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The Year of George

24 May, 2008 By: John Latchem

More than 40 years after crashing into his first tree, George of the Jungle is as popular as ever. Following the original Jay Ward animated series and a live-action film, the character is being introduced to a new generation of fans through a new show on the Cartoon Network.

Classic Media and Genius Products are bringing the first season of the new animated series to DVD Aug. 19 (prebook July 8) with the three-disc George of the Jungle: Swingin' 1st Season at $29.93.

“George is very timely,” said Nicole Blake, SVP of marketing for Classic Media. “He is a great proponent for nature and an advocate for children to go outside and explore the world around them.”

Whereas the 1967 original series was intended to appeal to adults, Blake said, the new show, produced by Bullwinkle Studio and Canada's Studio B, is aimed at 6- to 11-year-olds.

“The idea is to keep the spirit of George but geared to the kids of today,” Blake said.

Other touches from the old show include the use of a narrator, George's relationship with his animal pals, “and that classic theme song,” Blake said.

The new show debuted with a Christmas special last year to mark the 40th anniversary of the original show's premiere. Blake said a separate DVD release of the Christmas special is in the works.

Producers also are planning a new special to air in August, which coincides with the new DVD and creates additional marketing opportunities, Blake said.

Blake said the release of the new series offers a perfect opportunity to re-promote the DVD of the original series, which Genius and Classic released in February. That $19.93 two-disc set included all 17 episodes of the classic show, plus episodes of “Tom Slick” and “Super Chicken” and never-before-seen episodes.

“I was surprised to learn there were only 17 episodes,” said Robert Mayo, SVP and GM of home video for Classic Media

.Blake said the longevity of the character is indelibly tied to the legacy of its creator, Ward, who also was responsible for such classics as “Rocky & Bullwinkle,” “Sherman and Mr. Peabody” and “Dudley Do-Right.” She credits the 1997 Disney movie and its direct-to-video sequel for sustaining interest in the character.

“A lot of kids today started watching the all new ‘George of the Jungle' after watching VHS copies of the Disney movie,” Blake said. “It has a lot of awareness among kids and parents.”

Blake said parents can trust the “George of the Jungle” brand because the series offers a positive message for today's youth.

“The original was created as a spoof of Tarzan,” Blake said. “So there's a real sense of wonder in George, but he wins out because of his heart. It's really the heart that makes the hero.”

The show also fits in perfectly with a society that is becoming more environmentally conscious, Blake said. Tying into that theme, Blake said the new “George of the Jungle” was involved in a recent Arbor Day promotion, during which George became somewhat of a mascot for Arbor Day, telling kids to “watch out for that tree.”

Blake said Classic Media plans to support the new DVD with TV and online advertising, and possibly some radio spots, similar to the promotional campaign for the original-series DVD. Mayo said Classic Media is exploring the possibilities of offering retailers a two-pack with the new and original series.

“It's been an exciting year of George,” Blake said.

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