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Fox Orders Two New Animated Pilots

Apparently not content with mere Animation Domination, Fox continues to bolster its reservoir of potential new toons. Vulture has learned the network has given thumbs-ups to pilot presentations for a pair of new animated projects, including one from web animation star Brad Neely (I Am Babycakes). Combined with recent orders for a show from Jonah Hill and a toon take on Napoleon Dynamite, plus the upcoming mid-season launch of Bob's Burgers, it's clear Fox doesn't plan to simply coast along forever on the strength of The Simpsons and the Seth MacFarlane empire.

Neely, who's also well-known for his unauthorized audio spoof of the Harry Potter films, is behind a project called Godparents, which sounds a little bit like a darker take on the Katherine Heigl pic Life As We Know It. Specifically, insiders describe it as a "twisted family show about a couple ill-equipped to raise kids who are forced to take care of their godchildren." Neely is paired on the potential show with animation vet Tim Long (The Simpsons), a former head writer for The Late Show With David Letterman who's also been published in The New Yorker (yes, the The New Yorker).

Also in the pipeline at Fox: Red Roofs, a half-hour toon about a 12-year-old boy who splits his time between his divorced parents' suburban homes. Another Simpsons vet, Kushell, is writing and producing via 20th Century Fox TV (which is also the studio on Godparents). Kushell, whose résumé includes Third Rock From the Sun and Samantha Who?, also hosted Anytime, an online talk show for Sony's Crackle.

Godparents and Red Roofs are still in the relatively early stages of development. Fox is also said to be mulling at least a half-dozen other animated projects, including one from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison banner. Insiders believe the network could green-light at least one more half-hour by year's end. Then there's Bob's Burgers, the King of the Hill–esque toon debuting early next year: Fox today signaled it's pleased with the creative direction of that series by ordering six more scripts for the show.

The network also gave the go-ahead for eight more scripts of American Dad. The MacFarlane-produced series, while a consistent ratings performer, is still considered the weakest link in Fox's Animation Domination lineup and would appear to be the most in danger of being pulled if Bob's Burgers or any of the newcomers take off. That said, Fox has proven to be flexible when it comes to animated lifespans: It canceled and uncanceled King of the Hill several times before finally pulling the plug on the show. And it's always possible Fox could attempt to expand its animated footprint beyond Sundays, or perhaps even start programming some lower-budget toons in the summer.

Meanwhile, things also seem to be looking good for The Simpsons. Don't be surprised if Fox finds a way to extend that show's life another year or two in coming months. Not only are ratings steady, but as the recent buzz around the Banksy opening and an upcoming Katy Perry appearance prove, the show still has plenty of pop-culture spark left in it.