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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hawaii-made cartoon debuts

By David Pham
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Courtesy of Hawaii Film Partners

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9 a.m. Sundays

NickToons, Oceanic Digital Channel 434

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The new cartoon "Ape Escape" targets ages 6 to 13.

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If you thought all kids' shows and cartoons were made on the Mainland or in Japan, it's time to add Hawai'i to your list.

Hawai'i Kai-based Hawaii Film Partners, which has already worked on shows like Discovery Kids' "Flight 29 Down," heads into the animation arena today with the debut of "Ape Escape" on digital cable's NickToons.

"Ape Escape" is the production company's first attempt at a Flash animation series and the first time a locally produced cartoon has been picked up by a national network.

"They are happy with what we produced and let us know that it is on par with any animation studio in California," said Rann Watumull, a co-founder of Hawaii Film Partners and an executive producer of "Ape Escape."

The local company's weekly series of 38 two-minute episodes premieres today at 9 a.m.

Based on Sony PlayStation's video game of the same name, "Ape Escape" is a cartoon about a professor who creates a super helmet that falls into the hands of an ape and transforms the ape into an evil genius bent on taking over the world with his monkey minions.

"The whole point of the show is to tickle your funny bones," Watumull said. "We've specifically written the episodes for an audience ages 6 to 13 who have never played the game, yet we also have made it entertainment that will be appealing to any age."

Watumull said a staff of 12 animators took care of processes like drawing, storyboarding, animating and voicing. The show took a little over a year to complete.

With only a few Mainland voice actors as external help, the whole show was put together in Hawai'i, and then shipped off to Nickelodeon to air.

Hawaii Film Partners is now wrapping up production for "You May Not Kiss the Bride," starring Rob Schneider, Katharine Mc-Phee from "American Idol," and Vinnie Jones from "X-Men: The Last Stand."

The company also has another cartoon in the works, with partners in China and South Korea: "Guardians of the Power Masks," which features 26 half-hour episodes.

Watumull and his wife Gina are co-founders and senior executives at Hawaii Film Partners.

"Our goal has always been to help build a viable film industry in Hawai'i by having local ownership and control of its projects," he said.

According to Watumull, "Ape Escape" was picked up by NickToons because of producing partner Konnie Kwak's connections with Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and also with Nickelodeon, which produces shows like "The Fairly Oddparents," "Chalkzone" and "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!"

"She put us together on the 'Ape Escape' project and they liked what we could do for them," Watamull said.

"They took a chance with a young company doing its first animation project, and we worked extra hard to prove ourselves."

Hawaii Film Partners produces films for worldwide distribution and owns copyrights and international distribution rights to all its projects. HFP produces live-action TV series, animation series and feature films.