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BET to Bulk Up Animation Slate

Aug 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A month after announcing its first animated series, BET has signed a pair of development deals to help fuel its upcoming animation slate.

The Viacom-owned network has formed a three-year, nonexclusive partnership with Film Roman, the studio behind “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” The network has also signed an agreement with Dwayne McDuffie, co-owner of comic book company Milestone Media.

BET announced the formation of an animated division in January with the hiring of Denys Cowan as senior VP of animation. Mr. Cowan founded Milestone Media and co-owned the company along with Mr. McDuffie. They created the comic book and former Kids’ WB series “Static Shock,” as well as several other African American-themed titles.

In July, Mr. Cowan ordered six episodes of the network’s first animated series, “Hannibal the Conqueror.” The historical action series will be executive produced by Vin Diesel, who voices the title character, and will debut in fall 2007.

With his former partner now on board at BET, Mr. Cowan said they have created a new superhero character for a potential, as yet unannounced companion series to “Hannibal.”

“The character is an African American with deep ties to Africa, technology and martial arts. His name is still being cleared,” Mr. Cowan said. “We’re doing adult action-adventure animation, which hasn’t really existed on television on a regular basis.”

Mr. Cowan said the network is developing several comedy projects with Film Roman, including interstitials to run throughout the day. The idea isn’t simply to develop a BET animated block, but to make animation a keystone programming genre on the channel.

“You can never have too much animation,” he said. “Animation will not be ghettoized in one time slot.”

One thing comic book fans should not expect is a new adult-oriented version of “Static Shock,” or any other Milestone Media comic book titles, due to existing rights agreements. Other than that, anything goes.

“We’re spending whatever it takes,” Mr. Cowan said. “We can’t say money is no object, it’s always a consideration, but [BET President of Entertainment] Reggie Hudlin is very committed to spending what it takes to make this successful.”