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Friday January 14 1:29 AM ET

UPN Monkeying Around

By Mike Schneider and Josef Adalian

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) -- Renewing its vows with the Maxim/Details crowd, UPN has a number of testosterone-fueled projects in the works for next season.

Among them is a series tentatively titled "Gorilla World," a new sci-fi take on talking apes from producer-director Todd McFarlane. It will explore a post-apocalyptic world where gorillas have evolved to rule the earth and humans are an endangered species. UPN has ordered a script.

Also in the hopper at the network:

  • A claymation series being developed with producer Eric Fogel (MTV's "Celebrity Deathmatch")
  • A half-hour based on the comic book "Rat Bastard," which will be produced in the style of Japanese anime
  • A new TV adaptation of "The Saint" from executive producer John McTiernan ("The Thomas Crown Affair" remake)
  • An hourlong drama described as an urban take on "Dawson's Creek," featuring primarily black and Latino parts.

As for the McFarlane project, the producer is a self-proclaimed "Planet of the Apes" fan who says the script is not a knockoff.

"When was Fox (which owns the rights to the 'Planet of the Apes' franchise) granted the rights to be the only people who talked about Darwin?" he said. "If they're dumb enough not to do anything with that franchise, it's up to me."

McFarlane, best known for creating the animated series "Spawn" and directing the Korn video "Freak on a Leash," will share executive producing and writing chores. McFarlane said his team has already developed some preliminary designs.

"The apes will look like apes," he said. "They won't look like humans with masks."

UPN Entertainment president Tom Nunan said his primary interest is to get into business with McFarlane. "He seems to understand the mind of 14-year-old kids and what would get them excited and glued to the set," Nunan said. "I think this is going to be one of the most original shows produced for next season."


And more on "Gorilla World" from Cinescape Online (1/28/00):

McFarlane Talks "Gorilla"

Todd McFarlane (Spawn) is talking about how his recently announced Gorilla World project came about. While talking to Mania's Steve Fritz, McFarlane revealed that the UPN network approached him for a potential TV series idea, explaining, "That was sort of a thing where they called us. I guess they heard that me and Terry [Fitzgerald] had a connection with the younger audiences. So they told us any time we wanted to make a presentation, they would open up for us. Also, the guy making the phone call also happened to be the president of the network. That sort of helped."

McFarlane continues, "So we're trying to see if we can deliver him this pilot this week. Now we have to wait and see if we've given him something he thinks he'll want. What it is, is sort of a cool, sci-fi drama that happens to have a tip of the hat to my love of Darwin, evolution and Planet of the Apes. It doesn't have a real name yet. We're calling it Gorilla World at the moment, but that's not what it finally will be called. It will probably have some science fiction name like Sector 12 or something like that because it's really not about the apes. The show is about man, apes and monsters, and there's going to be lots of monsters. The monsters throw a sort of curve ball to the whole show so it isn't just an Apes knockoff. The whole show is really about the process of evolution. Whatever, you know? That's sort of become our mantra."

Wednesday March 1 3:27 AM ET 

No monkey biz at UPN

By Michael Schneider

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - The 600-pound gorillas at Fox have apparently stopped ``Spawn'' creator Todd McFarlane from aping one of the studio's classic franchises.

McFarlane and UPN last month sealed plans to develop ``Gorilla World,'' a new take on talking chimps inspired by the ``Planet of the Apes'' movies.

Twentieth Century Fox lawyers decided it sounded a little too similar to the studio's ``Apes'' franchise, and quickly sent a cease-and-desist letter to the network.

The studio was apparently upset by McFarlane's contention that the studio didn't hold a monopoly on projects about talking apes.

``When was Fox granted the rights to be the only people who talked about Darwin?'' McFarlane said when announcing the project.

Soon after, Fox announced plans to revive ``Apes'' on the big screen with ``Sleepy Hollow'' director Tim Burton.

UPN says ``Gorilla World'' was scrapped for reasons unrelated to the Fox letter, but that the network hopes to develop another project with McFarlane for next midseason.

McFarlane said Fox had no room to be upset, arguing that the company's broadcast network developed ``Greed'' by monkeying with ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.''

``It's always amazing when the thieves call the other thieves thieves,'' he said. ``There are no big original ideas.''

Meanwhile, the fiercely independent McFarlane, who last week pacted with Jodie Foster's Egg Pictures to animate parts of the feature ``The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys'' and won a Grammy for co-directing Korn's ``Freak on a Leash'' video, said he will forgo representation altogether after deciding he preferred to seal most of his deals independently.

McFarlane signed with Endeavor six to eight months ago, but continued to go around and strike deals on his own. McFarlane said he didn't want to share the standard 10% in deals he acquired under his own volition, and the two sides parted ways.

``I dig the hole, I get paid for digging the hole,'' said McFarlane, who had gone without representation until signing with Endeavor. ``I've been doing OK without any agents anyway. There's not really any rocket science there.''

McFarlane said he probably won't seek any other representation in the near future.

``There's still a piece of me that says, 'Am I just a pain in the ass or am I not right for this city?''' he said. ``I guess it's an odd thing to ask, that I'll cut deals on my own and you bring ones from outside.''