Net to unveil animated version of hit skein 'Chavo'

A correction was made to this article on Jan. 8, 2006.

Mexico’s media titan Televisa is singing a new toon in 2006, its first ever, and is aiming to revamp its programming with possible U.S. and Spanish co-productions.

Later this month, at the National Association of Television Program Executives meeting in Las Vegas, Televisa will unveil for pre-sales an animated version of its most successful sitcom ever, the 1970s children’s comedy “El Chavo del ocho.”

Budding Mexican toon studio Anima is creating the 26-episode series of half-hour shows that will update the Spanish-language afternoon mainstay for today’s auds. The first season will be ready by late 2006.

The original series’ 1,300 episodes are in syndication in every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America, as well as Spain and Brazil, where fans’ protests this summer kept reruns from going off the air.

“Chavo” has been a top show on cable for Hispanic viewers in the U.S., airing on Univision’s Galavision.

The original live-action show follows the G-rated exploits of the title character, an orphan street kid who lives alone in a barrel, played by the series creator, then middle-aged comedian Roberto Gomez Bolanos.

Gomez Bolanos has been adapting the original scripts with his son Roberto Gomez Fernandez, a producer of teen telenovelas such as the international bestseller “El Juego de la vida.”

“They are making the series more modern to bring something to today’s kids,” said Claudia Silva, marketing director at Miami-based Televisa Studios. “It has big possibilities not only for free TV but also cable.”

“Chavo”-related toys, clothing and other products are top sellers in Mexico. New York-based United Media took over “Chavo” licensing and merchandising in the U.S.at the beginning of 2005.

Anima Studios has already produced two films, “Magos y Gigantes” and this summer’s “Imaginum.” Both films were B.O. flops, but the studio has committed to the long term, aiming to create a viable market for Mexican animation.

The turn to toons may be just the first step toward new programming that Televisa takes in 2006.

Net has been talking to Warner Bros. and other major U.S. studios as it shops around for co-production possibilities for the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, Televisa has made its break into Spain after winning a license to operate a channel with a consortium of five Spanish companies.

Little of Televisa’s current programming seems to fit the concept of the new channel, which aims for young, urban audiences.

Televisa is aiming to take an equity stake in one of its Sexta partners, Arbol, Spain’s top producer of dramatic series. The partnership could lead to Televisa’s return to dramatic series — also to be aimed at U.S. auds.

Any such U.S. or Spanish co-productions would be outside Televisa’s programming deal with Univision, whichgives it less than 15% of royalties for airing its programming and gives the net a chance to negotiate new terms with Univision — or even shop the shows around to other U.S. Spanish broadcasters.

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