Brenna and Brittany Interview
Robby London is the Executive Vice President Creative Affairs of DIC Entertainment. He agreed to do this interview with us about how the show Mummies Alive is doing, and what the future may hold for the show.
Robby London and DIC have given us permission to post this interview on our web pages.
Brenna and Brittany: Mr. London, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Robby London: Presuming you mean professionally, I started out as an staff writer at Filmation where I pretty much wrote for everything that studio produced during the five years I was there. I was extensively involved in "HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE" having written the pilot episode, as well as "FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS." I was also the head writer and associate producer for a couple of animated theatrical films produced by Filmation. Since coming to DIC, eleven years ago, I have shifted away from the writing and been involved more in producing and being an executive of the company.
But if you want to know the truth, I'm really a frustrated rock musician!
B & B: How did the idea for Mummies Alive first come about?
R. L.: I have to give credit to Andy Heyward, President of DIC. He got the idea of doing something about mummies when he took his kids to a museum and saw how powerfully they -- and every other kid there -- responded to the mummies on display.
B & B: When you first produced Mummies Alive, did you have any goals or objectives for the show?
R. L.: To be perfectly honest, we had the same objectives for "MUMMIES ALIVE!" that we have for everything we produce. To be entertaining, innovative, tell good stories with compelling characters and bring them to life with fresh, fun designs, quality animation and memorable voices. And to ensure that there is nothing in our programs that we believe would be harmful or damaging to young viewers in any way. Some of our series are specifically designed to be "educational" in order to fulfill the FCC mandate that a certain amount of children's programming fall into that category. "MUMMIES ALIVE" did NOT fall into that category, i.e. it was not intended to be educational per se, but we do have a code of standards we try to follow for all of our programs to ensure that the shows have positive messages and no ill effects. I realize this is a very generic answer, but I'm not sure how else to answer the question.
B & B: And how is the show doing? Is it meeting your expectations?
R. L.: The show is doing extremely well both here in the U.S. and internationally. Domestically, it has been consistently rated in the top 2 or 3 of the new syndicated strips (5 day per week shows as opposed to one day per week). My expectations for our shows are not so much ratings expectations because there are so many variables affecting ratings and they are just difficult to predict. My expectations go back to the last question -- i.e. did we succeed in telling good stories, compelling characters, cool designs, good animation and craftsmanship, etc. And in those categories, I'm pleased with the results of "MUMMIES ALIVE!" It is a show of which I'm proud and which I enjoy watching myself.
B & B: In Canada, YTV has jumped on Mummies Alive, showing it seven days a week at Prime time. They obviously have seen the potential of the show and early ratings must have been really good. However, the same does not seem to have happened in the United States on the FOX networks. Can you shed any light on this?
R. L.: The show is not on a "network" in the U.S. It was sold in syndication which means market by market (town by town.) It may have been bought by the FOX station in your market which is why you assume it was on "FOX networks" (sic). It is up to each local station that bought the show to decide when they want to run it. I would encourage any U.S. fans who have desires re: when or how often the show is run to address such requests to their local stations. I can tell you, though, that the show is considered pretty successful here in the U.S. even though it may not be getting quite the same degree of exposure as in, say, Canada. I have to note, as an aside, that typically our (DIC's) shows have performed exceptionally well in Canada. Which pleases me personally because I happen to LOVE Canada from having travelled there extensively. But I digress...
B & B: In an earlier interview with Gerald Raiti, you indicated that Mummies Alive was being targeted at 6 to 11 year old kids. Yet, our survey has also indicated a significant interest in the 13 to 18 age group - especially among girls. Was it ever considered that Mummies Alive might appeal to a wider audience?
R. L.: Well we always hope so, and I'm thrilled to hear it. And, with apologies if it sounds immodest, I think the stories and characters in "MUMMIES ALIVE!" were particularly rich and fun and do appeal older and across gender. I feel this way because I genuinely enjoy watching them, which is not always the case with the shows we produce. But the reason I responded as I did in the other interview is that typically this type of cartoon really plays most strongly in the demographic I indicated. More to the point, the advertising that is sold during this show is largely targeted to 6-11 year olds and there are special ratings that measure just that audience and so it's crucial that we as producers always remember that this is the age group we must entertain first and foremost.
B & B: Hasbro has produced a wonderful set of Mummies Alive toys that are now on the market. How important are the toy sales to the success and future of the show?
R. L.: That's a good question. In the kids' business it is always helpful when a property is successful across the board. That is how you get a phenomenon like Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers or (sigh) He-Man. (I suspect most readers of this are too young to remember when He-Man was a cultural phenomenon. Sigh.) However, a good show is a good show and I would like to believe that a show which works on its own merits will always have a life and a success on its own, regardless of how successful the merchandise is.
B & B: One of our most often heard complaints is the glaring omission by Hasbro of a Nefertina toy, and others have also indicated wanting Presley and Kahti toys. Are the toys selling well and is Hasbro planning more toys?
