Icebox.com warms up ‘Net toons

Site bows 5 short skeins

Internet incubator eCompanies is expected to announce today its first entertainment Web site, Icebox.com, which will broadcast a slate of original animated shows online created by scribes and producers from “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Seinfeld,” among others.

The Santa Monica-based Web site, set to bow at the end of February, is the fourth from eCompanies, founded last year by former Buena Vista Internet Group chairman Jake Winebaum and Earthlink’s Sky Dayton.

Toon dailies

Upon its launch, Icebox.com will bow five three- to five-minute animated series daily. Site is focusing on animation due to the ease of viewing the genre online (as opposed to video) without the need of high-speed Internet connections.

“Great entertainment is created by great storytellers,” said Jake Winebaum, co-founder of eCompanies. “Most entertainment and animated content on the Web has been, until now, mostly about showing off technology, and not about the story itself.”

Talent power

What will position Icebox as a major competitor against animation Netcasters Shockwave.com and soon- to-bow POP.com is the company’s already-inked stable of talent.

Signed creators include Larry David, co-creator of “Seinfeld”; “South Park, Bigger, Longer & Uncut” co-scripter Pam Brady; Brent Forrester, co-executive producer of “King of the Hill”; Alex Gansa, exec producer of “Dawson’s Creek”; Rob Greenberg, co-exec producer of “Frasier”; Ron Koslow, creator of “Beauty and the Beast”; George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, exec producers of “The Simpsons”; and Steve Tompkins, creator of “The PJ’s,” among others.

Shockwave.com already has “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker on board; POP.com promises to boast its own A-list roster.

“We are thrilled to be working with Icebox,” said Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, creators of “Party of Five” and “Time of Your Life.” “The site will give us the opportunity and creative freedom to showcase our work and have unfiltered access to our audience.”

What has drawn the talent to the Web is its lack of Nielsen ratings, time limits and other pressures.

“Icebox will bring the highest quality writing to the Internet without the Hollywood pricetag,” said Icebox co-founder and CEO Steve Stanford. “We give them a place. They can try anything. The Internet affords people creative freedom because of the unlimited shelf space. Creators can take a greater risk.”

Launching soon

eCompanies’ plan is to create and launch new dot-com businesses in 90 to 180 days, self-financing and staffing the sites in-house. Company has already bowed eParties.com, eMemories.com and Business.com.

Stanford founded ICM’s new technology division in 1993. He was also a product manager in the network products group at Oracle.

Site co-founders include Rob LaZebnik, co-executive producer of “The Simpsons,” and John Collier, co-exec producer of “King of the Hill.”

Most recently, Stanford served as veep of business development at CitySearch, where he was involved in the acquisition of Sidewalk from Microsoft.

If the shows prove successful, Icebox plans to cross over the projects into traditional film and television and other ancillary markets. It currently has no plans to produce a live-action series.

“Icebox.com represents the further Netification of the entertainment industry,” Dayton said. “Previously, the Internet occupied a secondary role to other entertainment media. Icebox.com provides further evidence that the Internet has arrived at the top of the media food chain. In the future, new content brands will break online first then, after proving their success with consumers, be licensed to the ancillary media of television and film.”

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