WB toons up ‘Powerpuff’

Cartoon is Network's highest-rated original skein

Warner Bros. Pictures will produce and distribute a $25 million animated theatrical movie based on the hit Cartoon Network series “The Powerpuff Girls.”

The series, which is running on the network every night at 8:30 this summer, is Cartoon’s highest-rated original series and one of its two or three best-performing overall.

The greenlighting of “Powerpuff Girls” by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, president of worldwide production for Warner Bros. Pictures, for release in theaters for the summer of 2002 is part of an ongoing trend in which major studios are turning successful animated series into theatrical movies.

In the last few years, Paramount has distributed a number of them: “Beavis & Butt-head Do America,” from the MTV series; “The Rugrats Movie” and its forthcoming sequel “Rugrats in Paris,” from the Nickelodeon series; and “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,” from Comedy Central. Warner Bros. will distribute its second “Pokemon” movie this summer while continuing the series on the WB Network.

“Powerpuff” began on Cartoon as a weekly series in the fall of 1998, and Betty Cohen, president of Cartoon Network Worldwide, says that “within a few months the phone was jumping off the hook at Warner Bros.’ consumer products division.”

Cohen says that gross sales for merchandising of the “Powerpuff” characters will reach $100 million this year. More boys than girls watch the show, she says, because boys like action and there’s plenty of action when the three little girls take on the villains. The design of the cartoons also uses elements of anime, the Japanese animation style, which boys are attracted to.

Despite the fact that Cartoon has access to only 25 half-hour episodes of the series, “Powerpuff” has grown by 9% in household delivery in the last year, and by 28% among kids 6 to 11, according to Cartoon’s researchers.

Another 27 half-hours of the series are in production for delivery piecemeal over the next months.

The theatrical, to be supervised by the show’s creator Craig McCracken, will be the first full-length feature to originate in Cartoon Network’s newly opened studios in Burbank.

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