LOWDOWN ON THE UPFRONT: Lucas’ Force Is With Cartoon

New York -- The true force was with Cartoon Network during its upfront presentation here Thursday – not Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, but Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Led to the stage by four Star Wars “storm troopers,” Lucas fielded questions from Cartoon Network Turner Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media president and COO Stuart Snyder about his new series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, premiering on Cartoon Network this fall.

Lucas said the new series will pick up the storyline from the end of this summer’s Clone Wars theatrical movie. He added he’s looking forward to working on television and to reaching Star Wars fans of all ages through both Cartoon Network and TNT, which will begin airing the series in February 2009.

“We were looking for a multifaceted company,” Lucas said. “With [Time Warner] we have Cartoon Network for the younger crowd and we have Turner [Network Television] for the more adult fans out there.”

As for Cartoon, Snyder said the acquisition of the 30-episode series is a “game changer” for the network and will be marketed and promoted across multiple Cartoon Network platforms.

In other network upfront announcements, Cartoon will create destination primetime blocks around the animated comedy, fantasy and movie genres.  

The network’s Friday night block will feature animated fantasy/adventure shows, anchored by the network’s fall premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, according to Cartoon’s chief content officer Rob Sorcher.

Rounding out the lineup will be a new animated series based on the Batman character; an offshoot of the network’s popular Ben 10 franchise dubbed Ben 10:Alien Force; and the previously announced series The Secret Saturdays.

Thursday nights will be the new destination for comedy-oriented cartoons. The staple of the night will be the network’s freshman hit series Chowder, which Sorcher said has been renewed for a second season. Other series slated for Thursdays include Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,CampLazlo,George of the Jungle and the network’s new summer series, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.

Sundays will feature the network’s first movie block, which will offer such animated theatricals as Ant Bully, Hoodwinked, Monster House and Open Season, Sorcher said.

In an effort to find its next big hit, Cartoon will create up to 150 short animated pilots over a period of 20 months as part of its new Cartoonstitute initiative.

Spearheaded by producer Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends), Sorcher said the network hopes to create a number of shows that will successfully migrate from pilot to series.