Alphabet to offer a little green for the holidays

ABC went far, far away to find its new holiday franchise: DreamWorks Animation, which will produce a new “Shrek”-themed special for the Alphabet net.

“Shrek the Halls” is set to debut in December 2007, picking up where the storyline to next summer’s “Shrek the Third” leaves off.

Half-hour spec revolves around Christmas at the swamp, as Shrek and company prepare for the holidays. The franchise’s regular voices, including Mike Myers (Shrek), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), have already signed on to participate in “Shrek the Halls.”

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told Daily Variety that the idea for a special came out of a conversation he had with ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson.

“Steve and I were together one day, and he mentioned to me that he was trying to find a new Christmas special,” Katzenberg said. “They had great success last Christmas with their holiday-themed specials. So I brainstormed with our team, and we came back to him with the idea of ‘Shrek the Halls.’ “

ABC has beefed up its roster of holiday specs in recent years, acquiring classics such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and introducing new ones. McPherson said he believed “Shrek the Halls” would become another evergreen in the vein of “Charlie Brown” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.”

“Family classics are a cornerstone of our brand,” McPherson said.

Katzenberg said Myers, Diaz, Murphy and Banderas quickly signed up to participate.

“The actors, the talent, have been a part of this enterprise from the beginning,” Katzenberg said. “Every time we come to them with anything that is in support of this enterprise, they’ve been supportive. This is no different.”

Katzenberg says “Shrek the Halls” will also serve as a stepping stone between the third “Shrek” movie and the “Shrek” musical, which he hopes to bring to Broadway in spring 2008. A “Shrek the Halls” special will also likely boost sales of the “Shrek the Third” DVD just in time for the gift-giving season.

The “Shrek the Halls” deal is further evidence of a newfound relationship between ABC and DreamWorks Animation under Disney chief Bob Iger. For competitive reasons, Disney-owned ABC had until recently passed on all DreamWorks animated features — which is why the original “Shrek” wound up on NBC, even though ABC had an output deal for DreamWorks theatricals.

That’s changed: Alphabet web is already set to air the broadcast network premiere of “Shrek 2″ on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 8 p.m.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with Steve McPherson and his gang, and they’ve made it very clear that they’re open for business,” Katzenberg said. “They’ve reached out to us.”

Gary Trousdale (“Beauty and the Beast”) is set to direct “Shrek the Halls,” which will be produced by Teresa Cheng (“Madagascar”) and Gina Shay (“The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”).

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