Actor to finance animated Web series

Kevin Costner will produce, finance and lend his voice to “The Explorers Club,” an animated series that will originate on the Internet during the holiday season in 12 four-minute segments.

Costner intends to build a following and then turn “The Explorers Club” into a live-action feature he will topline.

Created, written and directed by Chris Baird, Jon Baird and Keith Quinn of Black Lamp Prods., the animated series is a collection of gothic stories that follow a group of Victorian-era adventurers as they travel to the darkest corners of the map. The first episode will be called “A Passage to Shambhala.”

Animation will be done by Chiodo Bros. Prods., and the Webisodes will have a style reminiscent of graphic novels. Costner will produce with Robin Jonas, his partner in Treehouse Films, an offshoot of Tig Prods. aimed at hatching TV and Web content.

“The Explorers Club” marks Costner’s first foray into multiplatform content and the latest example of his willingness to wager his own coin. Costner partly financed the feature “Mr. Brooks,” in which he played a serial killer, and he is financing the Joshua Michael Stern-directed “Swing Vote,” which casts him as a man whose vote will decide the presidential election.

The Web venture is the second launched recently by a high-profile star. With writer-director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell hatched Funny or Die, a comedy site made popular with two films starring Ferrell and McKay’s pint-sized daughter Pearl, who plays a drunken landlady with a foul mouth and an abusive police interrogator.

Costner’s endgame is the live-action feature. The creators will have a feature script ready by the time the segments air on the Web. Costner plans to reprise his role as an explorer named Sloane, and he’ll have first crack at directing the film.

“Each episode is clever and visual, it works as a series, and it has massive potential for the bigscreen,” Costner said. “Distribution channels have grown, and as a filmmaker, I was excited by the opportunities to draw an audience into a story in a new way.”

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