R. L.: I don't really have that much information about it. You'd have to direct that question to Hasbro. I can tell you that toy companies IN GENERAL really separate boys' toys from girls' toys in their thinking. Historically, in a boys' toy line (which of course this is in terms of toys), characters that are female or non-super-heroes (e.g. Presley) have NOT sold well compared to the "male heroic" figures. And this always informs the toy companies' thinking in deciding which characters they will release as toys first. Don't forget the toys are targeted even younger than the show (typically kids stop buying action figures by about age 8) so I suspect many of your readers are well beyond the action figure buying age and as such aren't representative of people buying the toys.
B & B: At the Hasbro website, there is not a single mention of the Mummies Alive toys. Do you know if Hasbro plans to put the toys on their website?
R. L.: I don't know. Once again, you'd have to ask them.
B & B: Could you fill us in as to how Disney became involved with Mummies Alive?
R.L: First of all, although we function in some respects as an independent production company, DIC is, in fact, owned by Disney. We were majority acquired by ABC a few years ago and then went to Disney in the big merger. So it was natural for us to offer "MUMMIES ALIVE" to Buena Vista Home Video (Disney). They responded favorably to the show and agreed to distribute the video.
B & B: After Disney's upcoming Home Video releases of Mummies Alive, do they have any further plans for the show?
R. L.: Disney (under its division Buena Vista Television International) is responsible for distributing "MUMMIES ALIVE!" all over the world and they are doing a terrific job. It has sold very well internationally.
B & B: Are any other Mummies Alive products, such as games, clothing, books, greeting cards, etc. being planned?
R. L.: Yes. Many of those items ARE being planned. Some of them are already in preproduction stages and after that it's just a matter of what stores chose to stock these products. I'd encourage anyone who is interested in such products to tell the appropriate local retailers of their interest in "MUMMIES ALIVE!"
B & B: Finally, let us leave you with the big question that all the fans want to know the answer to: Are there any plans to produce another season of episodes for Mummies Alive?
R. L.: Not at this time.
B & B: And what would be the best way for fans to show their support to help achieve their goal of another season?
R. L.: First of all, it depends on what you mean by "another season." The existing episodes should be out there for at LEAST another year although we have switched U.S. distributors and, starting this fall, it will be part of the Bohbot Kids Network (BKN) which simply means it will most likely be on a different local station or different time in each market than is currently the case. You may have to track down the new time and station for your particular market, but I'm confident it will continue to be on the air in most all of the markets in which it currently runs.
If you are talking about after that -- or if you are talking about new episodes, it becomes a far trickier question. The last time we were asked a question like this on the internet regarding another property, one of our executives mistakenly directed the fans to the toy company, the toy company was DELUGED with faxes, Emails, etc. and ended up being very annoyed with us. (To put it mildly.) I think, speaking only for the show, the best place of approach would be the local station on which the show is running -- or will be running next fall. I suppose if the demand from the stations across the country was big enough, there would be a possibility of new episodes or at least continued showing of the existing ones.
However, fans must realize that, at the end of the day, in television, ratings are king. Decision-makers believe that ratings are the best indication of BROAD popularity. Sort of a majority rule concept. I've gotta believe that even if you were to count every single person reading this, it would really only constitute a tiny, tiny percentage of available TV viewers and barely a blip on the Nielsens. I think it's very hard for fans to understand and accept the reality that television is a business that is not responsive to the DEGREE of FANATICISM about a show (i.e. how MUCH some people may love a show) but rather simply to the NUMBER OF PEOPLE watching it, as approximated by the ratings. I know this is very frustrating, because I know what it's like to be in love with shows which are cancelled because they don't appeal broadly enough. I, too, have cursed the ratings! But the reality is that the ratings are the currency of success in television. I'm not saying "MUMMIES ALIVE!" is at risk of being "cancelled." In fact, it's performing relatively well in an overall environment of lower viewership in general for syndicated cartoons. But I do think it would take an amazing surge in viewership to result in new episodes -- a surge which is beyond the power of your readers to influence.
B & B: On behalf of all the fans of Mummies Alive, we thank you very much for your time. We wish you continued success in all your endeavors at DIC.
R. L.: My pleasure. It's a thrill for us to know that there are serious fans out there and we are very, VERY appreciative of all of your support. It means a lot to all of us who have worked on the show.
Robby London has done several other web interviews. These include:
Interview with Robby London, done by Gerard Raiti for Mania Magazine in the Fall of 1997. Some really interesting inside info about the show is given here.
Licensing, Merchandising and Production: An Interview With Robby London by Heather Kenyon for Animation World Magazine, October 1997. It contains information about the marketing behind Mummies Alive and other shows DIC produces.
|What the Show
and the Theme Song
|The Characters||Show Summaries
Executive V.P. DIC
|Other Neat Things,
Sounds, Images, and
and a Quiz
|Why not fill out our Mummies Alive Survey?|
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