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US renaissance for adult animation

After peaking and then dropping off the terrestrial radar in the late 1990s, adult animation is staging a comeback on both terrestrial and cable networks in the US.

Broadcaster NBC will be airing Father Of The Pride (13×30') this autumn. Produced DreamWorks TV, the series is about the lives of the family of lions who perform in Siegfried & Roy's Las Vegas magic show.

Seinfeld scriptwriter Peter Mehlman and Late Night With Conan O'Brien scribe Jonathan Groff are working on the pilot.

Cartoon Network US is set to expand its high-rating Adult Swim animation block at an as yet unnamed date later this year. Mike Lazzo, Adult Swim's svp of production and programming, revealed the window will grow from its current three-hour window airing from Sunday through Thursday each week.

The late-night block features shows such as Futurama, Clerks, Mission Hill, Family Guy and Japanese imports Cowboy Bebop and InuYasha. Family Guy has been delivering solid ratings and is now the most-watched broadcast in Cartoon Network's history for its target 18-34 audience.

According to Nielsen Media research, Cartoon Network's Sunday night 23.00 to 02.00 slot recently cornered the 18-24 male demo, beating talkshows The Late Show With David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Lazzo believes dedicated animation channels provide a better platform for toons: {Futurama was undermarketed by Fox on the network when it first aired there and the same for Family Guy. Fox has a lot of different types of programming so it’s easier for shows to get lost. That's simply not the case for us.{

TNN, undergoing yet another rebranding next month to become Spike TV, has also wised up to adult-skewing animation. The network is launching a late night block called The Strip.

Between 22.00 and midnight, viewers will be able to watch Stripperella, a show from by Spiderman creator Stan Lee and voiced by pneumatic Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, and Gary The Rat from Ren & Stimpy's creator, this time voiced by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer.

Another new acquisition is Zilch & Zero, another actor-led commission. John Lezuigamo has teamed up with Rebel Films and Spike to produce a half-hour about two slacker friends working in a video shop.

Spike has also partnered up with The Black Filmmaker Foundation to create multi-cultural animated, reality and drama programming.

Comedy Central's latest animated venture is a series of animated interstitials built around stand-up spots from the net's library. Animator Eric Brown and Denis Leary's production outfit Apostle Pictures have taken jokes by comedians such as Jay Mohr, Janeane Garofalo and Leary himself and transform them into 45-second idents.

A half-hour spin-off pilot is now in the works and the programme may get picked up as a 22-episode series for a debut in 2004.

Meanwhile in Spain, Fox TV has tabled in both local and international older-skewing properties for the animation-themed month of May. Joining Dilbert, King of the Hill and The Simpson are five Spanish shorts including Goya Prize winner Pollo by Manuel Sirgo.

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