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Comedy for Kids On Demand Cartoon Network Turns 20 Haim Saban Russell T Davies BBC Children’s Joe Godwin JHC’s Lisa Henson Alphanim’s Pierre Belaïsch Média-Participations’ Claude de Saint Vincent Brand Licensing Report www.tvkids.ws
MIP JUNIOR & MIPCOM EDITION THE MAGAZINE OF CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING
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Features 80 Happy Hours A range of producers and distributors weigh in on what it takes to make a successful comedy for kids.
102 Demanding Kids A look at how on-demand platforms for kids’ content are helping—or hurting?—the children’s programming business. Ricardo Seguin Guise
Publisher Anna Carugati
Editor Mansha Daswani
Executive Editor Kristin Brzoznowski
Managing Editor Joanna Padovano
Associate Editor Simon Weaver
116 Saban Capital Group’s Haim Saban The chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group reflects on 20 years of the hit Power Rangers franchise.
Online Director Chris Carline Meredith Miller
Production Directors Phyllis Q. Busell
Art Director Cesar Suero
Sales & Marketing Director
Brand Licensing Special Report 118 Wizards Vs Aliens’ Russell T Davies The man who rebooted Doctor Who for contemporary audiences co-created CBBC’s new series Wizards Vs Aliens.
Business Affairs Manager
120 BBC Children’s Joe Godwin
The CEO of the French group on building viable multiplatform brands today.
The controller of children’s programming at the BBC discusses the strengths of CBBC and CBeebies.
Cartoon Network’s 20th Birthday Stuart Snyder
Ricardo Seguin Guise
President Anna Carugati
Executive VP & Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani
Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Kids © 2012 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website:
A look at the numerous classic brands being reintroduced at Brand Licensing Europe.
Média-Participations’ Claude de Saint Vincent
Sales & Marketing Manager
The Comeback Kids
124 JHC’s Lisa Henson
The president and COO of the animation, young adults and kids’ media division at Turner reflects on Cartoon Network’s history and what’s in store for the channel.
The Jim Henson Company’s CEO shares insight into the animation technologies developed at the Creature Shop.
20 Years of Cartoon Network
126 Alphanim’s Pierre Belaïsch The managing director of the French animation studio discusses what’s in development at the company.
A look at some of the major milestones in the channel’s history since its launch on October 1, 1992.
Rob Sorcher As chief content officer at Cartoon Network, Sorcher is developing new ways to incubate rising talent for original productions, while keeping an eye out for hits from the international market.
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P A N O R A M A
By Anna Carugati
The Joys of Childhood I have reached that bittersweet moment in the energy-sapping, frustrating, often infuriating, yet overwhelmingly rewarding journey that is called parenthood—when you realize that your children aren’t children anymore. Seemingly overnight they have become teens and young adults. My son is turning 25 and has been out of the house for seven years: for college, work and now grad school. My daughter is 14, just started high school, goes out with friends on her own and babysits. I know they are big now, but a number of recent occurrences reminded me of when they were small, cuddly, adorable and so, so much easier to deal with. And yet, in their mad rush toward adulthood (What’s the hurry? If only they knew how good they have it now!) I have discovered that they have retained an attachment to characters they fell in love with when they were little. As I said, my daughter babysits, most often in the child’s home, but occasionally a harried mother will drop her child off at our apartment. Recently, a 4-year-old girl was with us and asked to watch TV. What does my daughter suggest? The shows she loved when she was that age: Caillou, Dora the Explorer or Blue’s Clues.They settled on The Berenstain Bears, a property that was so beloved in our home that I still have about 30 storybooks that date back to when my son was little, as well as half a dozen VHS tapes. This attachment to childhood favorites apparently goes beyond our household. My daughter told me a classmate of hers has the song “The Phone Is Ringing” from the show Wonder Pets! as the ring tone of her cell phone. What surprised me the most came from my son—remember, he’s 25 and attending grad school. I had interviewed Elie Dekel, the president of Saban Brands, for this issue, who mentioned that the property Digimon is making a comeback. I recalled how much my son had enjoyed that show and later asked him if he remembered it. His eyes lit up as he instantly broke out in the opening theme song to a show he hasn’t watched since at least ten years ago, when, in a fit of nostalgia, he showed all his Digimon DVDs to his little sister. He then turned her on to Pokémon and they would watch the show and then play the video game seated side by side on connected Nintendo DS devices.
They still play video games seated side by side, although now they play different games. When I see the backs of their heads seated on their beds or on the couch, my mind flies back to when each one was a preschooler, seated on the rug watching TV, drinking from juice boxes, snacking on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, often with a favorite plush doll or toy next to them. And why was it that their hands were always sticky? Nowadays, “sticky” has been given a whole new meaning by the children’s TV business, which has changed enormously since my son was little. Back then there were simply “TV shows.” Then came the term “property” as producers and distributors realized the potential bonanza that could be made from consumer products, video games and home video.Today, the property has to be sticky—has to secure children’s affection so that they want to make its characters part of their daily lives. As in the past,TV shows can originate from books or toys or feature films, but they can also come from online shorts or video games.All, however, require a comprehensive merchandising plan, because without those ancillary revenues, license fees would never be enough to cover the cost of making the shows. Technology has undoubtedly had an impact on the children’s TV business, offering a variety of screens beyond traditional TV sets, but perhaps an even greater influence on the ways properties are rolled out is children’s expectations. Kids want to watch their shows whenever they want. They expect to find games and activities online.They know to look for toys, clothes and backpacks in stores and they are master multitaskers. They want it all and all at once. The digital world is their playground as much as the sandbox, jungle gym and swing set. Children are fickle viewers, knowing from a very young age what they like and what they don’t like, but once they latch on to a show, they remain attached for a long time. So while they grow up physically, a part of them remains little, much to the joy of nostalgic parents.
Children are fickle viewers, knowing from a very young age what they like and what they don’t like, but once they latch on to a show, they remain attached for a long time.
