Cartoon Network — with an assist from Nintendo of America Inc. — is encouraging viewers to toggle between the television and online worlds with its "Toonami" action-adventure programming block this week.
Under the banner of its second total-immersion cartoon event, the animated network will unveil the serialized story "Toonami: Lockdown" from Sept. 17 through 21. Sponsored by Nintendo, it will coincide with CartoonNetwork.com's first multilevel role-playing game.
After discussions on Sept. 12, Cartoon Network programming executives elected to continue with the stunt in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. A Cartoon spokesman said that in deference to the 100,000 users who had already pre-registered for the event's online aspects and to provide "a sense of normalcy to our viewers, we have decided to go ahead."
Unfolding in vignettes during the channel's action-adventure franchise, Toonami Lockdown will follow the moves of TOM, the block's computer-generated host, as he looks for viewers to help him defend his spaceship. Over the course of the week, viewers will be able to witness their online efforts affect the on-air story, as the two are intertwined .
"Toonami: Lockdown is an innovative concept, bringing together an on-air computer-generated miniseries and an online multilevel role-playing game, converging them into a story line," Toonami creative director said Sean Akins in a statement. "Last year's Intruder was a tremendous success for us. Lockdown is light years beyond where we were back them."
Indeed, last year's immersion event — The Intruder — helped boost the network's ratings for the block 50 percent to a 1.9 among kids aged 9 to 14. Additionally, views of the Toonami.com home page jumped 72 percent from the previous week.
As was the case with last year's event, viewers must tune in to Toonami from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day to retrieve codes that will help them advance through the online Lockdown game to help TOM save the Toonami franchise.
Online players will be divided into three teams, with players able to track their group's progress as the cumulative team score is refreshed on the screen during the game. Each day, the results will be posted online and integrated into the on-air action. The team with the highest score will receive a downloadable prize and online registrants will be able to register to win one of several Nintendo prizes.
"Last year's Toonami: The Intruder event proved the high appeal of simultaneous action unfolding on the air and on the Web," Cartoon Network Online general manager Jim Samples said in a press release. "With Toonami: Lockdown, we'll deliver not only the excitement of a multimedia event, but also the power or multiplayer gaming. I am convinced that our fans will go nuts over this."