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Disney's Latin love affair: Mouse House 'Desperate' to bring locals their own versions of U.S. hits.

The Mouse House is gearing up to adapt more of its TV shows in Latin America. Properties Disney is pushing for remake include senior roommates' sitcom "Golden Girls"; private eye tale "Moonlighting," which starred Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd; Tim Allen starrer "Home Improvement"; and "Amazing Grace," about a femme drug addict-turned-minister.

Disney's on its second season of the Colombian "Extreme Makeover" while the South American Spanish-language version of "Desperate Housewives" (Amas de casas desesperadas) is close to wrapping, with its debut on Argentina's Artear-owned broadcaster Canal 13 skedded for Aug. 22.

The same version, adapted by co-director Marcos Carnevale ("Elsa & Fred"), will air on later dates in Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Most of the first season has already been shot at the studios of Argentine production partner Pol-ka.

However, in what could be a model for future remakes, Disney has re-created "DH's" Wisteria Lane from the ground up just outside Buenos Aires and renamed it Calle Manzanares. The set will be ready early August for exterior shots to complete the series.

For a studio to buy land and build a set is unprecedented in the region, says Fernando Barbosa, senior veep of Walt Disney TV Intl., Latin America. "We're talking about multi-season, multiyear usage so it's very cost-effective."

Disney is keeping mum on the exact costs of shooting in Argentina, but execs say it's 20 times cheaper to film an episode of "DH" in Buenos Aires than on NBC Universal's backlot, which would bring in the remakes at around $50,000 per episode.

Colombian and Ecuadorian versions will start shooting in October followed by the Brazilian Portugueselanguage "Donas de casas desesperadas" in January, all on the same set. Disney is in talks with a Mexican broadcaster to make its own "Amas de casas."

While not pioneers in adapting formats in the region (Sony Pictures Intl. TV leads the way), Disney is breaking new ground with "Areas" by centralizing production in Argentina.

"We'll probably have some headaches with the cast from other countries once we do the other versions," admits Miami-based production manager Leonardo Aranguibel, who joined WDTI a year ago.

These involve the logistics of finding places for the cast to live over extended periods, and finding tutors or schools in the appropriate languages for younger cast members.

Meanwhile, Disney is in pre-production with Brazil's Rede TV (its partner in Brazil's "Donas") to remake "Amazing Grace." Disney is still trying to resolve rights issues for "Moonlighting." Company is in talks with various broadcasters for "Golden Girls," the sitcom about four women sharing a home.

"This will be simpler to make as it is mainly shot indoors with the exterior of one house," says Barbosa, who is mulling using one of the Calle Manzanares houses for this. "The entire market is watching us to see if (the experiment) will be worth it."

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Title Annotation:TELEVISION/INTERNATIONAL
Author:De La Fuente, Anna Marie
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 31, 2006
Words:472
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