Since December 14, weekends on the HBO Family network have featured a clay-animated TV series based on Scholastic's I Spy franchise, which has generated sales of more than 20 million books over the last decade. Based on the success of spinoff CD-ROMs, among other factors, Scholastic felt readers wanted more I Spy than was possible with the release of a single book each year, which is as fast as author Jean Marzollo and photographer Walter Wick can produce them. "It's a fairly complex publishing project for us," said Deborah Forte, executive v-p of Scholastic Inc. and division head of Scholastic Entertainment. "There was a tremendous appetite among I Spy fans for more connection with the franchise."
Still, it took more than a year to decide whether to do the show. "It had to be a really new experience or it was better left undone," said Forte. As with the books, the show's premise centers on creativity and imagination, but, unlike the books, it needed a story and characters. The result is a fanciful boy and his dog, both made of found objects, who lead readers on a play-along search-and-find adventures in a world that closely mirrors the photographs in the I Spy books.
The show was promoted on HBO Family and in all Scholastic channels. I Spy licensing, based on artwork from both the show and the books (which are similar except for the characters), includes a new videogame title for Gameboy Advance and an I Spy Viewmaster from Fisher-Price, among other products. Later in 2003, Scholastic's book group plans to release TV tie-in books, including 8x8 storybooks and coloring books, as well as four 6x9 easy reader spinoffs based on Wick's original photos.