Inaugural Hall of Game awards to air Feb. 25

Cartoon Network’s got game — a whole new hall of it.

With the launch of its inaugural Hall of Game sports awards, taping Monday in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar for a Feb. 25 airdate, the cable channel aims to leverage its core demo of young males to become a significant player in the kudos and sports realms.

CN is touting Hall of Game as the first-ever sports awards show for kids, and thanks to a partnership with IMG and Time Warner’s Turner Sports and Sports Illustrated Kids, the kudos event has an impressive roster of talent on board. Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk is the event’s host, and star athletes slated to attend include Tiger Woods, Drew Brees, Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens, Venus Williams and Carl Edwards. First lady Michelle Obama will do a taped segment honoring schools for their efforts to boost youth fitness.

IMG’s Steve Mayer, who is co-executive producing with Michael Dempsey, originated the idea for the kudos about two years ago after seeing his daughters watching Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards.

“I realized there wasn’t a kids’ show celebrating professional sports,” said Mayer. “Cartoon Network responded with big enthusiasm.”

Reflecting Cartoon Net’s youth aud, the kudos effort is multiplatform. Viewers were able to vote online for contenders in such categories as “Most Awesome Mascot,” “That’s How I Roll,” “Alti-dude,” “Dance Machine” and “My Bad.”

Comparisons to Nick’s Kids’ Choice Awards were perhaps inevitable. Like Kids’ Choice, Cartoon Net’s Hall of Game also has young TV and film stars scheduled to appear, including Rico Rodriguez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin and Zachary Gordon.

But Hall of Game has staked its own turf in the ever-growing intersection of celebrities and athletes.

“Athletes love to be entertainers, and entertainers love to be around athletes,” Mayer said.

And, Mayer noted, the Hall of Game event will build its own identity and steer clear of Kids’ Choice staples.

“There won’t be any slime.” Mayer said. “We want our audience to feel like they’re at a sporting event. The set design has a ramp built into it. We’re having T-shirt cannons. We want that energy.”

But how does a cabler named Cartoon Network make the leap to a live-action sports awards show?

Cartoon Net has been incorporating live-action shows to its programming, and Hall of Game takes the effort a step further.

“We’ll always be doing the best animation in the world,” said Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer of Turner’s animation, young adults and kids media division. “We will continue with live action for a different tone. We’ll have some of our talent at Hall of Game, but it’s the launch of a new franchise.”

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