Sunday, November 26, 2006

Future of Primetime Animation

VARIETY explores the viability of primetime cartoons on network schedules. Its conclusion? Hey, evening animation pays off like gangbusters when it works:

Toon title wave animates nets

Fox's success colors webs' plans for more projects


"The Simpsons" has made News Corp. as much as $2 billion over the past 17 years, while "Family Guy" is fast approaching the eight-figure mark for the conglom.

Those figures make the profits behind "Friends" and "Seinfeld" look like chump change. It's no surprise, then, that network execs are anxious to give the animated genre a shot despite high-priced failures of the past.

Fox is casting a wide net , with two pilot presentations already in the works and several more in development.

And CBS is next up at bat, bowing the Stateside version of hit U.K. animated skein "Creature Comforts" -- from Aardman, creator of "Wallace & Gromit" -- later this season.

You read the first two paragraphs above, and it's easy to see why the broadcast networks, their width and breadth shrinking year by year, are eager to create some shows that can earn them billions. It's not for nothing that Rupert Murdoch loves the pinkish "Simpsons." Homer, Bart, and company make his conglomerate billions.

... {T}he return to animation comes as the nets continue to languish in the half-hour sitcom department. And even if a laffer works, mega-backend coin is no longer guaranteed.

As for toon hits, once they develop any sort of audience, the shows offer up an ancillary market bonanza.

"The hits are so successful, you'd see how everyone would keep trying," says Al Jean, exec producer of "The Simpsons." "An animated show can be extremely profitable."

Shows like "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" have been huge on DVD, as well as internationally. And the licensing and merchandising revenue can be enormous, as evidenced by the scads of Stewie and Bart Simpson T-shirts and dolls lining store shelves.

Fox has found out, as Disney learned long before it, that quality animation is an annuity that keeps on giving, decade after decade. Name one live-action feature film from 1937 that has sold 26 million units in video. There aren't any. But of course, there is the animated Snow White .

Expect things to crest next summer with the long-awaited arrival of "The Simpsons Movie." Pic is sure to bolster interest in the franchise, which could very well augment other animated skeins.

Did we mention "annuities that keep on giving"?


Anonymous said...

Since animation makes so much more money than live action you'd think it would get more respect from executives than it does.

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