Cartoon Net touts DC, ‘Dragon’ deals

Cabler sets DC Nation, DreamWorks Animation series

Cartoon Network unveiled programming pacts with DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. and DreamWorks Animation on Wednesday as it touted a slew of new programming for the 2011-12 season at its upfront presentation at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall.

The DC/Warner Bros. deal calls for the creation of an on-air and online program block to be dubbed “DC Nation.” DreamWorks will bring a smallscreen rendition of “How to Train Your Dragon” to the toon cabler.

Upcoming DC shows on Cartoon include a new CG “Green Lantern” cartoon, a 10-episode “Young Justice” miniseries, and DC Nation interstitials that will give viewers a window into both the television shows and the books and movies that inspire (and are inspired by) them.

“DC is here to make sure that we’re figuring out which adaptations of the stories and characters make sense for the medium,” DC Entertainment topper Diane Nelson told Variety. “And that’s why this block is really exciting — because it allows us to explore and incubate beyond the traditional medium of the show.”

Nelson also said that we’d be seeing more from her division. “There’s a real prioritization of DC across Time Warner, so our partners are really motivated to see DC work for them and for us, as well.”

Footage of the upcoming “Green Lantern” cartoon retained the house style pioneered by “Batman: The Animated Series” animator Bruce Timm at Warner Bros. Animation, which will be heading up production duties on the DC Nation block. DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns (and “Green Lantern” comicbook scribe) said that Timm’s angular drawings were closely associated with the DC properties, “so carrying his style into the next level of animation really felt like the right decision.” Johns confirmed that DC Entertainment is still in development for a theatrical film based on “The Flash.”

DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg told Variety that Cartoon was very aggressive in pursuing the “Dragon” TV spinoff, even though DWA to date has done its TV projects with Nickelodeon.

“Cartoon Network was very excited and very aggressive in pursuing this with us, and we have a full slate,” Katzenberg said. “We love our partnership with Nickelodeon but we have this growing stable of franchises, and we need multiple homes.”

At the presentation, which was staffed by both live-action and animated Cartoon Network employees (thanks to some carefully placed translucent screens), Cartoon execs and characters emphasized growing enthusiasm for the net’s “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show.” Along with “MAD” (another DC Entertainment property), the three rated No. 1 in their timeslots among kids and boys 2-11, 6-11, and 9-14 — the net’s most important demos, since young male-centric advertising is generally more lucrative than ads for girls of the same age.

The upfront also featured looks at 90-minute live-action comedy telepic/pilot “Level Up!” and “Problem Solverz,” an unconventional toon comedy, as well as brief “Dragon” clips designed for the presentation. Aud also enjoyed a short segment of “Hole in the Wall” featuring Stuart Snyder, prexy of Turner Broadcasting’s Kids and Family wing, Cartoon programming head Rob Sorcher and ad sales boss John O’Hara attempting to navigate person-sized holes in a wall that slowly and repeatedly pushed the trio into a swimming pool (execs were finally able to navigate a portal shaped like a dollar sign). Also, footage from the upcoming “ThunderCats” revamp drew spontaneous applause from the aud.