Tons of toons for Dic, Nick

Projects to air in 12:30-2 p.m. 'Sunday Movie Toons' slot

Nickelodeon has pacted with DIC Entertainment to create a Sunday afternoon animated movie block fueled by some $80 million worth of original feature length ani pics.

Deal calls for DIC to deliver 39 90-minute movies for television over three years. Pics, aimed at kids ages 6-14, will play in a 12:30-2p.m. block on Nickelodeon dubbed “Sunday Movie Toons,” starting in October. Each picture is likely to be budgeted in the $2 million range, thus the approximate $80 million value of the package.

Deal represents the largest production order in DIC’s history. The 39 pics also represent the largest assemblage of feature length animated films in existence, DIC chairman-CEO Andy Heyward told Daily Variety.

“This is a very important deal for us because it opens up our business,” Heyward said. “To have the largest catalog of feature length animated movies is a huge opportunity for us. These are evergreen and could become a major force in home video and internationally.”

DIC is in the process of meeting with broadcasters in territories around the world about creating blocks of their own with the movie package.

The midday Sunday timeslot on Nickelodeon has traditionally been occupied by a variety of programs, primarily toons.

Cyma Zarghami, exec VP-G.M. of Nickelodeon, said the network made the deal in part because DIC’s contribution is complementary to Nick’s own production.

“This represents a chance to try something new that we wouldn’t have done ourselves,” she told Daily Variety. “Anything we buy, we buy for that reason — that we wouldn’t have done it, and it will add value to the whole.”

Nick’s original animated movies, Nicktoons, tend to incorporate contemporary stories and characters. They often are spun off of the net’s series, such as “Rugrats” and “The Wild Thornberrys.”

DIC, on the other hand, offers numerous classic titles, such as “The Time Machine,” “The Lost World – Dinosaur Island,” “Treasure Island” and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” — all of which are greenlit under the deal.

“Inspector Gadget,” “Madeline,” “Sabrina,” “Archies” and “Dennis the Menace” also are among the titles in the process of being adapted to films for the block.

DIC will have little problem meeting the demands of delivering 13 original animated films annually for several reasons, Heyward said. Among them, the company can operate in shorthand with many of these properties, to which DIC has had longtime rights. So it has a headstart.

“We know these characters, and we have a very efficient organization,” he said. “We keep people here at DIC for a long time.”

The studio, which began operations in 1982, has more than 3000 animated television episodes in its library.