Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Cartoon Goes Off Animated Script

Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage FromMultichannel News

Cartoon Network is boosting its live-action fare and expanding into unscripted alternative programming in an attempt to woo a slightly older  -- and potentially more affluent -- new crowd.

"Just like the boy that wakes up one day and starts to sound different, our voice is changing too," said Stu Snyder president and COO of Turner Broadcasting's Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media division.

Turner and Cartoon Network executives made their pitch at the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Time Warner Center Wednesday, against a backdrop consisting of buzzwords to describe the new strategy such as "authentic," "real stakes," and "un-sanitized."

At the forefront of the push: a slate of new alternative series that seem to take their cues from more grown-up cable networks such as Discovery and Sci Fi, though with teens and tweens as the stars.

To that end, Cartoon has snatched Les Stroud, the former host of Survivorman on Discovery, to host Survive This, a reality series that will feature teens learning survival skills and overcoming challenges in the wild.

Other alternative shows on tap are:

Destroy Build Destroy, featuring two teams of kids joining with demolitions experts to see whose efforts at destruction are more effective.

Dude, What Would Happen, which features three teens asking silly questions such as "what would happen if you attached 350 helium balloons to a sumo wrestler?" and testing them.

Head Rush, in the same vein as Discovery's Cash Cab, which has unsuspecting roller coaster riders finding themselves on a very fast quiz show.

Bobb'e Says, starring Bobb'e J. Thompson of 30 Rock and MTV's Human Giant, using viral videos to dispense wisdom to the unsuspecting public.

The Othersiders, a paranormal/ghost hunting series, but with investigators that are in high school.

Cartoon has also ordered two hour-long live action scripted pilots, Unnatural History, about a young man who traveled the world with his anthropologist parents, who moves to a new town and starts at a new high school. And Prepped, about a teen that wakes up one morning in a mysterious prep school he cannot escape from.

While the network highlighted its live action and alternative programming at the upfront, it is continuing to focus its animated shows in the comedy and action-adventure genres.

To that end the network has given a series order to another installment of its Ben 10 franchise, Ben 10: Evolutions, as well as a spinoff of its most recent hit Total Drama Island, dubbed Total Drama Action. Cartoon has also ordered a new animated Scooby Doo series from Warner Bros. Animation, Scooby Doo- Mystery Inc.

Other new animated fare includes Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, based on the popular short film by Pendleton Ward.

Stoked, from the Total Drama Island team, about surfer's on working at a resort.

Sym-Bionic Titan, from Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack) which the network describes as "an exciting hybrid of high school drama and giant robot battles."

Generator Rex, about a boy that can grow incredible machines out of his body.

Cartoon is also boosting its original movies output, including a new live-action Scooby Doo film highlighting how "the gang" from the classic cartoon series first met, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins, which will bow in the fall.

The network will also be launching a Saturday afternoon sports block, which will utilize the reach of Turner Sports to generate programming. Earlier this week the network announced a partnership with the NBA to develop programming.

"We are casting a wider net to open us up to new partnerships and new audiences, we want to become a dominant youth culture brand," said Brenda Freeman, CMO of Turner Animation, Young Adults and Kids Media division. "We are going to break out of the over sanitized kids environment, and that's ok."