Get daily news on kids’ programming
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9 Story Entertainment www.9story.com • Arthur • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood • Camp Lakebottom
On account of its growth, 9 Story Entertainment has expanded to a bigger stand in the Riviera for this year’s MIPCOM, where the company is highlighting titles such as Arthur, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Camp Lakebottom.“We are excited to be featuring brand-new episodes of our latest shows,” says Natalie Osborne, the executive VP of business development for 9 Story Entertainment. “The shows offer a great mix of strong characters—from the iconic Arthur, to the endearing and engaging Daniel Tiger to the adventurous McGee and the comedic gang in Camp Lakebottom.” The hit series Arthur, targeting 9- to 12-year-olds, is about the life of a school-aged aardvark. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an animated preschool show for kids aged 2 to 6, inspired by the popular Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood series. It follows a young tiger named Daniel as he learns important lessons that help prepare him for school and life. Geared toward 6- to 11-year-olds, Camp Lakebottom is a comedy about a wealthy 12-year-old named McGee who is sent to a summer camp that has possessed cabins and creepy staff.
“We expect this to be our best MIPCOM
and MIP Junior to date, with our strongest slate yet.
A Squared Entertainment www.a2entertain.com • Secret Millionaire’s Club • Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 • Rainbow Valley Heroes
“A Squared is dedicated
to producing ‘content with a purpose,’ meaning entertainment that is as enriching as it is engaging.
A Squared Entertainment is showcasing a number of new titles at MIPCOM, many of which have some famous names attached. For example, Secret Millionaire’s Club is a new animated series in which billionaire Warren Buffett mentors children. Guest stars on the show will include celebrities such as Jay-Z, Shaquille O’Neal and Nick Cannon. Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 tells the story of aliens who crash land on Earth in front of Stan Lee, the legendary creator of comicbook superheroes.“Reality meets fantasy and comedy meets adventure as the Mighty 7 journey begins,” says Andy Heyward, co-CEO of the company. Then there is Rainbow Valley Heroes, an animated series about a fleet of rescue trucks. “Every episode teaches a valuable lesson about safety, teamwork, friendship, sharing, hard work, recycling, telling the time or problem solving,” adds Heyward. “As a new company, we’re excited to introduce fresh, new content, produced by industry veterans with past hits such as Inspector Gadget, Strawberry Shortcake, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Sonic the Hedgehog, among dozens of others,” says Heyward.
Stan Lee’s Mighty 7
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American Greetings Properties www.agpbrands.com • Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot • Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures • The WotWots
A slew of broadcasters have already signed up for the new CGI series Care Bears:Welcome to Care-a-Lot. Now, American Greetings Properties (AGP) is turning its focus on securing home-video partners for the title. “The Care Bears have been popular for decades and we anticipate the new series will have global appeal,” says Gia DeLaney, the VP of program sales at AGP. DeLaney says that the company’s number one priority is selling the new CGI Care Bears series, but AGP is also excited to bring out a third season of Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures. “It’s easy to understand Strawberry Shortcake’s global appeal because her stories and themes are fun and wholesome and her optimism is contagious,” DeLaney says. Also returning with new episodes is The WotWots, produced by the Academy Award-winning Weta Workshop out of New Zealand. “The brand-new season finds a pair of brother and sister aliens traveling to numerous scenic locations and contains a beautiful mix of CGI and live action,” DeLaney says.
Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot
“The Care Bears are celebrating their 30-year anniversary and the
new CGI series does a great job of bringing back classic characters as well as introducing new ones.
Animasia Studio www.animasia-studio.com • Chuck Chicken • Harry & Bunny • Bola Kampung: The Movie
The slate from Malaysia’s Animasia Studio contains a fair amount of comedy-driven content, according to Edmund Chan, the company’s managing director. “Our shows have good character designs and strong story lines to drive the series and appeal to the latest programming trends,” he says. Chan names three properties that Animasia Studio looks to promote at the event, among them Chuck Chicken, which focuses on a chicken running an island security service using kung fu. The company is also presenting Harry & Bunny, about a magician, a rabbit and a gypsy fortune-teller. Additionally, Animasia Studio is showcasing Bola Kampung:The Movie, a 3D stereoscopic film based on the animated series that follows a princess living in a virtual game world.“It’s our first feature film and we are planning for a cinema release in Asia by Q1 2013,” says Chan. “We would like to meet more producers and broadcasters at MIP Junior to share and exchange market and programming trends in order to provide us with greater knowledge to further plan and develop our own IPs,” Chan notes. 10/12
“Our goal is to further promote Animasia as an upcoming studio from Asia.”
Bola Kampung: The Movie
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Australian Children’s Television Foundation www.actf.com.au • Bushwacked! • You’re Skitting Me • The Dukes of Bröxstônia
“Kids love adventure, laughter and general wackiness.
Viewers come face to face with some of Australia’s deadliest animals and arachnids, all from the comfort of their couch, in Bushwacked! The 13x24-minute adventure series is being presented to clients for the first time by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). The company is also showcasing the sketch comedy series You’re Skitting Me, which launched in April at MIPTV, where it garnered quite a bit of interest from the international market. “With the launch at MIP Junior of Bushwhacked!, as well as the first-time MIP Junior screenings of You’re Skitting Me, we certainly expect to see some positive feedback coming from those buyers ensconced in the screening room at the Martinez,” says Tim Hegarty, international sales executive at ACTF.To cap things off, the company is heading to the market with a brand-new second season of the animated series The Dukes of Bröxstônia. “Our goal at this market is to make as many broadcasters as possible aware of not only our newest shows, but also the breadth and depth of the awardwinning content on offer [from] ACTF,” Hegarty says.
BRB Internacional www.brb.es • InviZimals • Mica, Mica • Canimals
Spain’s BRB Internacional is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. To help celebrate, the company is launching InviZimals, a 26x30-minute action-adventure series based on the Novarama video game of the same name. Similar to the PlayStation Portable game about invisible creatures, InviZimals the series will include enhanced-reality features that will allow viewers to access locked content from their PlayStation Vita portable consoles.“Sony Computer Entertainment Europe enters its first push for animation on TV with us on board,” says Carlos Biern, the CEO of BRB Internacional. The company is also highlighting Mica, Mica, a 52x7minute animated fantasy series that centers on an imaginative young girl. The series is being done in co-production with Plural Entertainment. Mica, Mica will use the interactive experience of tablets for after-the-series interactivity to explore the situations the main character experiences further. Also on the slate is Canimals, a 52x7-minute animated comedy geared toward children 6 to 8.
