NFL and Nicktoons hope to score touchdown with cartoon
If this whole football thing doesn’t work out, Drew Brees may have a second career as a cartoon character.
The Saints quarterback is among the National Football League stars who are lending their voices to “Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians,” an animated series that will debut on Viacom’s kids cartoon channel Nicktoons on Nov. 30.
Already the most popular sport in the nation, the NFL takes nothing for granted and knows it needs to get kids hooked on football early it if wants to maintain that dominance.
“We’ve been laser-focused for the last five years trying to connect kids to the NFL,” said Peter O’Reilly, vice president of fan strategy and marketing for the NFL.
“Rush Zone” grew out of a series of animated shorts that the NFL and Nicktoons produced and ran during the 2010-11 football season. The shorts were a hit, averaging 1.2 million boys in the 6-11 demographic and quickly became one of Nicktoons’ most popular shows.
Given the success of the shorts, the NFL and Nicktoons decided to team up on two dozen 30-minute episodes that will run both during and after the football season.
The show is about a boy named Ish and his friends who live in Canton, Ohio, which is the home of the NFL’s Hall of Fame. O’Reilly said Ish and his pals have been “tapped as guardians to protect the sport from an evil force trying to capture the essence of the NFL.” The boys do battle with various villains who are out to destroy football. O’Reilly declined to say if the evil force in question was Major League Baseball, but did note that the villain’s name is “Wild Card.” Major League Baseball added a wild card playoff game to its postseason starting this season.
Besides Brees, other NFL players who are portraying themselves in the series include Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and retired star quarterback Jim Kelly. The players agreed to do the voice-over work for free. “They pretend to be voicing Pixar Films,” O’Reilly cracked.
For Viacom’s Nicktoons, the show is something of a coup. “This is our true first venture with a major sports league,” said Keith Dawkins, senior vice president and general manager of Nicktoons.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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