We just got wind of a new animated series that is about to be launched from NBA Superstar and Miami Heat player Lebron James! The animated series is geared towards kids, and we hear that James is very “hands on” with this project, and many in the industry have compared the series to Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert.
Anyway, thanks to Mashable, we have this story:
King James is going for a new title: cartoon social do-gooder. LeBron James is set to launch The LeBrons, a 10-part animated web series designed to provide positive messages to today’s youth. The show features four sides of the MVP-winning basketball player first featured in a set of Nike commercials.
The show will follow the four LeBrons: Kid (the protagonist), Athlete (the basketball star), Business (the suave suit), and Wise (the grandfather-figure) as they live in James’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. Each episode is based on lessons that teach respect or the importance of school. Rapper Drake guest stars as himself himself in one episode and eventually rap battles Business LeBron after an altercation. While it might seem like a cheap cameo, the episode teaches that violence isn’t the only way to solve conflicts. It’s a smart move.
The LeBrons will be delivered through a dedicated YouTube channel, youtube.com/thelebrons with some syndication on major sports sites, said Dan Goodman and Bill Masterson, co-founders of Believe Entertainment Group who helped create, finance and sell the show. Goodman and Masterson believe in the webisode format as the new frontier of digital entertainment: “When we looked at LeBron’s audience, it really became a natural place for the show to reside,” Masterson said. “Unlike when we grew up and cartoons were on Saturday morning … now their access is not as programmed or dictated by timing. It’s on their own terms.”
James will help those numbers by promoting the show through his social media presence. His Facebookaccount has more than 4.8 million “Likes,” while he has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter(@KingJames). James has also dedicated a part of his website to showing the series.
James has long supported the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and a portion of the proceeds from the show will be used to purchase computers for the organization. HP and Intel are core sponsors behind the show and HP products regularly pop up along with Nike insignia (after all, the characters started off in a Nike commercial). It’s a careful balance, Goodman said, and one that is indicative of how digital entertainment is made: “I think we just have to strike a balance. [In] that first episode there happen to be a couple close-ups, but I think that if you watch the content, the general takeaway is content and not brand marketing.” Teaming up with brands can be a way to keep making content even when budgets are tight.
“The number one thing is content,” Masterson added. “If consumers think it’s just one big commercial then that wouldn’t be effective [for the show]. The brands don’t want that either.”
The show is a very much a passion project for James. He helped oversee the production, filmed live-action introductions, and voiced one of the characters (Business LeBron). “His schedule is obviously very busy so it wasn’t always easy buy it was important to [James] and it was important to us,” Goodman said. “Given his schedule, he could have just said ‘Call me when it’s over,’ and he was the opposite of that.”
It’s unclear whether the show will have a concrete, measurable impact on the well-being of its viewers, but even making a show centered around moral lessons was a victory for Goodman and Masterson. For Masterson, it was about showing there was a way to make digital entertainment with a positive message: “We’re planting a flag and saying, ‘Look, we think there’s a way to do better.’ ”
What do you think of the The LeBrons? How much social good can a web series hope to accomplish? What does the show do right? Let us know in the comments below.