Online Blockbuster?: Tom Hanks’ Electric City Debuts on Yahoo Today

Hanks' 90-minute, 20-episode series is being touted as a "first-of-its-kind, 360-degree online interaction of digital, social, mobile and gaming media."

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Chris Carlson / AP

Actor Tom Hanks rehearses for the 84th Academy Awards on Feb 25, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Normally an animated web series about a lead character’s good-versus-evil struggle in a post-apocalyptic world doesn’t generate a lot of buzz. But then again, not every web series has Tom Hanks attached to it. Yahoo hired the Oscar-winning actor to write, produce and lend his voice to the lead character of Electric City, which premieres on July 17 at 9 a.m. PST.

Hanks says he hopes that his 20-part series—created in tandem with Playtone and Reliance Big Entertainment and consisting of three-to-five-minute webisodes—will take off on Yahoo, enabling him to keep dreaming up new stories for the show. And that’s the great part of this web-only series: Hanks doesn’t have to cater to anyone’s whims except his own, devising his own series in his own way. He’s not the only A-lister to try his hand at at a show outside the confines of Hollywood: X-Men director Bryan Singer has plans for H+ this summer, another series with sci-fi roots.

(MORE: Tom Hanks: Remembering Writer and Director Nora Ephron)

As Hanks explains to the New York Times, he likes the idea of total freedom to create whatever he wants. And if Yahoo! simply wants to pay him to drive “eyeballs” to its site, as Hanks says, then he’s happy to provide the content. “Well, sign us up, we got another 20 story ideas,” he tells the paper. “And it could go on and on and on forever.”

His series features a lead character far removed from the Meg Ryan–loving Hanks many Americans know and love. Electric City‘s Cleveland Carr won’t be checking his AOL account anytime soon—instead this character lives on the dark side of Hanks’ sci-fi world, where he has to employ plenty of violence.

Knowing that Electric City wasn’t exactly made-for-television content, Hanks played with the extremes of it all, toying with the morals of the character in the post-apocalyptic world.

“In Electric City, we always try to adhere to human behavior. Human nature is always: I’d like to have another piece of pizza,” Hanks tells the Times. “Even if there’s no more pizza left, I’d like to have another one. There are savage people out there, and they use that version of savagery certainly for bad. But there are those who come along with retribution and their sense of what justice is.”

As Hanks explores his own creativity (as seen in this trailer), Yahoo hopes that enough people want to come along for the ride to make the series an online blockbuster. Check out the first 10 episodes tonight; the remaining episodes will be released over the next two nights.

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