Cartoon Network wants a second lease on life for “Ben 10.”
The cable outlet, part of Time Warner’s Turner, plans to introduce a new version of the popular animated series, which debuted in 2006 and chronicled the adventures of Ben Tennyson, a ten-year-old boy who discovers an alien device known as the Omnitrix that gives him the power to change into various aliens. Cartoon Network Studios will produce the new series, which will debut on Cartoon Network international channels in the fall of 2016 and in North America in 2017. Man of Action Entertainment, the original production team behind the series that includes creators Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle, will serve as executive producers nd John Fang will be supervising producer.
“’Ben 10’ is a worldwide phenomenon for 10 years running, with more than 230 TV episodes produced. There hasn’t been an original production since 2012, but the overall popularity of the character has continued on,” said Rob Sorcher, Cartoon Network’s chief content officer, in an emailed response to questions about the project. “This demand from audiences around the world is the driving spark behind the relaunch. So we are creating this iteration for an entirely new generation of kids.”
The effort provides a map, of sorts, to buried treasure lying deep within many media companies. Content aimed at kids can live on well after its original air date and its time in syndication. The audiences for such fare often “age out” of it within a few years’ time, but new generations of the industry’s youngest viewers can easily catch on. Viacom in March, for example, launched its Noggin subscription-video-on-demand service that largely depends on old series like “Blue’s Clues” and “Little Bear” to lure audiences to its $5.99 per month offering. Likewise, some PBS stations continue to offer the landmark series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in some format, even though the famous host passed away in 2003.
To be sure, revivals are becoming more popular in all many corners of the media world. NBC plans to offer a retooled version of 1990s sitcom “Coach.” And Netflix has unveiled plans to launch”Fuller House,” an update of the ABC sitcom “Full House.” What the animated series have in their favor: cartoon characters can carry on for years without aging, and dependence on actors is less obvious than it is with scripted programs.
Media outlets like Turner have a more powerful incentive to keep popular cartoon franchises alive. The merchandise associated with them is often worth billions. Cartoon Network said toy and game efforts associated with “Ben 10” have generated $4.5 billion in retail sales around the world.
The original “Ben 10” played out over the course of four linked animated series as well as a handful of animated movies. The older episodes will be “rested” in the U.S. during launch phase, said Sorcher.
He also suggested Cartoon Network would work to make the series appealing to viewers who were fond of watching video on the go via mobile devices. “The last generation of kids were the first digital natives. This generation is the first mobile natives,” he said. “You’ll see that reflected in our content plan.”
The relaunch of the series comes as Turner has vowed to beef up youth-skewing networks like Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang by creating content that can be used in both U.S. and international operations and also be tapped to strengthen digital means of distribution. Last July, Turner named Christina Miller, an executive with experience developing consumer products and digital operations, to oversee the three outlets.
Cartoon Network vowed the new “Ben 10” would feature “many new and fan-favorite aliens,” and depict Ben traveling the country with his cousin Gwen and Grandpa Max during summer vacation. For the series, however, whatever break it enjoyed seems to be over.