Based on a DC Comics’ book series, the show is touted as dealing with real issues, ‘such as peer pressure, gangs and growing up in an ethnically diverse urban neighborhood.’ Finally, newbie X-Men Evolution, from Marvel Studios in association with Film Roman, will try to avoid the pitfalls of the mid-’90s Fox Kids X-Men series by making the X-Men into X-teens. This time the series is about trying to ‘fit in’ when you possess extraordinary powers due to genetic mutations. Along with the fall debuts, Kids’ WB! announced that midseason addition Cubix will join the sked early next year. (see ’4 Kids preps props,’ page 18).