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Disney reinvents the Famous Five for new generation

LONDON - The Disney Channel Europe is to bring 'The Famous Five', Enid Blyton's classic series of childhood adventure, to the small screen in 26-episode animated form.

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The channel has agreed to jointly develop and co-produce the series with UK intellectual property rights owners Chorion, which also own the rights to the 'Noddy', 'Mr Men' and 'Agatha Christie' stories. Disney says the cartoon will give the classic stories a next-generation twist by bringing together the children of the original characters. The children reconvene at the house of Aunt George, who was one of the original 'Famous Five', somewhere on the coast of England. Jo, Cole, Allie, Dylan and faithful dog Timmy embark on a series of adventures, relying on their own resources to save the day.

The series is due to air in the UK in 2008, later to be rolled out in Europe. Disney has promised to be faithful to the original spirit of the 'Famous Five', using enigma and adventure as the core to stories written by Douglas Tuber and Tim Maile of Disney Channel's hit 'Lizzy Maguire'.

So far, the Disney Channel say it is unsure what the characters will look or sound like, but the 1950s expressions, such "lashing of ginger beer", will not be included.

John Hardie, managing director of Walt Disney Television in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: "I am very excited to be working with Chorion on this project. 'The Famous Five' stories are a national favourite and this series will breathe life into a great set of characters; bringing a part of our literary heritage to a whole new generation."

In addition to 'The Famous Five', the Disney Channel is investing in 'Bunny Town', a live-action puppet 26-episode series developed by US company Spiffy Pictures. It will be produced in the UK by Bakercoogan, a company created by Martin Baker and Pete Coogan, formerly of the Jim Henson Company.

Also on the way to the Disney Channel is the Italian series 'Quelli dell'Intervallo (Break Kids)' a successful short form series that uses a fixed camera filming through a school window and captures children discussing the events of the day. It is already a hit with Italian children and local versions are now appearing in France, Germany and Spain, with the UK planned for the near future.

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