RKO, Roman team to toon up old pix

'Sinbad,' 'Blackbeard,' Musketeers pic to be animated

NEW YORK — RKO Pictures and animator Phil Roman have joined forces to turn a series of vintage films into animated features, starting with six pics that include the 1946 “Sinbad the Sailor,” the 1952 adventure “Blackbeard the Pirate” and the 1952 Three Musketeers adventure “At Sword’s Point.”

The deal was orchestrated by RKO chairman-CEO Ted Hartley and Roman, who recently left the company he created, Film Roman, to start his own venture. Hartley and Roman will exec produce the films, and while theatrical distribution is a possibility, the partners are considering producing the films for the direct-to-video market.

Branding boon

RKO will handle distribution worldwide and use portions of the films to feed its quickly growing Internet operation. The key, said Roman, is to exploit the RKO library to establish a brand name that connotes quality.

“I started my own company because at Film Roman, I had become more of a businessman,” said the six-time Emmy winner, who hatched Film Roman 14 years ago. “I wanted to get back to doing the thing I trained for in art school, and the RKO venture is the kind of linchpin I had been looking for.”

Roman’s veep Rick Ramirez and RKO execs Art Horan and Davis Marko made the deal.

Hartley said the deal with Roman gives RKO another library-building entity but also will service the company’s recent move onto the Web. “We don’t know quite yet what the market will be for the Internet, but we will have a series library ready.”

RKO has commissioned Massachusetts-based Art Barn to do 52 segments of “Alien Theater”; Hartley’s also working with Nashville-based writers Robert Deaton and George Flanigan to create the digital series “Nashville, Music Row,” a country music soap opera told in six minute episodes, with novelist Randall Patrick working on the script.

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