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Disney Channel is developing a “Tron” animated series to follow the upcoming theatrical release of “Tron: Legacy.”
The news was part of Disney’s upfront presentation Tuesday evening to media buyers and clients, which included a preview of the “Tron” series. Geared towards kids age 6-14, the plan is to precede “Tron” with another project, a 10-part “Tron” micro-series premiering in fall 2011 on Disney XD.
Gary Marsh, entertainment president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, also offered a glimpse of “Legacy,” which is at such an early juncture in the development process that only stills were available.
“Tron is another example of how we can take advantage of the intellectual property that the studio unit pays tens, if not hundreds, of millions to develop and market,” said Marsh.
The “Tron” projects represent a CGI-refresh of Disney’s 1982 theatrical, with “Legacy” expected to be released in December.
Disney also announced a movie based on Disney XD’s madcap animated series “Phineas and Ferb” that’s expected to debut in 2011.
“Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension” sends the boys (and their pet platypus, Perry) on a jaunt through a parallel universe, where they’ll take on an even more dastardly version of their nemesis, Dr. Doofenshmirtz.
“Phineas and Ferb” is TV’s most-watched animated series among kids 6-11 and ‘tweens 9-14, per Nielsen ratings data. In 2009, the series out-delivered the season premieres of Cartoon Network’s “Star Wars: Clone Wars” and “Ben 10: Alien Force.”
This fall, Disney XD will also unveil a new animated series that looks to build on Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment — “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” which is based on a clutch of iconic Marvel superheroes that includes Iron Man, Wolverine, Thor and the Incredible Hulk. The strip will set the table for a pair of Avengers-themed theatricals that are slated to hit multiplexes in summer 2011.
“We’ve been pouring through the library of 7,000 Marvel characters looking for the next ‘Spider-Man,'” Marsh said, adding that fans of the Marvel Universe should expect to see more cooperative ventures in the near future.
Disney also gave media buyers and clients their first look at a sequence from its latest musical franchise, running a five-minute clip of the upcoming Jonas Brothers-Demi Lovato flick “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.”
As a capper to a Disney XD-focused upfront dinner hosted by Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney ABC Television Group, the Mouse showed off a musical interlude from “Camp Rock 2,” which positions the stars of the original movie against a horde of rich kids from a rival camp across the lake. Lovato and her confreres throw down with the hotshots from Camp Star in an energetic rocker (“It’s On”) that brings to mind the Jets vs. Sharks battles in “West Side Story,” minus the gunplay.
While Disney is expecting huge dividends from “Camp Rock 2” — the first installment in the franchise delivered 8.86 million viewers in its June 2008 premiere, making it the second-most-watched original movie in the network’s history — much of the evening was devoted to the upstart channel Disney XD.
Entering its second year after its Feb. 13, 2009 relaunch, the network formerly known as Toon Disney is making significant inroads among younger viewers, especially boys 6-14.
Disney XD closed out February with its biggest delivery of the target demo, averaging 79,000 in total day, an increase of 22% versus the year-ago period. In prime, Disney XD averaged 330,000 total viewers, up 5% from February 2009.
Along with current favorites “Phineas and Ferb” and the recently launched strip “Kick Buttowski,” Disney XD has a number of other new projects in the works for 2010.
Marsh also presented a clip of the live-action series “Pair of Kings,” a high-concept comedy about fraternal twins from Chicago (“Hannah Montana’s” Mitchel Musso and “The Suite Life on Deck’s” Doc Shaw) who discover that they are heirs to the throne of the island of Kinkou. Filming begins this week.
“Our success has always been about storytelling, and we do that better than anybody out there,” Marsh told the assembled guests at New York’s hip boite The Standard, a combination hotel/restaurant nestled beneath the city’s great reclamation project, The Highline. In keeping with his surroundings, the Disney entertainment chief gave buyers and clients a sneak preview of two pilots that, at first blush, appeared to epitomize the concept of cool.
The animated pilot “Motor City” presents a vision of a Detroit stripped of its automotive culture. In fact, per the clip Marsh screened Tuesday night, cars have been banned outright, an imperial decree that forces a rag-tag group of young motorheads to indulge their enthusiasms under cover of darkness. (Fans of the Canadian rock group Rush will recognize thematic similarities between the pilot and the power trio’s 1980 track “Red Barchetta.”)
Also on deck at Disney XD is “Bat Boy,” a documentary short-form special that takes viewers into the world of Major League Baseball through the eyes of a bat boy. The first telecast will serve as a series pilot and will follow Arizona Diamondbacks bat boy Daniel Chelgren. The series will debut in the spring, coinciding with the start of the 2010 MLB campaign.
Tuesday night’s dinner also served as a coming-out party for Carolina Lightcap, who was recently named president of Disney Channels Worldwide. Lightcap had served as senior vp and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Latin America before being bumped up to her current position in November 2009.
A 20-year industry veteran, Lightcap took the role vacated by Rich Ross, who was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios in October. She’s been on the job for seven weeks.
— James Hibberd contributed to this report.
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