Tapping into a youth-focused NASCAR revival effort that has seen the launch of an animated TV series, video game franchise and full-fledged licensing program over the past year, L.A.-based web content developer SportsBlast has bowed a new web series called The Kellys on NASCAR.com. Founded by voice actor Nancy Cartright of Bart Simpson fame, SportsBlast picked up the on-line entertainment rights to the NASCAR property from Turner Sports Interactive, which airs all the racing league’s events on television.
Ten three-minute episodes of the weekly Flash-animated show were initially produced, the first of which debuted last month. However, the order has been upped to include 40 more segments that will air in tandem with NASCAR’s Winston Cup series of 36 U.S. events next year.
The series explores the world of professional stock car racing, with a cast composed of drivers, pit crews, sponsors and fans. The Kellys are a family racing team that enjoys underdog status on the circuit–but it doesn’t get them down. SportsBlast CEO William Widmaier says that in addition to top-level voice talent–Cartwright (The Simpsons, Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs), Corey Burton (101 Dalmations, Toy Story 2), Kath Souci (Rugrats, Winnie the Pooh), Rob Paulson (Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain, The Land Before Time) and Jess Harnell (Alf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer)–animated incarnations of Hollywood celebrities and actual NASCAR drivers will make guest appearances from time to time.
Widmaier and Ken Martin, executive producer and co-founder of eStudio, the L.A.-based animation studio rendering the show, say that they are pulling out all the plugs for The Kellys in terms of production value. While no one was willing to discuss specific budgets, Martin says that from a pure production standpoint, the budget for a show like The Kellys could fall between US$10,000 and US$18,000 per episode.
‘NASCAR is the fastest-growing sport in North America. It’s also very family-oriented,’ says Widmaier, who feels that The Kellys will follow that target lead. It’s developed for NASCAR fans, but also for younger kids and the rest of the family. One of the main characters, voiced by Cartwright, is a six-year-old boy who lives and breathes stock car racing. The events, the video games, the T-shirts–you name it, he’s got it. ‘The stock car community is very much into merchandising,’ says Widmaier, suggesting that the show will have high licensing potential. And although on-line life is the goal right now, he admits that, eventually, it would be great to land on TV.