Co. pacts with Machinima.com for comedy shorts

Old-school animation writers and producers will meet new-school production techniques in a development pact between Reveille and vidgame-centric website Machinima.com.

The deal calls for a group of 15 scribes to create animated comedy shorts using the low-cost machinima production technique. The shorts will run on the Machinima.com website as pilots that may be expanded to series. If any of the pilots gain serious traction on the website, Reveille will further develop them as prospective TV skeins or for other platforms.

Machinima (a term derived from the mashup of “machine” and “cinema”) is a form of animation in which characters, mostly from videogames, are controlled onscreen to match up with scripted scenes and dialog. Format began catching on in the U.S. with online auds when shorts were created around Microsoft’s popular “Halo” franchise.

The Machinima.com website is a clearinghouse for user-generated machinima productions, mostly tied to vidgames.

The comedy shorts will run on the site under the “Machinima Comedy Lab” banner. Reveille is recruiting advertisers to sponsor the productions, which will be done at Machinima’s Hollywood HQ.

The partnership was spearheaded by Todd Cohen, veep of scripted programming at Reveille, and Machinima.com chairman-CEO Allen DeBevoise.

Scribes onboard for the productions include alumni of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” (Bill Oakley, Patric Verrone, Ken Keeler, Chris Cluess, Bill Freiberger, Max Pross and Tom Gammill), “Family Guy” (Mike Rowe) and “Boondocks” (Eric Horsted), as well as non-toon scribes including Maiya Williams (“Mad TV”), Stacie Lipp (“The King of Queens”) and Christina Lynch (“Wildfire”).

The first productions are expected to bow by the end of the year. Cohen emphasized that Machinima’s healthy aud of young men makes it fertile ground for developing animated comedy material. And the ability to generate low-cost episodes should give them a leg up in pitching projects to network buyers, who will also be able to consider the demographic data from Machinima.com plays.

“Animation and videogames is the perfect intersection for reaching men 18-34,” Cohen said. “This partnership is a way of taking advantage of the low-cost production capability to incubate new material for a potentially wider audience.”

DeBevoise said he’s eager to see what seasoned scribes conjure up in a format that allows for rapid turnaround from script to screen.

“This puts traditional writers and the development process into a world that offers a lot less (financial) risk and a way of getting things up quickly and to get feedback from the audience,” he said. “These two worlds coming together could affect each other in interesting and novel ways.”

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