ComicCon: BET Executives Unveil Hannibal, Tout BUFU

One of the more interesting, and sadly overlooked, events at ComicCon was BET’s animation panel featuring actor/producer Orlando Jones and BET’s senior vice president for animation Denys Cowen.

It’s too bad the panel was sparsely attended because it was a free-wheeling conversation, moderated by BET’s engaging, mince-no-words president Reggie Hudlin.  And after slogging through so many overly-oiled TCA and ComicCon panels, and listening to all the TCA hand-wringing over BET’s Hot Ghetto Mess, it was refreshing to sit back and listen to executives and talent simply say - this is who we are, get over it.

BET unveiled their new Vin Diesel-produced animated series Hannibal The Conquerer (based on the life of the ancient North African warrior) and touted Orlando Jones’ satirical animation comedy BufuHannibal is slated to air first quarter 2008; Bufu launches this fall.

Among other programming in the works:

– a series in development w/ Will Smith about a future where hip-hop is outlawed and artists respond by developing special powers

– a project that will feature a black super-hero

Exalted, a reality show that looks at famous spiritual leaders

Cosmic Slot, a black science fiction anthology series

Hudlin told the audience that the channel is aggressively expanding internationally because, he said, the network (now in 84-million homes), "can’t grow in U.S….we’re expanding in the UK, Africa, and the Pacific Rim."

Later he touted BET’s development slate. "We’re putting on as many new shows as fast as we can, " said Hudlin. "This year we’re doing sixteen new shows.  We’re increasing the pace.  It represents the largest aggregation of programming for black people in television history."

The network kicked off the panel by running the popular animated music video Read A Book!, a hip-hop take on children’s motivational toons which aired in rotation.  It’s quirky and laugh-out-loud funny and BET fed the ComicCon audience the uncensored version.  "Read A Book! Read A Book! Read A Mothaf*cking Book!" goes the chant.  At one point a woman shakes her impressive backside at the camera - with the words splashed across her booty.  Soon the chant shifts to "Brush Your Teeth!  Brush Your Teeth!"

Quipped Hudlin when the lights came back up, "At BET, we’re just trying to help."

I’d give y’all the youtube link for Read A Book! but this is what comes up:

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Viacom International Inc."

This is really too bad because that film short was popular.  The youtube video spread quickly on the web and the link was imbedded in dozens, if not hundreds, of websites and discussion groups.  But now the link is dead.  So, Viacom - might I say - that was a boneheaded move!!  Read A Book! was absolutely growing visibility for BET.  It seems awfully shortsighted to pull it.

CLICK HERE to READ MORE about the BET ComicCon panel.