“We are able to [transform] worldwide brands
into TV hits with workable budgets and great production values.
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CAKE www.cakeentertainment.com • Holiday Specials: Dear Dracula & Abominable Christmas • Get Well Soon • Angelo Rules
Just in time for the holiday season, buyers can get their hands on CAKE’s Dear Dracula and Abominable Christmas, one for Halloween and one for Christmas.“The two holiday specials are the perfect seasonal fare,” says Ed Galton, the chief commercial officer and managing director of CAKE. “Made with a family audience firmly in mind, they feature some great voice talent, including Ray Liotta, Emilio Estevez and Jane Lynch.” Galton also highlights Get Well Soon, a factual series that looks at kids’ common health issues.“The series comes from Kindle Entertainment, which is behind the award-winning Leonardo and the Eddie Izzard-fronted Treasure Island.” He adds, “Angelo Rules, one of our most popular shows, returns for a second season.”The show is based on the French book series Comment Faire Enrager, written by Sylvie de Mathuisieulx and illustrated by Sébastien Diologent. CAKE also looks after Chapman Entertainment’s Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, Little Charley Bear, Roary the Racing Car and Fifi and the Flowertots.
“Angelo and friends are back with the
same charm and delightful mischief that made the first series a success.
Cartoon Network www.cartoonnetwork.com • Adventure Time • Ben 10 • Regular Show
“We’re celebrating our 20th birthday at Cartoon Network.”
MIP Junior and Cartoon Network are both celebrating their 20th birthdays, so it is only fitting that Stuart Snyder, the president and COO of Turner Broadcasting System’s animation, young adults and kids media division, is delivering a keynote at the event. “I look forward to sharing with the audience a perspective about where Cartoon Network has been and where it’s going,” says Snyder. “I will also be talking about, from a larger perspective, our industry as a whole and how we see ourselves fitting within the industry and our perspectives on the kids’ business today and the trends going forward.” Cartoon Network can currently be seen in nearly 100 million homes in the U.S. alone. It also reaches 168 countries around the world. Among the channel’s signature original programs are Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Regular Show and the successful Ben 10 franchise. Ben 10 has been done in animation and in live action, aired as series and movies and has a massive videogame and consumer-products business.
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Cookie Jar Entertainment www.cjar.com • Inspector Gadget • What Do People Do All Day? • Dr. Dimension Pants
Cookie Jar Entertainment is celebrating Inspector Gadget’s 30th anniversary with the launch of a brand-new series with its Canadian broadcast partner TELETOON.The series will again revolve around the iconic bionic bumbling detective. Also for TELETOON is Dr. Dimension Pants an original series by Brad Peyton. The show What Do People Do All Day?, based on the popular Richard Scarry franchise, is for the Canadian broadcaster CBC.“These shows are based on very popular children’s brands and have shown through previous productions that they rate highly with audiences around the world,” says Michael Hirsh, Cookie Jar’s CEO. Hirsh says that the company is expecting to pre-sell Inspector Gadget, What Do People Do All Day? and Dr. Dimension Pants at the market. He is also keen to find co-production partners for the latter two titles.“We have become the number one supplier to streaming networks for their kids’ content and we look forward to meeting with our existing customers as well as new entrants to the field around the world,” he adds of his further MIPCOM goals.
“We have a 6,000-episode kids’ library, which is the best in the industry.
—Michael Hirsh Inspector Gadget
Cyber Group Studios www.cybergroupstudios.com • Mademoiselle Zazie • Zou • Cloud Bread
Based on the books by Thierry Lenain and Delphine Durand, Mademoiselle Zazie is one of the series that Cyber Group Studios is highlighting this year.The show, targeted at 5- to 8-year-olds, is about the friendship between a group of children. “It will appeal to broadcasters worldwide because it’s a resolutely contemporary series,” says Carole Brin, the company’s head of international sales and acquisitions. “Mademoiselle Zazie is also packed with comedy, with all of the kids’ crazy ideas, their silliness and quirkiness. Zazie and her friends make us laugh and that’s great!” Cyber Group is also showcasing new episodes of Zou, an animated series about an endearing young zebra and his extended family.“Successfully launched on Disney Junior all over Europe and Latin America, it is premiering this fall in 106 territories,” notes Brin. The second season of Cloud Bread continues the story of two children who realize they can float after eating bread made from a cloud. The show’s new season was penned by Emmy Award-winning writer Billy Lopez, known for Wonder Pets! and 3rd & Bird.
“Our goal for MIPCOM is to develop collaborations
with renowned animation producers in order to expand our offering.
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Daewon Media www.daewonmedia.com • GON • Paboo & Mojies
Korea’s Daewon Media comes to the market with GON, a 90x11-minute comedy series for 4- to 8-year-old boys about a dinosaur-like creature and his animal friends. “With many positive responses for its high-quality animation and the action-based super-fun stories of the characters, we are currently building up a full toy and merchandised-item lineup for GON, including sound-recognition talking toys,” says Bul-Kyung Kim, the director of the company’s content division.The kids’ show—currently on TV Tokyo in Japan,TVB in Hong Kong and EBS in Korea—will air on pan-Asia’s Cartoon Network channel in the beginning of next year. “Rainbow, our European partner, is currently looking for partners and we have finalized relationships for some of the key territories in Asia,” adds Kim. Co-produced by Sega Toys, Paboo & Mojies is a 2D animated preschool series about transforming alphabet toys. “Paboo & Mojies is our latest project working with Sega Toys of Japan, and we are happy to have Nelvana joined in for this exciting project,” says Kim. BS Fuji in Japan and KBS2 in Korea are currently broadcasting the show.
Paboo & Mojies
“At this MIPCOM, we are aiming for sales in North and South America.”
