Buyers Cool to 'Governator'

Bebert Bruno/SIPA/NEWSCOM

Schwarzenegger is the star of MIPTV in Cannes, but execs doubt whether the cartoon is Arnie’s return to global success.

Arnold Schwarzenegger can still draw a crowd. The 63-year-old movie star and former California governor hit the international television market MIPTV in Cannes, France, during the first week of April to promote the project that marks his return to showbiz: the autobiographical comic book/cartoon The Governator.

But despite the PR blitz — Schwarzenegger pressed his handprints into Cannes’ walk of fame, posed with Governator producers Andy and Amy Heyward and received the Legion of Honor from France’s culture minister — the project isn’t going down well with broadcast bosses.

In private conversations, exec after exec expressed doubts about the viability of a 2D traditional cartoon aimed at young kids from the man behind The Terminator and Total Recall. “I was hoping he’d be back with an action series or another film — that’s what the market wants,” one veteran European buyer says. “But a cartoon? That’s a hard sell, especially since it’s not even in 3D.”

The Governator trailer Schwarzenegger screened in Cannes did little to reassure buyers. “It was action, action, action and nothing we haven’t seen before,” says Claude Schmit, head of Super RTL, Europe’s top children’s channel. “It looked like a lot of stuff out there at the moment. Lego, Hasbro, Playmobile — they’re all producing cartoon series now, and all of them are very action-heavy. There’s a bit of a glut of this stuff.”

Schmit echoes many buyers in saying Super RTL is taking a wait-and-see approach to Governator: “We want to see scripts before we commit,” he says. “They said it was going to be funny and family-friendly, but that’s not what they showed.”

Comic book great Stan Lee of Spider-Man and X-Men fame is helping write the scripts, and Andy Heyward’s cartoon credits include global hits Inspector Gadget and G.I. Joe. India media giant Tata is on board to bankroll the production, but whether it reaches mass audiences is another matter.  

“They’ll get it made, no doubt, but will they be able to sell it?” one American sales exec asks. “This has been an amazing marketing blitz. This project has been reported more widely than any series I’ve ever seen. But they’ve set the bar very high. Now they have to deliver.”             

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