Cartoon prepares for 'Clone Wars'

Net touts ani 'Star Wars' spinoff, new Cartoonstitute

Flanked by four Clone Troopers, George Lucas headlined Cartoon Network's upfront presentation Thursday, pitching advertisers his new animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

Cartoon Network executives also said that a second live-action "Ben 10" telefilm is in the works, a new animated "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" series will air in the fall and that "Chowder" — the network's top-rated show among kids 6-11 — will be picked up for a second season.

In addition, they unveiled a new initiative called Cartoonstitute, designed to significantly increase Cartoon's development slate by creating up to 150 pieces of programming during the next 20 months.

"It's 'Star Wars' starring an 11-year-old girl," Lucas said of "Clone Wars" — referring to new character Ahsoka, a Padawan mentored by Anakin Skywalker — after advertisers viewed a clip of the series Thursday. He said partnering with Cartoon and sister network TNT allowed the show, which he described as appealing to audiences ages 8-80, to "cover all the bases very well and have an extra-wide reach."

The series also will air on TNT after it premieres on Cartoon.

After a brief Q&A between Lucas and Turner Animation president and COO Stuart Snyder, the executive told advertisers that "Clone Wars" represented a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity for their brands.

"Trust me, you will be seeing the target campaign for 'Star Wars' everywhere, across every platform," Snyder said. "It will be by far the largest effort in Cartoon Network history. We believe this show is a game-changer for the network and is going to be event viewing for kids and their entire families."

Chief content officer Rob Sorcher said that Cartoon Network is "getting organized with genres and nights of programming." Starting in June, Sunday nights will be movie nights, with network television premieres of such films as "Ant Bully," "Hoodwinked," "Monster House" and "Open Season."

Thursday nights are the new home for comedy series on the network, anchored by "Chowder," which is being joined by the new animated show "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack." Friday will be fantasy adventure night, with "Clone Wars" serving as the launchpad for other new adventure shows, the first of which is "The Secret Saturdays," with 26 new episodes launching this fall, Sorcher said. The Friday night lineup also will include "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," produced with Warner Bros. Animation and "completely redesigned and re-envisioned with equal doses of comedy and high stakes," as well as a new "Ben 10: Alien Force" series launching April 18.

The new "Ben 10" season will be capped by a multiplatform event on Thanksgiving that will set the stage for the 2009-2010 season of the series as well as the next live-action movie, Sorcher said. No other details were provided.

The new so-called Cartoonstitute will be artist-led and spearheaded by executive producer Craig McCracken ("The Powerpuff Girls," "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends") and supervising producer Rob Renzetti ("My Life as a Teenage Robot," "Dexter's Laboratory").

"We're announcing today the most ambitious shorts program the industry has ever seen," Sorcher said. "We'll deploy this content across every platform, of course, but the idea here is really a massive series development effort. The Cartoonstitute (represents) a home for the next generation of animation showrunners producing the next wave of hit series for today's kids."