A cartoonish Gotham move with triple pilot deal


The Gotham Group, the leading management firm in animation, is making a major push into television with an ambitious development slate that includes a three-for-one pilot deal at Fox Broadcasting Co.

Under the pact with Fox, Gotham will develop three half-hour animated projects, one of which will be picked up to pilot.

Gotham, which represents more than 300 animation writers, directors, animators and animation studios, has been in business with the network for almost 20 years. Its clients work on such Fox toons as "The Simpsons," "Family Guy" and "King of the Hill."

Gotham's founder and CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein said she had been thinking for some time about "broadening the Gotham Group's footprint in network television" by tapping into the company's pool of animation talent.

"With Fox looking for fresh up-and-coming voices in animation and our expertise in the field, we decided that it was the right time to join forces," she said. "We hope to help Fox continue to be the ultimate broadcast destination for animation."

Gotham began pitching show ideas to Fox before the beginning of the writers strike, but the development process has slowed down because of the walkout.

Because of the nature of its business -- writers working in children's TV animation and feature animation are not WGA members and not affected by the strike -- the work stoppage has not hit Gotham hard, but its live-action writers have been walking the picket lines.

"These are trying times," Goldsmith-Vein said. "We're situated a little better because of our core strength in feature film and television animation and the fact that a large percentage of our business revolves around book, comics, and graphic novel source material."

Gotham reps Simon & Schuster's Children's and Young Adult libraries, Harper Collins Children's Publishers (U.S. & U.K.), Houghton Mifflin, Maurice Sendak Library, William Steig Library, Dark Horse Comics, Platinum Studio and Vertical Publishing.

Gotham's first network series, CBS' adaptation of the U.K. animated comedy "Comfort Creatures," launched in the summer. The company also is co-producing with Sesame Workshop "Elmo's Holiday Spectacular," a star-studded special set to air on ABC around Christmas.

Gotham's slate of TV projects in development includes:

-- "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay," a live-action comedy for NBC written by Holly Hester and based on the book by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor.   

-- "Stressed Eric," an animated comedy series for TBS, created by Carl Gorham and exec produced by Alan Freedland, Alan Cohen and Aardman Animations.

-- "Nefarious," a live-action fantasy series for ABC Family created by Holly Black and exec produced by Gotham, Jon Shestack and Holly Black.

-- "Self Destruction Handbook," a comedy series for Sony, produced by Davis Entertainment and exec produced by Gotham.

"We've barely scratched the surface in seeing animation flourish on television and we know our clients will continue to be front and center as the art form evolves," Goldsmith-Vein said.

Fox has been aggressively pursuing new animated projects this season. Its development slate includes a toon version of its 2003 short-lived live-action comedy "The Pitts."

Earlier this year, Gotham inked a $250 million deal with the Weinstein Co. to produce and distribute theatrical animated feature films. Gotham also recently signed a first-look deal with Yahoo! Studios to produce and distribute original animated content on the Internet.

The company's feature slate includes the upcoming "The Spiderwick Chronicles," based on the best-selling series of fantasy books written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Black, which Goldsmith-Vein is producing.

Gotham is repped by Endeavor.