SAN FRANCISCO -- Hollywood took a step closer to Silicon Valley Tuesday.
Giving a boost to online entertainment, Shockwave.com said it has signed up the creators of the television hit "South Park" to develop original animations for its Web site. Trey Parker and Matt Stone will create 39 original animation shorts, each two to five minutes in length. The shorts will feature new characters, not those from the "South Park" show.
Shockwave.com is home to a variety of animations and games based upon Macromedia Inc.'s Flash technology, which has become a kind of lingua franca for animations on the Internet. Macromedia is the parent company of Shockwave.com.
"Today we have a watershed deal for Hollywood and Silicon Valley," said Rob Burgess, chief executive of Macromedia, San Francisco.
Web steps ahead of TV
The arrangement is significant in part because Parker and Stone are eschewing the traditional route of creating TV shows first and then merchandising that work for the Web. Under the deal, Macromedia will pay the two a sum that wasn't disclosed to create original animations for its site. Parker and Stone also will retain creative control.
"Yeah, we think this Internet thing could be pretty big," said Parker in a statement.
The endorsements come on the heels of widespread adoption of Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash technologies. More than 200 million people have downloaded the Flash player, which is needed to view the animations. Shockwave.com is signing up 60,000 registered users a day and already has six million members.
Flash and Shockwave can't yet run the highest-quality animations, largely because of the slow speed of the Internet in delivering multimedia Web pages. But the technology is useful for the slow-changing animations favored by the "South Park" creators.
"I'm not saying we can do 'The Lion King' yet," Burgess said. "But our technology compares very favorably to a Saturday-morning cartoon."
Shockwave.com said earlier this week that it had raised $44 million in equity funding from Silicon Valley venture-capital company Sequoia Capital and Jim Clark, founder of Netscape Communications Corp., which is now a unit of America Online Inc. (NYSE:AOL) Earlier this year, Stan Lee, creator of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and other comic heroes, said he would create an animated original comic book for Shockwave.com.
"We're a kind of an accidental entertainment company," said Burgess.