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NEW YORK — Viacom’s Nickelodeon is making a $60 million bet that the 25-year-old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has more left in the tank.
The company has acquired the global TMNT rights from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment and is developing a CG-animated TV series as well as a feature film in partnership with fellow Viacom arm Paramount Pictures. Both projects are set to hit in 2012.
The TV show will be the latest creation coming out of the Nick animation studio in Burbank, which is behind hit series “The Penguins of Madagascar” and an upcoming “Kung Fu Panda” series.
The acquisition is Nickelodeon’s first franchise purchase, and it likely will look at similarly attractive entertainment brands with a built-in fan base.
Its goal with TMNT is to reintroduce the franchise to existing and potential fans across various media platforms. The deal also gives Nick all merchandising rights, and the company will continue to work with the franchise’s longtime partner, Playmates Toys.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shares a comedic sensibility with the Nickelodeon DNA, with added layers of action and fantasy that have kept this property an evergreen favorite with multiple generations of audiences,” said Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group.
For Paramount, the deal is a chance to add another popular 1980s franchise alongside “Transformers.” Said Paramount president Adam Goodman, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that maintains a very passionate global fan base, is rich with opportunity for a tentpole movie and is exactly the right property for us to work together with Nickelodeon.”
At Comic-Con in July, producers Scott Mednick and Galen Walker, who have been developing the new Turtles film, said that John Fusco, a martial arts enthusiast who wrote “The Forbidden Kingdom,” had come aboard to write the screenplay. They said that the new live-action/CG movie would return to the franchise’s roots and that in addition to action and humor of the first film in 1990, it would have the darker tone of the original comics.
Mednick served as exec producer on “300” and “10,000 B.C.”; Galen was a producer on 2007’s “TMNT.”
The four TMNT films released between 1990-2007 — three live-action and one animated — have grossed $310 million in the U.S.
For the CW, the deal means that next summer it will lose its animated TMNT series, jointly produced by 4Kids and Mirage. It will continue to air on the CW4Kids Saturday morning programming block through Aug. 31.
In a memo to employees, 4Kids CEO Al Kahn said the move brings “mixed emotions, since our relationship with Mirage Studios and the property has been a long and mutually successful one, beginning with our relaunching the brand in 2002 to a new generation of Turtles fans.”
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