Edebé Audiovisual Licensing www.edebeaudiovisual.com • Jonás: The Imaginary Adventures • Never Ending Tales • Snails
“As a branch of an educational publisher, we always try to launch to the market products that incorporate moral values or promote learning skills.
The dialogue-free series Jonás: The Imaginary Adventures made its debut at MIPTV and Edebé Audiovisual Licensing is expecting it to drum up strong interest at MIP Junior. “We especially like Jonás because it tells children to use their imagination, to be creative and to never stop trying and exploring, as everyday life can become an extraordinary adventure, independent of the difficulties you face,” says Iván Agenjo, the sales director at Edebé. “Taking into account the hard economic situation we are suffering from, that’s a positive message to teach.” Twentysix episodes have already been produced and Edebé is looking for financing to complete the rest of the series. “We expect to close the first deals after MIPCOM, as well as close the financing of the following seasons by Christmas,” Agenjo says. Edebé recently added two ready-made series to its catalogue: Never Ending Tales and Snails. Both series target preschoolers and both have been produced in stop motion by Galician studio OQO filmes.
Never Ending Tales
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Entertainment One Family www.eonefamily.com • Oscar & Hoo • Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong • Zapper Jack
The friendship between a boy and a cloud is at the center of the preschool show Oscar & Hoo. “The series has been carefully crafted to help kids connect with their emotions through very relatable characters and strong storytelling,” says Olivier Dumont, the managing director of Entertainment One (eOne) Family, which is presenting the series at MIP Junior.“The themes are universal and we have already received interest across the world, whether in Europe, Latin America, North America or Asia.” Dumont says that the 52x11-minute Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong will appeal to broadcasters around the world looking for comedy. “There isn’t a lot of strong kids’ comedy out there, so we expect this one to fly off the shelves, with its clever story lines and high concept.” There’s also a strong comedic element in Zapper Jack, targeting 6- to 11-year-olds. Dumont says he’s confident that this character-driven comedy will get picked up by broadcasters, given the strong creative team behind it.
Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong
“MIPCOM is a great opportunity to spot
new properties and meet with new co-production partners, as we are very hungry to co-finance shows and take on the brandmanagement rights.
FremantleMedia Enterprises www.fmekids.com
“Our expectations are that
• Wizards Vs Aliens • Strange Hill High • Grojband
we will build on our past market achievements, book record sales and get one step closer to our goal of becoming the preeminent independent supplier of quality kids’ and family TV content in the world.
This is the third MIP Junior for FremantleMedia Enterprises’ (FME) kids’ and family entertainment division. The segment has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. In this time, the company has managed to firm up relationships with key creatives in the industry, among them Russell T Davies. The acclaimed writer behind such hits as Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures has brought to the FME slate the live-action/CGI-laden series Wizards Vs Aliens.Also on offer from FME is Strange Hill High, an animated comedy adventure created for CBBC. There’s also the musical comedy Grojband, centered on four tween wannabe rock legends who use a teenaged drama queen’s diary for lyrics. Sander Schwartz, the president of kids and family entertainment at FME, says, “While these shows are completely different from each other—the first is a live-action adventure with special effects, the second is a real-time and stopmotion animated comedy, and the third is a 2D animated music-driven comedy—they are all fresh, well-written, visually stunning and exceptionally well-produced.”
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Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment www.gaiam.com • Tappy Toes • Puss in Boots: A Furry Tale • Chop Kick Panda
Expanding acquisitions activities is a key priority for Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment at the market, according to Bill Sondheim, the company’s president. Gaiam will also be presenting buyers with a trio of animated projects, among them Tappy Toes.The 45-minute film follows Pingo the Penguin, who is on an odyssey from being a total outcast to finding his unique place within his flock—all thanks to a special pair of tap shoes.There are two other 41-minute animated films that Gaiam will be talking to buyers about, Chop Kick Panda and Puss in Boots: A Furry Tale. The first film is about an overgrown panda, Lu, who overcomes his self-doubt and becomes a hero when his mortal enemy, tiger warrior Kudo, attempts to loot the village.The latter of the two titles is an updated classic that starts with Puss’s brave escape from the devious Queen Marie. Sondheim points out that these films all “take advantage of the strong interest generated by popular theatrical film franchises that feature the same type of fun animal characters (panda, penguin) and delightfully comedic themes.”
“We want to offer some of our most successful North American programming to our international partners.
—Bill Sondheim Chop Kick Panda
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Guru Studio www.gurustudio.com • Justin Time • Nemesis • Spaceface
Guru Studio’s popular preschool series Justin Time continues to perform well around the world. “We will be closing new sales this market” for the show, says Frank Falcone, the president and creative director at Guru Studio. “We expect to see the continued expansion of Justin Time as a major independent ‘upper preschool’ children’s brand that reaches right across the preschool spectrum and even delights older kids and parents as a guilty pleasure!” Nemesis is Guru’s new comedy for boys in which a single story is shown from the perspective of two very different characters.“We’re developing this series with TELETOON Canada and creator Jamie Waese (The Doodlebops),” says Falcone. “Spaceface is our 7-to-11 comedy series and Port Little features a bustling community with charming woodland animals that help keep everything moving.” Falcone adds,“We’re going to MIP this fall with a strong lineup of energetic preschool shows, a return to something more gentle, and a few comedies for boys 6 to 11.”
“None of our stories talk down to kids, and
because our characters find themselves in original and inventive situations, they always have a lot of fun!
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Hasbro Studios www.hasbrostudios.com • Kaijudo • Rescue Bots • Littlest Pet Shop
The 52x30-minute mission-based adventure show Rescue Bots targets younger Transformers fans. It is for “little boys who want a big-boy experience,” says Finn Arnesen, the senior VP of international distribution and development at Hasbro Studios. “What’s really exciting is with this show we get to introduce a whole new generation to the Transformers franchise in an age-appropriate manner.” For the 6-to-11 set, Hasbro Studios is presenting Kaijudo, which is a “brand-new fresh take on actionadventure,” Arnesen says. “The show is unlike traditional trading-card-based shows; it has an aspirational, real-world feel to it, with our heroes navigating through school, homework and teenage life while at the same time saving the world.” For girls, the company is offering Littlest Pet Shop. “The show has cool music, is slightly older-skewing and has great story lines that will really make it stand out,” says Arnesen.
