'High School' hits a high note at confab

Nature conservationism, live-action romance and Islamic-friendly animation were among the highlights at this year’s two-day Mipcom Jr., which wrapped Sunday with the announcement of major deals for Disney’s “High School Musical 2.”

Disney-ABC Intl. Television sold the hit tuner ahead of the main Mipcom mart, which kicks off today to broadcasters in more than 40 countries, including the BBC in the U.K., RTI in Italy, ProSieben in Germany, M6 in France, RTE in Ireland, Russia’s Channel 1, SABC in South Africa, CCTV6 in China, Australia’s Seven, TVNZ in New Zealand and Studio 23 in the Philippines.

On the receiving end, Germany’s Super RTL, co-owned by Disney and RTL, picked up “Famous Five — On the Case,” Marathon Intl.’s animated series based on British writer Enid Blyton’s successful children’s books, plus the French distrib’s “Monster Buster Club,” a CGI series about kids who protect the local town from aliens.

A hot property, “Famous Five” was the second most screened show at the mart, behind fairy toon “A Kind of Magic” from French distrib Xilam Animation and ahead of BBC Worldwide’s animated “Animalia,” based on the bestselling Graeme Base book about two children swept into a magical land of speaking animals.

While animation remains an integral part of Super RTL’s programming, Frank Dietz, the channel’s head of acquisitions and co-productions, said there was growing interest among young auds for live programming, as shown by the web’s success with Disney shows “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”

Disney Channel Worldwide prexy Rich Ross echoed that sentiment, saying in his keynote address that young auds around the globe were embracing live-action fare including the “High School Musical” franchise and “Hannah Montana.”

“We thought it would bring a contemporary look to Disney,” Ross said of the decision to beef up live action programming at the web. “We have shown now that live action is what talks to you — it speaks to you about your life, about your family.”

Disney was among 315 sellers represented at Mipcom Jr. While that figure remained unchanged over 2006, the mart did see a slight increase in the number of buyers to 465. The number of programs on offer dropped 2% to 919, while the number of screenings was up nearly 7% to 45,747.

Among this year’s standouts:

  • Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s wildlife conservation skein “Bindi: The Jungle Girl,” starring the daughter of the late Steve Irwin.

  • Marathon Intl.’s “Summer Crush,” a drama series about a star-crossed romance set in New Caledonia.

  • “Saladin,” an animated series about the Islamic hero who united the Muslims in the holy war against the Crusades in the 12th century, from Malaysia’s Multimedia Development Corp.

  • “Serious Andes Diary,” a reality series from All3Media Intl. following eight British kids, aged 12-15, as they learn to survive in the high altitudes of the Andes in Ecuador and take part in a project to help save an endangered species of bear.

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