This article was corrected on May 30, 2000.
Just how serious is Warner Bros. about distributing original programming on the Internet? Serious enough to compete with its own Netcaster, Entertaindom.com.
Warner Bros. Online is readying to launch a redesigned Web site sometime next month, complete with original shows and other traffic-generating entertainment programming based on its branded properties.
First out of the gate is TheOblongs.com, a site to feature animated Webisodes based on the upcoming Warner Bros. Television series and comic books of the same name.
Co-created by Jace Richdale (“The Simpsons”) and Bruce Helford (“The Drew Carey Show”), 25-episode series “Oblong Moments” will introduce the show’s quirky and disfigured family, which lives in a toxic valley near an industrial waste dump, via 30-second animated sketches exclusively for the Web.
Helford also played a role in Warner Bros. TV and ABC’s Webcast of the “Drew Carey Show” in November, which attracted nearly 2 million Netizens.
New Webisodes will air prior to the series’ bow on the WB as a midseason replacement in 2001 and are skedded to roll out one per day, enabling Warner Bros. Online to continue its promotional push while building a library of original online content.
Site will also feature alternative rock music tracks composed exclusively for the series as well as Flash-animated Web cards. More content, including games, will be added as the show’s bow nears.
“The Internet is the perfect place for us to showcase Bruce’s vision of the Oblongs,” said Kevin Tsujihara, exec veep, Warner Bros. New Media. “By bringing the Oblongs online now, we can interact with and cultivate an audience, capturing their interest and attention far in advance of traditional media. This furthers our goal to entertain fans on the Web with original content and also establish a brand, thereby utilizing the medium as a promotional vehicle as well.”
All the right moves?
Entertaindom, which falls under the recently-created Warner Bros. New Media arm, will now become more independent and showcase “edgier” and non-Warners-owned material, while the studio’s properties, from content featuring “The Perfect Storm” to Looney Tunes, will likely go to Warner Bros. Online.
Despite the recent loss of its original stable of leaders, Entertaindom is still alive and kicking. Site last week inked a deal with Fiasco Films for as many as 12 short films in the 10-minute range spoofing major features at the B.O.
Deal starts with “Mission: Imp,” a 10-minute short starring 2-foot-8-inch Verne Troyer, better known as Mini-Me from “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” as tricycle-riding spy Ethan Runt.
Pic bows June 12 on Entertaindom and will be shown on video screens at the company’s studio stores, as well.
Fiasco’s live-action spoof “Scream 33 1/3” and animated Oscar laffer “The Seat Fillers” also aired on Entertaindom.
Competition from within
But now with new offerings, Warner Bros. Online will be competing with sister company Entertaindom for those lucrative advertising dollars and launching what could be a confusing marketing effort to attract Netizens.
The WB has ordered 13 episodes of “The Oblongs,” based on Angus Oblong’s book “Creepy Susie and Thirteen Other Tragic Tales for Troubled Children,” published by Ballantine Books.
Will Ferrell (“Saturday Night Live”), Jean Smart (“Designing Women”), Pamela Segall Adlon (“King of the Hill”) and Billy West (“Ren & Stimpy”), among others, are voicing the characters.
Helford, Richdale and Deborah Oppenheimer (“The Drew Carey Show,” “The Norm Show”) are exec producing the show for Oblongs Prods. in association with Mohawk Prods. and Jobsite Prods. for the WB.