“We will be meeting with new players in the TV and digital space, as well as potential studios for production, so it’s set to be a busy market.
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Hoho Rights www.hohoentertainment.com • Cloudbabies • Abadas • Everybody Loves a Moose
Having been established in 2011, Hoho Entertainment is heading to MIP Junior with a focus on increasing its presence in the global kids’ space.“Although Oliver [Ellis] and I have been around for a long time, Hoho Entertainment is still a relatively young company,” says Helen Howells, who is the joint managing director of Hoho, alongside Ellis. Hoho Rights is presenting the animated series Cloudbabies, which targets preschoolers. Also for preschoolers, there is the 2D/3D animated and live-action hybrid Abadas. For a slightly older audience, kids 6 to 10, there is the slapstick comedy Everybody Loves a Moose.“These series demonstrate originality, charm and humor and we believe that these qualities are what buyers are looking for,” says Howells. The strength of the storytelling and the quality of the animation are two key factors that Howells feels will give the shows appeal for broadcasters around the world. “We hope to place our small catalogue of shows with a number of broadcast partners internationally so that we can begin the strategic rollout of our brands.”
“Our main aim this year is for Hoho Rights to make its mark as a quality distributor of children’s programs.
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Home Plate Entertainment www.homeplateentertainment.com • Teenage Fairytale Dropouts • Cosmic Surfari • Wild Grinders
After working in the skateboarding industry for nearly 20 years, Rob Dyrdek has taken his talents into the TV arena with Wild Grinders. The show is featured among the top offerings from Home Plate Entertainment. Bill Schultz, the CEO and executive producer at Home Plate Entertainment, says that securing additional sales on Wild Grinders is one of his main priorities for the coming market. “We will also introduce finished episodes of Teenage Fairytale Dropouts with distributor CCI Entertainment and our great co-producers, Anima, SLR and Telegael,” says Schultz. “This is an example of a show we brought to market two years ago as a pre-buy and those that came on board gave input and now we have what I feel is going to be the top new animated series of the market.” Home Plate is also excited to introduce the market to the new animated comedy Cosmic Surfari. Schultz says that the company is cautious about exposing shows too early, because “timing is everything!”
“Wild Grinders…has been tops in the ratings since its launch in the U.S.”
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The Jim Henson Company www.henson.com • Doozers • Pajanimals • Sid the Science Kid: The Movie
The beloved Fraggle Rock series is celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, but its characters the Doozers are taking the spotlight even sooner.The characters are featured in their very own series, Doozers, which celebrates invention, imaginative play, friendship and green living. “With such strong brand heritage, the Doozers animated series is sure to garner strong interest from broadcasters around the world,” says Richard Goldsmith, the executiveVP of global distribution at The Jim Henson Company. Goldsmith also believes the series Pajanimals will drum up interest at the market, as the show has already launched successfully in some major territories. “Pajanimals, a live-action puppetry series, has performed extremely well on Sprout in the U.S., and recently debuted on the new NBC Saturday kids’ block for preschoolers.And in the international market, the series launched in July 2012 with strong ratings for [Australia’s] ABC.”The performance of the Sid the Science Kid series has given The Jim Henson Company equally high hopes for Sid the Science Kid:The Movie, available in HD.
“In the broadest of terms, our productions represent the quality programming that is synonymous with The Jim Henson Company.
M4E www.m4e.de • Mia and Me • Conni • Pixi and the Magic Wall
More than 60 countries around the world have already signed up to experience the magic of Mia and Me, a liveaction/CGI-animated series for girls. M4E hopes to add to this roster at the upcoming market. The company is also offering up Conni, produced by Dirk Hampel and ZDF. The animated series is based on a character from the German book series of the same name.“Conni has a nice neutral look, animation fitted to that and is already a proven success in publishing,” says Sjoerd Raemakers, the general manager of Telescreen, M4E’s Netherlands-based distribution arm. Another book-based property in the catalogue is Pixi and the Magic Wall, a kids’ series inspired by German publisher CarlsenVerlag’s novels.“Pixi and the Magic Wall has a nice mix of animation styles,” says Raemakers. In addition to those three titles, M4E is presenting a new project called Tip the Mouse. Based on a book series, the CGI-animated preschool show, co-produced by Studio Campedelli and RAI, is expected to get “a warm reception” from buyers, says Raemakers.
Mia and Me
“In spite of the economic crisis, we feel that
high-quality kids’ programming is needed everywhere and that’s what we have to offer.
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MarVista Entertainment www.marvista.net • Power Rangers Megaforce • Julius Jr. • Digimon Fusion
“We are presenting properties from Saban Brands that are extensions of some of the biggest children’s brands, so we are offering broadcasters programming with brand equity.
Many of the programs that MarVista Entertainment is showcasing come with built-in brand equity, something that’s increasingly attractive to buyers during challenging economic times. This includes series from Saban Brands such as Power Rangers Megaforce. The newest addition to the popular franchise about teenagers who morph into superheroes will be released just in time for the brand’s 20th anniversary. “Broadcasters expect publicity and marketing support when launching new series and know they can trust Saban Brands and MarVista Entertainment to help make these shows successful for the long term,” says Fernando Szew, the company’s CEO. MarVista is also presenting Saban’s Julius Jr., an animated preschool series that “reinforces the magical results of creativity, imagination and friendship in a fun and engaging production that appeals to a broad demographic,” says Szew. Digimon Fusion is the latest installment of the Digimon franchise, about digital monsters living in a parallel universe.
