Cartoon Network, Hasbro transforming new series

Will co-produce ani 'Transformers'

Cartoon Network Studios and Hasbro Inc. are co-producing a new animated "Transformers" series set to premiere in January that they're hoping will build on the momentum created by the highly anticipated "Transformers" movie opening July 3 and the film's DVD release in the fall.

Although there have been three other "Transformers" series on Cartoon Network and eight series altogether since 1984, this is the first one Hasbro is co-producing with Cartoon rather than its Japanese toy and production partner Takara.

Cartoon and Hasbro execs said that the new series, "Transformers Animated," will be significantly different than the others, adding humor, never-before-seen characters and a new premise in which the Autobots fight evil humans in superhero fashion much more frequently than they battle the Decepticons, the traditional "Transformers" villians since the property launched as a toy in 1984.

"We've used the basic Transformers and characters as a springboard, but then we're pretty much reimagining the whole thing," said Bob Higgins, senior vp programming and development at Cartoon Network. "What we're doing with it is basically turning it into a superheroes story. We're really excited that we're able to take this decades-old property and hopefully turn it into something that kids haven't seen or expected from a Transformers series before."

While the animated series won't really pick up on any of the themes from the Paramount/DreamWorks film, Higgins said kids will "definitely get the connection with the movie. I'm really hopeful the movie can kick-start the franchise for us."

Samantha Lomow, Hasbro global vp marketing for the Transformers brand, said that in the new Cartoon series, the robots will have a lot more human qualities, allowing kids to identify with the characters much more than in previous series.

"We've had (Transformers) entertainment in the marketplace for the last 23 years, and animation has been the foothold of the franchise," she said. "Now with the live-action film, we want to continue the momentum … and go right into animation so younger audiences will be able to continue to enjoy the brand. We really believe that the movie is going to be a phenomenon and kids of all ages are going to want to continue to experience the magic of our brand. This show … really delivers that."

The plan is to produce 26 half-hour episodes as well as a 90-minute special that will serve as the series premiere. Matt Youngberg ("Teen Titans," "The Batman") is the supervising director of the series, Sam Register ("Ben 10," "Teen Titans") will serve as executive producer, Derrick Wyatt ("Teen Titans") will provide the character designs, and Marty Isenberg ("Danny Phantom," "X-Men," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") will act as head writer.

While all the preproduction is being done at Cartoon Network Studios, the Japanese studio Mook will be doing the animation for the series.

Hasbro will create a toy line based on the animated series that will launch in March.