Par will sing new toon

Paramount, one of the few major studios not to aggressively pursue the television animation market, will enter that arena with “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” a weekly half-hour that will air as part of USA Network’s Sunday morning “Cartoon Express” block.

The new show will debut in the fall alongside the newly acquired Terrytoons library (Daily Variety, March 10), which includes “Mighty Mouse” and “Heckle & Jeckle” cartoons.

The cable network, which is co-owned by Par and MCA, has also acquired rights to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”– which found its clearances squeezed in syndication by Disney and Fox Children’s Network fare — from Group W Prods.

USA is committed to adding one hour of original animation to its Sunday lineup; the second offering in the hour has yet to be determined, though it won’t come from Par. According to exec VP of programming Dave Kenin, the second half-hour should be unveiled in a month or so.

“Itsy Bitsy Spider,” from Paramount through Hyperion, is still in the development stage, and USA is committed to 13 new episodes.

The cable network acquired the Terrytoon collection from Viacom. USA has bought an exclusive multiyear, multirun package of the classics, which will account for about 200 half-hour programs.

The cabler will work the Terrytoon product into its “Cartoon Express” block, which runs weekdays 7-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m., and Sundays 7 a.m. to noon.

USA will shift its weekday afternoon block to a 6 p.m. start at the end of March, when it will package “Denver, The Last Dinosaur” with newly acquired episodes of “Dinosaucers.” The cabler is hoping to capture some of the hype from Amblin/Universal’s summer theatrical release of “Jurassic Park.”

In addition to Disney, Fox, MCA and Warner Bros. (which provides the lion’s share of programming to the Fox Childrens’ Network), MGM recently announced an animated “Pink Panther” series for next season.

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