Mediatoon Distribution www.mediatoon.com • Little Spirou • The Garfield Show • The Darwinners
The popularity of the Belgian comic strip Le Petit Spirou should provide a solid boost for sales on the series Little Spirou.The show has already been acquired by M6, RTBF and Nickelodeon Asia, notes Jérôme Alby, the deputy general manager of Mediatoon Distribution, which represents the series. Alby says he believes the built-in brand awareness will bode well for Little Spirou. Mediatoon has a third season of The Garfield Show to offer buyers at the market. “There are new adventures through space and time for this already-top-rating show around the world,” says Alby, highlighting the sales to more than 150 territories. The Darwinners, meanwhile, is a parody of modern society as shown through the daily life of an unusual prehistoric family. “The Darwinners, aimed at teens and young adults, will seduce the broadcasters with its offbeat humor,” Alby says. Mediatoon is looking to gain more exposure for all three of these shows, as well as other titles, to help aid in their licensing potential, adds Alby.
“Mediatoon looks forward to continuing to
[offer] high-potential brands in which our TV, VOD and licensing partners can invest to better maximize their success.
Little Spirou 284
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Moonscoop www.moonscoop.com • Code Lyoko Evolution • Chloe’s Closet • Casper’s Scare School
“MIPCOM is a good
Code Lyoko Evolution
opportunity for us to find new projects for TV distribution, consumer products and newmedia exploitation.
The VOD market is an alluring one for Moonscoop, according to Lionel Marty, the company’s president of worldwide distribution. Moonscoop recently launched a French-language video-on-demand service in the U.S., Bangoo Planet, “which is attracting a great deal of interest,” says Marty. “We will be looking to enter into more distribution deals for our VOD platforms Bangoo and Kabillion, which are performing very well in their respective markets,” he adds. “In addition, we will be looking to further establish our kids’ properties.” Moonscoop is presenting Code Lyoko Evolution, the newest version of the Cody Lyoko animated action series. “With Code Lyoko Evolution, we are taking the property to a new level, with a hybrid of live action with CGI-animated sequences—the first time we have introduced live action into the show,” notes Marty. The company is also offering up new episodes of Chloe’s Closet as well as season two of Casper’s Scare School, about the famous friendly ghost.
Nerd Corps Entertainment www.nerdcorps.com • Slugterra • Endangered Species • League of Super Evil
Coming up with original, character-driven kids’ content is how Nerd Corp Entertainment approaches the global marketplace, according to Ken Faier, the company’s president. “Endangered Species and League of Super Evil are great examples of this approach, and it’s been very successful for us in the international arena,” he says. Nerd Corps’ main priority for this year’s MIPCOM and MIP Junior is Slugterra, a 3D-animated action-comedy about a boy who collects slugs that turn into magical creatures. “It’s a character-driven story with a hybrid of action and comedy—action to drive a deeper engagement in the story, and comedy to support repeat viewership,” notes Faier.“The story features an interesting play pattern for boys, with a built-in toy innovation that has collectability at its core.We think it will be very successful with global audiences.”The company is also presenting two other 3D-animated comedies. Endangered Species focuses on the friendship between a squirrel, a rabbit and a seagull, and League of Super Evil is about a foursome of super villains.
“We focus on the fun and funny in our stories
and ensure that each property has its own unique visual style.
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Nottingham Forest Media Advisors www.nottinghamforest.es • Sendokai Champions • Laland • Jokebox
is firmly focused on the worldwide distribution and brand management of third-party shows from various genres.
The primary focus for Nottingham Forest Media Advisors at MIP Junior is to unveil Sendokai Champions as a brandnew property, says David Pérez Andrés, the company’s director of business development and sales. “In addition, we expect to set up co-production meetings with strong international partners for the second season to come,” he adds. A CGI/3D stereoscopic series meant for 6- to 9-yearolds, Sendokai Champions is about invaders from another dimension who must compete against humans by playing football.“The Sendokai world is rich and exciting, and packs lots of elements that are present in the IPs that kids are favoring in video games, apps and TV,” notes Pérez Andrés. The company’s also focused on Laland, a CGI show about musical creatures that targets kids between the ages of 4 and 7. “Sendokai Champions and Laland are great properties, full of adventure and comedy, that kids will for sure enjoy, while receiving positive values,” says Pérez Andrés. Nottingham Forest is also highlighting Jokebox, a 13x26-minute animated sitcom aimed at teens and young adults.
—David Pérez Andrés
ohm:tv www.ohmtv.com • Lilly the Witch
Lilly the Witch
“We are now entering into the
Formats and animated fillers targeting teens and young adults have been the core offerings from ohm:tv for some time now, but as of late, kids’ programming has entered the mix. “Our goal at this year’s MIPCOM is to network and meet with producers of kids’ programs and start the ball rolling to acquire strong brands like Lilly the Witch that have a broad appeal for distribution,” says Joris Eckelkamp, the CEO and co-founder of ohm:tv. “We are looking to acquire and distribute innovative, high-quality children’s programs with a focus on animation with strong international appeal.” This year, ohm:tv will be presenting Lilly the Witch, a 26x30-minute animated series for kids between the ages of 6 and 9. Inspired by a best-selling children’s book from German author Knister, the show is about a little girl who finds a magic book and goes on adventures with a tiny dragon. According to Eckelkamp, broadcasters have had promising reactions to the trailer for Lilly the Witch. Broadcasters will be drawn to the show because it has broad appeal, says Eckelkamp,“targeting both girls and boys with its story line and also by having Lilly’s sidekick Hector, who just happens to be a dragon.”
next phase of the company’s expansion by focusing on kids’ programming and broadening our target group.
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PGS Entertainment www.pgsentertainment.com • Heroes United • 1001 Nights • The Little Prince
“We want our broadcast
partners to be excited about our lineup and the producers we represent to be happy with PGS and the job we are doing for them.
Continuing its partnership with Method Animation, PGS Entertainment is launching distribution for Heroes United, a new HD CGI series based on the Playmobil toy line. PGS is also keen to continue sales for its other Method Animation titles, including Iron Man: Armored Adventures and The Little Prince. New to the PGS catalogue, 1001 Nights comes from Big Bad Boo Studios. The animated comedy features tales about genies, kings, magic carpets and more. “We are also proud to announce the representation of A Squared Entertainment and include its amazing programs in our catalogue,” says Philippe Soutter, the president of PGS. He adds, “Inspiring characters, amazing story lines and high-quality animation are what we looking for in each project we select. Our aim is to bring well-known properties to screens worldwide and to build iconic brands that will entertain our viewers and encourage co-viewing with parents and caretakers.”
