Network gives 20-episode order to 'Martin'

Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite has given a 20-episode order to “Glenn Martin DDS,” a stop-motion animated comedy series from former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner.

Series reps the first to come out of Tornante Animation, a newly formed part of Eisner’s investment firm, the Tornante Co. Eisner has partnered with “Celebrity Deathmatch” creator Eric Fogel to design “Glenn Martin,” which Nick at Nite plans to launch next summer.

“Glenn Martin” revolves around a dentist who persuades his family to embark on a cross-country road trip — in their toothbrush-topped “dental mobile.”

Eisner brought “Glenn Martin” to Nick at Nite after reading how Nickelodeon was readjusting the evening programming service to target young families (Daily Variety, May 6). For an exec so identified with Disney, Eisner’s decision to take “Glenn Martin” to Nick may be unusual, but Eisner said the channel was a better fit.

“It’s not a Disney Channel show,” Eisner said. “This show is not a fit with ‘Hannah Montana,’ it’s not a tween show. I always thought that animation should be made for adults, and then you get the kids automatically.It’s not to say this couldn’t have worked on some Disney properties, but I read that article, about how they’re moving more older-appeal shows earlier in the evening on Nickelodeon, and knew there would be a great flow of kids coming in to this as well.

“The people who used to watch Nickelodeon (20 years ago) are now young adults having their own children,” he said. “It’s a good transition for Nick at Nite, and it’s a good place for this show to sit.”

Eisner said Disney is well aware of the project — so much so that the family dog on the show is based on one owned by Disney chief financial officer CFO Tom Staggs.

“I kept asking him to send more pictures of his dog,” Eisner said.

For Nick/MTVN Kids and Family Group prexy Cyma Zarghami, ordering a show from Eisner — after decades of competing with the mogul’s networks — was admittedly “a little bit surreal.” Zarghami said she was quickly impressed by “his unbelievable enthusiasm for the creative.”

“To watch somebody who’s been in a lot of places doing really big, important things have this real passion for the work and people who are going to make the work and storytelling was really exciting,” she said. “When he showed us the pilot for ‘Glenn Martin,’ it fit into this strategy we are pursuing.”

Eisner said he’s been interested for years in the idea of centering a contemporary family comedy around cross-country travels. “Glenn Martin” is inspired in part by a 1971 ABC telepic “In Search of America,” which revolved around a college dropout (Jeff Bridges) who tours the country in a bus with his family.

“It occurred to me that the idea of a family traveling around the U.S., a contemporary comedy, would be attractive in animation,” Eisner said.

Eisner produced the pilot on his own dime before identifying an outlet.

“I didn’t want to go through the usual process,” he said. “We had no rules as to how it would be distributed, we just made it.”

Tornante has hired a 10-writer staff to pen the series, which will be animated in Toronto. Alex Berger penned the pilot, while Michael Jamin and Sivert Glarum are attached to showrun. “Glenn Martin” will be voiced by an unknown troupe of thesps who have been given some leeway to improvise their interactions.

Zarghami said Nick would “spend a lot of resources” in promoting “Glenn Martin’s” summer launch, and use it as a springboard to bow its offnet run of “Everybody Hates Chris,” which joins Nick at Nite’s sked in September 2009.

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