Child’s play

Marvel master Lee draws interest to expanding genre

In the world of comicbook superheroes, it’s pretty hard to come up with supernatural powers that haven’t already been employed by one savior of humanity or another.

So when DIC Entertainment enticed master comicbook creator Stan Lee into a multiseries commitment for kids shows, says chairman-CEO Andy Heyward, “We decided we should create a world of superheroes distinguished not just by their powers, but by their humanity.”

The first of those series, “The Phantom 5,” will join a host of new and time-tested children’s shows at NATPE. If there’s anything that distinguishes kidvid distributors attending the show, it’s a great deal of optimism about NATPE’s increasing value.

As a result of its Saturday morning block on NBC, Discovery has greatly increased its children’s output over the last three years. Among its offerings is the gameshow “Endurance.”

“We’re going to use it to hopefully drive format opportunities in various parts of the world,” says Joe Kennedy, vice president of program financing and distribution at Discovery Communications. Discovery will also soft launch its first animated Saturday-morning show, “Kenny the Shark.”

Another new animated show getting exposure at NATPE is “The Misadventures of Maya and Miguel,” a series with an educational bent from Scholastic Entertainment.

“We don’t have the animation yet, but we’re starting to talk about the series,” says Linda Kahn, senior VP of programming and distribution for Scholastic, noting that the show will premiere on PBS next fall.

Many shows on offer at NATPE are seeking renewals or expansion of their existing distribution.

“The idea of NATPE as a place to launch a new show was six or seven years ago,” says Tom Lynch of his self-titled company. Be that as it may, his group will be dropping word about the 2005 launch of its first animated series to international buyers. His new series for tweens, “Romeo,” which is on Nickelodeon in the U.S., will be among those on display.

Meanwhile, Mike Young of Mike Young Prods. says his company will focus on expanding its distribution base for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” which features Mel Brooks as a sheep from Brooklyn.

4Kids Entertainment, which programs the “Fox Box” block on the Fox network, will be squaring away renewals for three hit shows with new seasons under their belts: “Yu-gi-oh!,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Pokemon,” according to Brian Lacey, 4Kids exec VP of international.

And Nickelodeon will showcase two animated shows targeting the tween market: “All Grown Up,” a spinoff of “Rugrats,” and “My Life as a Teenage Robot.”

“Tweens are a much more recognized demo, so that’s a trend for us,” says Debbie Back, senior VP of sales and co-productions for MTV Networks Intl.