Homely extraterrestrials coming to a TV screen near you

Property: Butt-Ugly Martians
Owners: Derbyshire's Just Licensing, a division of Just Entertainment
Concept: Original story by writer Gary Selvaggio, who wrote and directed the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. California-based Mike Young Productions, Just Entertainment and Hong Kong's DCDC Studios...
September 1, 2000

Property: Butt-Ugly Martians

Owners: Derbyshire’s Just Licensing, a division of Just Entertainment

Concept: Original story by writer Gary Selvaggio, who wrote and directed the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. California-based Mike Young Productions, Just Entertainment and Hong Kong’s DCDC Studios are co-producing the CGI-animated TV series.

Description: It’s the year 2053, and Mars has sent three soldiers on a mission to destroy Earth. Upon arrival, however, they are befriended by three bouncy kids and become enamored with Earth culture (in particular, rock music and hamburgers), subsequently deciding to ditch their search-and-destroy mission and stay. To continue noshing on junk food at the mall though, the AWOL soldiers must outwit their superior, the evil Emperor Bog, who expects Operation Obliterate Earth to be a quick and effortless maneuver.

Demo: Boys ages four to 11, plus potential cult status appeal with teens up to age 17.

The Latest: U.K. net CITV purchased 26 half hours of B.U.M., which it will begin airing in January. At press time, Just Licensing was in discussions with three U.S. broadcasters who were interested in picking up the show. According to industry sources a Hollywood studio known for producing films about extraterrestrials has proposed a theatrical B.U.M. feature.

Potential: Just Licensing CEO Wilf Shorrocks says he has dozens of companies lined up for all major categories, but won’t sign any until he has secured a master toy licensee, which he expects to have in the fold by the end of this year. The unique characteristics of the Butt-Uglies offer potential licensees plenty of opportunity to merchandise the property in nontraditional categories. ‘We’ve had a lot of interest from companies wanting to create food products because in the show, the characters hang out in burger joints and eat tons of quantum burgers,’ he says. Chewing gum producer Wrigley’s, in fact, has pitched Just Licensing on doing a line of B.U.M. gum. The appearance of the Martians, which (leaving aside their purplish skin) is reminiscent of the aliens in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks, should prove appealing to companies that produce greeting cards and stationery products, adds Shorrocks. In fact, he’s already received calls from American Greetings about developing Butt-Ugly cards.

Anyone alive in the `80s is likely detect echoes of the Ninja Turtles in B.U.M. To wit: Mike Young Productions has endowed each of the three Martians-2-T-Fru-T, B. Bop-A-Luna and Do-Wah-Diddy-with their own Turtle-esque catchphrases. Instead of Cowabunga, though, the B.U.M.s say things like ‘Let’s Get Ugly’ and chant the letters ‘BKM’ (stands for Butt-Kicking Mode) as they don their battle gear. Both phrases, Shorrocks believes, would work well emblazoned across a variety of apparel and electronics products.

Market Reality Check: The name of the show and it’s acronym (B.U.M.) alone should draw kids in immediately, says Max Wexler, licensing manager at Toronto-based toyco Spin Master Toys, who thinks the property has hit written all over it. ‘Yes, it’s the lowest common denominator type of humor, but kids love bum and body jokes,’ he says. Wexler also believes the show’s mix of action and body humor should help to snag the broad kid demo it’s targeting. The Butt-Uglies don’t belong to the cute-and-cuddly school of aliens. They have deep voices and chiseled features and will engage in enough action-battle sequences to keep older kids interested, says Wexler. At the same time, he says, they’re kind of dorky and funny, which means they shouldn’t scare off younger kids. To be sure, the Martians as rubes in a strange new world should be the source for much of the show’s yuks.

And while he thinks quirky alien characters still have a solid currency in kids entertainment, Kirk Bloomgarden, president of licensing and entertainment at the London-based Copyright Promotions Licensing Group, warns that the show’s creators need to keep the irony level turned low. ‘It shouldn’t be too campy. At the end of the day, for little kids, shows are about good and evil. Everything else goes over their heads,’ says Bloomgarden. That shouldn’t be a problem with B.U.M. The villain in the show, Emperor Bog, is likely to be a regular fixture. In one of the early episodes, the B.U.M.s send a message to Bog explaining that Earth is not the easily conquered planet they thought it would be. As proof, they transmit a cheesy B-movie reel from the 1950s of Godzilla destroying cars and buildings. Eventually Bog figures out the scheme and sends his henchmen to retrieve them and complete the original mission. Another villain in the show gunning for the Butt-Uglies is Stoat Muldoon, a crusty alien hunter who lives in the desert and who will be voiced by Robert Stack.

So long as the good vs. bad story lines exist, kids will be able to roleplay using any toys that are developed, says Spin Master’s Wexler. On that front, he thinks action figures with sound chips that contain the characters’ catchphrases would be a definite winner. He also thinks any toy line based on the show will have a strong collectibility element. Says Wexler: ‘Because it’s set in the future, in 2053, you have a lot of leeway there to produce different weapons and uniforms for each of the characters.’

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