Tom Hanks' 'Electric City' is no 'Toy Story'

Hanks has a new animated science fiction series that will be streaming exclusively on Yahoo, but it's hardly kid-appropriate fare.

No official art has been released yet, but this is what the Web site for Tom Hanks' production company Playtone looks like. Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

LAS VEGAS--"Electric City" is the latest Tom Hanks animated adventure, but it leaves behind the madcap buddy antics of Toy Story's Woody and Buzz Lightyear for a futuristic utopia with dark underpinnings. Instead of coming to a theater near you, though, the 90-minute-long series will be streamed episodically on Yahoo.

Revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 here, with a more in-depth formal announcement coming tomorrow, "Electric City" was created by Hanks and will star him, while production is being handled by Playtone and Reliance Entertainment. "It was always our intent to have this project live and breathe online and we felt Yahoo would be the perfect home," Gary Goetzman, co-founder with Hanks of the production company Playtone, said in a prepared statement.

For its part, Yahoo has been exploring original online entertainment for a few years, with reality and news roundup shows like "omg! NOW," "Primetime in No Time," and "Daily Ticker" helping to drive around 26 million people per month. Thanks to Hank's involvement in "Electric City," though, Yahoo thinks the series has the potential to significantly expand the scope of digital-first series.

"We are focused on providing the best digital canvas for the world's greatest storytellers to create, develop, and showcase their visions," said Ross Levinsohn, executive vice president Americas for Yahoo. "'Electric City' is further proof that we want to set the bar in premium online content and be the global home for groundbreaking ventures from the world's best-known and next-generation artists."

Just as comedian Louis C.K.'s recent self-distributed show proved to many skeptics that there's consumer interest in high-quality, low-cost, self-produced shows, "Electric City" could be another case of an audience long overdue for a product that hasn't been produced. If "Electric City" is successful it could be the first of many shows delivered online and in conjunction with a robust interactive online experience.

The show will have deep hooks in Yahoo's interactive and social features, which will allow viewers to navigate the "Electric City" world in a non-linear fashion, explore character backstories not revealed directly on the show, and watch behind-the-scenes footage. The show will also offer related online games, and it will have Facebook and Twitter ties to encourage social networking-based discussions. There are also planned events where you'll be able to converse with the show's cast and creators.

In addition to English, "Electric City" will be available in Spanish and French. No word on whether this partnership is a one-time deal, or if it makes Hanks and Yahoo bosom buddies.

 

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