A creature native to Maine soon may be making its mark nationally.
A TV series featuring the Wompkee, created by Con Fullam and Maura Clarke of Portland, is being developed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, based in Santa Monica, Calif.
Wompkee Inc. of Portland and MGM have signed a partnership agreement to create and produce 13 fully animated half-hour TV shows.
The Wompkee is a green, furry creature with huge ears that is known as a universal communicator.
He and his fellow denizens of Wompkee Wood made their debut in “The Wompkee’s Grand Adventures,” which aired on WCSH (Channel 6) and WLBZ (Channel 2) in 1994. Also that year, a Wompkee plush toy, book and cassette were packaged together.
The next year, the Wompkee was a finalist for “Toy of the Year” in Disney’s Family Fun Magazine. He also appeared in the 1996 and 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, and has been invited back for next year.
Fullam can’t really pinpoint the Wompkee’s appeal.
“If I spend any time trying to figure it out, I don’t come up with much,” he said. “He has this magical quality that allowed him to just take off.”
The Wompkee’s journey to Hollywood was more roundabout. In April of last year, Noranne Frisby, MGM’s head of national sales, was visiting Channel 6, pitching an MGM show. While sitting in the program director’s office, she looked up and saw a Wompkee on a shelf.
“She is a collector of plush toys,” Fullam said. “She loved it, and had to have it. So we shipped her a couple.”
Frisby placed one of the plush toys on her desk, where it was discovered by Cynthia Riddle, now MGM’s manager of creative affairs. Riddle also fell under the Wompkee’s spell and began championing its cause. The development deal was reached about six months later, Fullam said.
Fullam, who will serve as an executive producer for the series, said the show will be animated overseas, where all today’s TV cartoons are produced.
Writing the first episode will be George Bloom, head writer for PBS’ critically acclaimed “Magic School Bus.”
“He’s a venerated writer in the world of animation,” Fullam said. “He wrote the entire `My Little Pony’ series and the movie, and has done quite a lot of work for Disney.”
The series is being developed to begin airing in the fall of 1999. Whether the series will air on network or cable TV, or as a syndicated program, is still to be determined, Fullam said.