Portfolio Entertainment www.portfolioentertainment.com • Doki • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! • Julie and The Phantoms
Based on the popular Dr. Seuss character, the animated preschool series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! is airing in more than 85 countries. “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! continues to be a favorite around the planet,” says Louis Fournier, Portfolio’s VP of sales and acquisitions. An animated series from Portfolio Entertainment, Doki is produced in partnership with Discovery Kids Latin America.The show follows the adventures of a character named Doki as he travels the globe with his friends to learn about science. “The fact that the character already has traction with a major network and that the team behind the production is the same as The Cat in the Hat makes us feel very confident about the success of the series internationally,” says Fournier. Julie and The Phantoms is about a girl who makes music with the ghosts of a 1980s rock band. Fournier describes the show as “a fresh tween live-action dramedy from Brazil.” He adds,“We expect to close a number of sales after its successful airing in Brazil.”
“MIPCOM is probably
our biggest market of the year and our expectations coming in with a roster of quality series are quite high.
Julie and The Phantoms
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Rainbow S.r.l. www.rbw.it • Winx Club • Mia and Me • PopPixie
“We are excited about
the new series of Winx Club and look forward to expanding its reach globally.
Ecology and good conquering evil are the kinds of themes that continue to interest broadcasters around the globe, according to Iginio Straffi, Rainbow’s CEO.The Italy-based company has shows to present at MIP Junior that follow these trends. Rainbow heads to the market with season five of Winx Club—the successful Nickelodeon co-production about fairies—geared toward girls 4 to 12.“A mix of 2D and 3D animation, the new fifth series features beautiful settings and a beautiful magical world, and has an underlying message of saving the oceans,” says Straffi. Winx Club, which has more than 100 episodes available, is broadcast in approximately 130 countries. Mia and Me—co-produced by Lucky Punch, Rainbow, March Entertainment and ZDF—is meant to target 5- to 8year-old girls. “The show is a unique hybrid of live action and CGI animation, set in an exciting fantasy world,” says Straffi.There’s also PopPixie, aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 9.The show is “full of comedy, bizarre adventures and surreal antics,” says Straffi.
Saban Brands www.sabanbrands.com • Power Rangers Megaforce • Julius Jr. • Digimon Fusion
Just in time for the 20th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Saban Brands is presenting Power Rangers Megaforce, the latest installment of the brand. The series, according to Elie Dekel, the president of Saban Brands, “takes the property to the next level in terms of action and audience engagement, appealing to both new and steadfast Power Rangers fans.” The company is also highlighting Julius Jr., “a wonderfully imaginative, engaging and fun series that centers on an inventive monkey, Julius Jr., and his friends, who create a magical clubhouse out of an old cardboard box, which is the portal for their out-ofthis-world adventures,” notes Dekel. Digimon Fusion is the sixth edition of the hit anime show, about digital monsters from a parallel universe. “It takes the best of the classic Digimon series—good vs. evil story lines, an array of digital monsters as well as light-hearted humor— and we are amping it up and adding a new ‘fusion’ element, allowing the Digimon to combine to form new Digimon hybrids,” says Dekel.
“MIPCOM provides a convenient way to stay up
to date on evolving media-distribution platforms and regional consumer trends.
Power Rangers Megaforce
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Sesame Workshop www.sesameworkshop.org • Elmo the Musical • Super Grover 2.0 • Abby’s Flying Fairy School
Elmo, Sesame Street’s beloved friendly red monster, will be making an appearance in Cannes this year to help introduce Sesame Workshop’s Elmo the Musical at MIP Junior. “Elmo the Musical is our new property this year and, like all of our shows, it is engaging and educational,” says Renee Mascara, the company’s VP of international television distribution. “Children will be singing, dancing and playing to problem solve and imagine along with Elmo on these math-filled adventures.” Elmo the Musical is a 13x11-minute interactive musical production. Sesame Workshop is also bringing back Super Grover 2.0 and Abby’s Flying Fairy School. “Children will be able to cultivate their math, science and critical-thinking skills in a fun, engaging way with a brand parents know they can trust,” says Mascara of the company’s highlights. “Sesame Workshop’s mission is to help every child reach their highest potential and our programs will appeal to broadcasters worldwide.”
Elmo the Musical
“Our shows extend the Sesame Street
experience with the characters you know, love and trust.
Shaftesbury www.shaftesbury.ca • Mighty Mighty Monsters • Unlikely Heroes • Totally Amp’d
The book-based Mighty Mighty Monsters, penned by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, leads off the kids’ slate from Shaftesbury. Mighty Mighty Monsters consists of two animated specials that revolve around a group of monster children—named Frankie, Vlad and Gunnar—who enroll in a humanimmersion program at a normal middle school after getting kicked out of monster school. Coming from Shaftesbury’s digital division, Smokebomb Entertainment, is Unlikely Heroes, a comedy series for children written by Tim Burns (My Babysitter’s a Vampire).“Unlikely Heroes focuses on a ragtag team of teens who uncover a new civilization during one action-packed summer,” says Shane Kinnear, the senior VP of sales and marketing for Shaftesbury. Another offering from Smokebomb is Totally Amp’d, which is about five teenagers trying to win a musical competition with the help of their manager, who is portrayed by Ashley Leggat (Life with Derek). “These titles offer broadcasters a range of content for a variety of key demographics including kids, tweens and families,” notes Kinnear.
“We’re looking forward to bringing to the
market Mighty Mighty Monsters, the new project from Bron Animation of Vancouver.
Mighty Mighty Monsters
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Sprout www.sproutonline.com • Noodle and Doodle • The Chica Show
“With Sprout pioneering so
many channel-branding techniques, scheduling tactics and presentation formats, we’re expecting broadcasters around the world to equally enjoy our new, original gold-standard programming.
