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The Beak Is Back: New Animated Woody Woodpecker Television Series From Universal Cartoon Studios Debuts in November on Fox Kids Network

Universal Takes Woody Woodpecker Around the World with Global Licensing,
 Merchandising, Theme Parks, Home Video and New Media Tie-ins


UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Universal Studios will introduce an all-new Woody Woodpecker with the launch of the animated television series, The Woody Woodpecker Show, it was announced today by Nancy Steingard, executive vice president, Universal Cartoon Studios. The new episodes, which are scheduled to debut on Fox Kids Network in November 1998, are supported by an overall initiative that includes licensing, merchandising, theme parks, home video and new media.

In making the announcement, Ms. Steingard said, "Woody Woodpecker has been a part of Universal's identity for over 40 years, and his amusing antics continue to charm audiences of all ages. With the full support of Universal Studios and Fox Kids Network, we are preserving this great legacy by introducing a hip, contemporary Woody to a whole new generation around the world."

The updated Woody Woodpecker Show is produced and directed by the Emmy award-nominated Bob Jaques (The Ren and Stimpy Show), with Jim Gomez (The Ren and Stimpy Show, Tiny Toons) as writer/story editor. The new series features the members of the Woodpecker family, including Winnie Woodpecker, Splinter and Knothead, as well as Woody's other friends and adversaries, including Wally Walrus, Buzz Buzzard, Ms. Meany and the lovable Chilly Willy. These characters are portrayed by some of the best-known voices in animation, including Billy West (Space Jam, Doug, The Ren and Stimpy Show) as Woody Woodpecker and Wally Walrus, and Mark Hamill (Star Wars Trilogy), Tress Macneille (The Simpsons, Rugrats) and Nika Futterman (Chicago Hope, Suddenly Susan).

Produced by Universal Cartoon Studios, which is a division of Universal Family & Home Entertainment Production, The Woody Woodpecker Show will consist of 40 new episodes, each comprised of three seven-minute shorts, which are the first new episodes of the classic Walter Lantz animated comedy series since 1979.

Woody Woodpecker, who was created by Walter Lantz in 1940, is closely tied to Universal's history and legacy. During this time, the original library of over 400 Walter Lantz cartoon shorts has been syndicated globally by Universal International Television, with particular success in such markets as Mexico, South America, England, Italy, Spain and Japan.

In addition to the television series, Woody Woodpecker will be predominantly featured in licensing, merchandising, promotional partnerships, new media and theme parks around the world. In addition, Universal Studios Home Video has plans to release some of the new episodes to video in 1999.

In conjunction with the television series and theme park attractions, the Universal Studios Consumer Products Group has doubled its licensing program and will introduce a broad line of Woody Woodpecker merchandise supported by an array of promotional programs. A variety of appealing and original Woody Woodpecker merchandise will be available nationally beginning in Fall 1998. In addition, promotional programs include partnerships with national restaurant chains, motor sports associations with NASCAR and Formula One and, internationally, a Sumitomo Bank Visa program in Japan.

"Woody Woodpecker presents us with a number of very exciting merchandising opportunities," said Cynthia Cleveland, president, merchandising/licensing, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group. "Our goal is to build the new Woody Woodpecker Show brand into a universally recognized franchise with contemporary appeal."

Woody Woodpecker's presence at the theme parks worldwide will also be significantly enhanced. Woody will be the ambassador for Universal Studios Escape, the exciting new destination resort, opening in Summer 1999 in Orlando. Universal Studios Escape includes the new Islands of Adventure theme park, CityWalk Orlando, hotels and Universal Studios Florida. Also scheduled to open in Summer 1999 at Universal Studios Florida is Woody Woodpecker's KidZone, a specially-themed area featuring a variety of exciting new attractions for visitors of all ages. An innovative highlight is Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster, a theme ride featuring design elements from Woody's cartoon universe. In addition, new strolling characters using state- of-the-art audio technology will appear at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Internationally, theme park attractions are currently in development in China and Japan, where Woody Woodpecker is already a well-known character. Universal Studios Japan, opening in 2001, will feature a unique, live- action/animated show.

"Woody is the perfect character to take into our theme parks around the world because his spirit is so universal," said Phil Hettema, senior vice president, attraction development, Universal Studios Recreation Group. "He's really got a sense of fun and energy about him that's well-matched with the exciting new attractions we will be opening in Florida and Japan."

Building on Woody's popularity in Japan, the recently-announced Universal Studios Experience in Beijing, opening in July 1998, will feature U-Link, a high-tech audio-visual experience that showcases exciting music videos, movie trailers and behind-the-scenes footage.

"Woody will be featured prominently in our entertainment complex in Beijing," said Don Bredberg, vice president, Universal Location Based Entertainment, Universal Studios Recreation Group. "Through a variety of state-of-the-art technologies, Woody will be available to our visitors through a combination of audio visual, special effects and interactive experiences, including the brand new U-Link visual display."

Across other areas of the company, the Universal Studios New Media Group is planning a Woody Woodpecker Web site for Summer 1998. Woody's Treehouse will feature information about the character and the series, a variety of activities, and a specialty store within the Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot on-line store that offers a selection of Woody Woodpecker merchandise available from the theme parks. Woody's Treehouse and The Woody Woodpecker Store can be found on the Universal StudiosWeb site, www.universalstudios.com.

"Woody's unique personality is especially well suited to the interactive medium," said Paul Rioux, president, Universal Studios New Media Group. "We're also tapping into the entire family of Walter Lantz characters, which is an infinite source of opportunities for great interactive storytelling."

Universal Studios is a diversified entertainment company and a worldwide leader in motion pictures, television, music, home and location based entertainment. Universal Studios is a unit of The Seagram Company Ltd., a global beverage and entertainment company.

SOURCE Universal Studios
 -0- 06/08/98


/CONTACT: Susan Nahley Fleishman of Universal Studios, 818-777-8063; Benita Gold of Dan Klores & Associates, 212-685-4300, ext. 157/

/Web site: http://www.universalstudios.com/

(VO)

CO: Universal Studios; Seagram Company Ltd. ST: California IN: ENT SU: PDT

DO-CM -- LAM093 -- 1185 06/08/98 12:50 EDT http://www.prnewswire.com
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Date:Jun 8, 1998
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