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Disney beefs up Euro prod’n

U.S. major greenlights Blyton series

LONDON — Disney Channel in Europe is beefing up its investment in original programming and local co-productions in a bid to strengthen its competitive position.

A London hub will shortly be opening to oversee this growth in European production.

The move comes as ITV, Blighty’s biggest private web, has stopped making tyke fare and a proposed ban on junk food advertising is threatening investment in children’s TV shows.

John Hardie, managing director of Walt Disney Television in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: “This new commitment to original programming production represents our most significant drive yet to create kids TV shows in Europe intended not only for local broadcast, but for Disney Channels all over the world.

“With Disney Channel growing so quickly, at a rate of several million more households each year across the region, the combination of reach and new content will help cement our position at the forefront of children’s broadcasting in Europe today.”

To kick the strategy off Disney is producing a new animated 26-part skein based on children’s classic, Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five,” in tandem with U.K. rights specialist, Chorion, owner of the rights to all Blyton’s books.

Disney Channel and Chorion will be working with American writers Douglas Tuber and Tim Maile on the show due for international broadcast in 2008.

Also in pre-production is pre-school show “Bunny Town,” a live-action puppet series developed with American Spiffy Pictures to be produced in the U.K. by Bakercoogan.