Cartoon Net has 'Hero: 108' franchise plans

52 episodes kick off next month; game, toys in the works

Cartoon Network will begin rolling out 52 episodes of "Hero: 108" next month, the first part of a strategy designed to turn the property into a franchise that includes an Internet game and a line of toys.

Cartoon partnered with Moonscoop Entertainment to co-produce the animated show that targets young teens, and Gamania Digital Entertainment, which will launch a massively multiplayer online game in the summer. The fourth partner is Playmates Toys.

Gamania, which handles Asian rights to such popular games as "Lineage" and "MapleStory," makes its first foray into the U.S. with "Hero: 108," loosely inspired by a 14th century Chinese novel called "The Water Margin Stories."

That novel has a small band of ordinary citizens, eventually growing to 108 of them, rising against a corrupt government. The TV show and online game has stripped the politics from the story.

"We figured fighting against the government wouldn't resonate with kids," Gamania product director Kevin Crawford said.

In the updated take, a bad guy named High Roller -- bestowed with the power to speak to animals -- convinces his furry friends that humans are an evil menace.

"Hero: 108" is an original property from Gamania, which employs 1,300 people mostly at its Taiwan headquarters. It recently opened a 10-person U.S. office in Irvine, Calif.