May 12, 2008 / 4:56 AM / 10 years ago

Fox launches venture to discover animation talent

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - News Corp. is drawing up big small-screen animation plans. 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Broadcasting Co. have teamed to launch Fox Inkubation, a joint venture designed to discover new animation talent and develop animated projects outside of the traditional model.

Additionally, 20th TV has formed a new animation department focused on more conventional development of cartoon series and has tapped Jennifer Howell, executive vice president of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Important Films, to run it.

“So much of our success has been driven by animated shows, and we have been contemplating how to step up our efforts in the area,” 20th TV chairman Gary Newman said. “We believe it is critical to our future success.”

Separately, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly had been looking to do the same on the network side, so the sister companies joined forces to create Inkubation, which also will be overseen by Howell.

The initiative will give aspiring writer/animators funding to make two-minute shorts in lieu of penning a script.

If the shorts are successful, Fox and 20th TV may order additional shorts or take the concepts to pilot, possibly pairing the newcomers with experienced producers.

“A lot of the greatest voices in that arena came from outside the system, like Matt Groening, Matt Stone and Trey Parker and Seth MacFarlane,” Reilly said. “We want to let these voices be produced in a pure way.”

Instead of a script order, young animator MacFarlane famously was given $50,000 by Fox and 20th TV a decade ago to produce a 15-minute presentation of a show based on characters from his college thesis. The show became “Family Guy.”

Inkubation already is working on its first slate of projects, with about a dozen deals in the works. The plan is to have 20 to 25 projects in the pipeline at any given time, Newman said.

Fox will get a first crack at developing the shorts into primetime series.

Fox doesn’t have an urgent need for animated comedies. It will add two new series -- the “Family Guy” spinoff “Cleveland” and “Sit Down, Shut Up” -- to its animated staples “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “King of the Hill” and “American Dad” next season.

But Inkubation aims to focus more on the long run.

“We’re seeding for the future,” Reilly said.

The shorts produced through Inkubation also are expected to get distribution on digital platforms and be used in viral marketing.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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