'South Park' creators to bow shorts on 'Net

“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are expected to announce today an exclusive deal with Shockwave.com, under which the duo will create 39 animated shorts to be Webcast before crossing characters or individual shows over to more traditional film or TV venues.

As part of the deal, Parker and Stone will retain complete artistic control and ownership of the shorts — something many Hollywood notables have been eyeing for some time as a reason to start creating programming for the Web.

In fact, the deal could signal a trend in the coming year of celebs venturing online for the first time. Already, Chris O’Donnell has said he will create programming for Warner Bros.’ hub Entertaindom next year. Adam Sandler already has.

Testing characters

The first full-screen two- to five-minute shorts, created using Macromedia’s Flash technology, are expected to bow in March.

Characters in the shorts will also appear in other Shockwave.com properties, including games and puzzles.

Parker and Stone are expected to use Shockwave.com, a site featuring a slew of animated shorts and games, to test whether certain characters or plotlines strike a chord with Netizens before transitioning the properties into the network, cable and feature film arenas.

“The ‘Net lets you get something in front of fans very quickly and lets you get feedback on whether or not they like it,” said Lewis Henderson, William Morris veep and head of new media.

‘Light years ahead’

Shockwave.com, which recently landed $44 million in venture capital, said nearly 200 million of its Flash players have been downloaded to show its animated content.

“Because of Macromedia Flash technology, the ability to deliver animated comedy over the Web is light-years ahead of live action, and that excites the hell out of us,” Stone said.

The deal isn’t unusual for the duo, considering “South Park” was born through “The Spirit of Christmas,” an animated short that was broadcast online.

Shockwave.com receives strong support from program creators already popular among the younger-skewing ‘Net generation.

The William Morris Agency’s corporate advisory/new-media department and law firm Barnes, Morris & Yorn brokered the deal with Michael Yanover at Shockwave.com. Pact comes just after the agency linked the “Spike & Mike” animation festivals with Netcaster IFilm.

Separately, Spunky Prods. has also inked a deal with Shockwave.com to distrib two original cartoon series on the site in January, “The Beatless” and “Hix Hollar, USA.”

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