Created as a sitcom for preschoolers, The Chica Show features a cast of live-action puppets, animated shorts and the voice of Mario Lopez as one of the characters. “We’re confident that Chica the Chicken will become an international superstar…well, an international super chicken at least,” says Andrew Beecham, the senior VP of programming for Sprout. “Chica is already beloved in the U.S., appearing live everyday on Sprout, as well as boasting a newly released line of licensed merchandise—she was a top-selling toy on Amazon in November and December ’11.” The Chica Show will launch on NBC in 2013. Sprout’s also highlighting Noodle and Doodle, “a totally unique show that encourages preschoolers to cook and craft using ingredients and materials found around the house,” Beecham explains. “Hosted by Sean and his puppet friend Noodle, the show is not only entertaining but encourages recycling and re-using, as well as giving parents really smart ideas for projects to do with their kids.We tried hard to make each project international, with all ingredients and materials being easily sourced wherever [the show is] broadcast.”
The Chica Show
Studio 100 Media www.studio100media.com • Hotel 13 • House of Anubis • Vicky the Viking
Vicky the Viking
A secret surrounds the mysterious room 13 in the brandnew live-action series Hotel 13, part of the Studio 100 Media slate.The series follows six teenagers who are very different from each other yet spend the time of their lives together in a beautiful hotel on the coast, the setting for fun, friendship and intrigue.“The pre-teen and teen TV series Hotel 13 is a well-balanced combination of drama, mystery and comedy,” says Patrick Elmendorff, the managing director of Studio 100 Media. “The series will generate high identification with teens by dealing with stories and issues that all adolescents face such as independence, romance and aspirations.” Studio 100 is offering the new 120x12-minute show alongside another mystery live-action series, House of Anubis. Originally produced for Nickelodeon in the Benelux, the series is in its sixth season in Belgium and the Netherlands and in its third in Germany. The U.S. version is currently in production for its third as well.The company has modernized Vicky the Viking and has 78 12-minute episodes to offer.
“Our cult animation classic Vicky the Viking has captured the hearts of television viewers young and old for over three generations.
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Suzy’s Zoo www.suzyszoo.com • Wags and Whiskers • Little Suzy’s Zoo
Wags and Whiskers
It was during the late 1960s that Suzy Spafford, an award-winning artist, first created Suzy’s Zoo. Several decades later, the brand now has thousands of products, a 52x11-minute television series and numerous active licensing partners around the world. Suzy’s Zoo contains character sets such as Duckport, Wags and Whiskers and Little Suzy’s Zoo, among others. The animation style uses soft, realistic shapes with calming, natural color schemes meant to elicit feelings of friendliness and familiarity. “The property’s Duckport character set is the basis for the television series, as well as the Little Suzy’s Zoo character set,” says Cathy Malatesta, the president of Lawless Entertainment, which represents Suzy’s Zoo. “Little Suzy’s Zoo offers...a younger, sweeter feeling, and Duckport is directed more so to the older child, 3 to 6 years.” Malatesta continues, “Both series feature the classical characters created by Suzy Spafford some 40 years ago that evoke a simpler life—and focus on relationships, manners and adventures.”
Animation is what tops the list at Technicolor Digital Productions. Pete & Pickles is a preschool special that focuses on a pig and a circus elephant.“It’s funny and quirky and its stories of friendship resonate with family audiences worldwide,” says Alison Warner, the company’s VP of IP sales, acquisitions and co-productions.A fast-paced comedy series, Atomic Puppet tells the story of a superhero who is turned into a puppet by his unhappy sidekick. Zigg & the ZipZaps is a preschool comedy about a group of adventurous animals. This MIPCOM,Technicolor is aiming to achieve several goals. “First, we’re looking to secure presales for Technicolor television series that are currently in development,” says Warner.“Second, we’ll be meeting with many producers, distributors and authors—third-party IP owners—to identify opportunities for optioning and/or co-producing properties in partnership with them; and third, we hope to meet a kindred spirit or two who would be an ideal co-production partner for the new properties that we haven’t yet announced.”
audience...has enjoyed these lovely characters since they were first introduced more than 44 years ago as a greeting-card line. —Cathy Malatesta
Technicolor Digital Productions • Pete & Pickles • Atomic Puppet • Zigg & the ZipZaps
“We look for properties that are fresh
and unique, with wonderful characters and compelling stories.
Pete & Pickles
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ToonBox Entertainment www.toonboxent.com • The Beet Party • The Nut Job • Bolts & Blip
Establishing new co-production partners is among the main priorities of ToonBox Entertainment.The company is also looking to close additional deals for its interstitials The Beet Party and secure further financing for The Nut Job TV series through co-production deals and presales, says Thom Chapman, the VP of business development and sales at ToonBox. The Beet Party is a show with episodes around two minutes in length. It is done in HD/3D stereoscopic animation. “This musical-comedy series is dialogue-free, with strong identifiable characters,” Chapman says. “It is an absolute party on the screen!” The Nut Job is a series of 52 11-minute episodes, also done in HD/3D stereoscopic animation. “With engaging and charming characters—Surly Squirrel and Buddy the rat—this cleverly written show encapsulates life lessons with humor and heart-warming results that are enjoyed by kids and adults,” Chapman notes. ToonBox also has the HD/3D stereoscopic Bolts & Blip, which focuses on themes of teamwork, friendship and believing in oneself.
“We plan to
focus more on gaining alternative broadcasters such as IPTV, OTT and mobile.
The Nut Job
Toonzone Studios www.toonzonestudios.com • Tiny Warriors • YooHoo & Friends • Missy Heart
Children today love video games and marital arts, and Toonzone Studios’ Tiny Warriors features a mixture of the two. The show is centered on martial-art students in a dojo who help their master fight evil viruses in the digital world. Konnie Kwak, the CEO of Toonzone, says its mix of animation and live action make the show very appealing to buyers. In addition to placing the show with new broadcasters, Kwak is keen to find co-production partners for the series. “YooHoo & Friends has the right fit for broadcasters because it is funny, funny, funny,” says Kwak. “It has repeatability with kids because the characters are cute and [hilarious].” Toonzone is looking to capture the affection of girls worldwide with Missy Heart. The story is set within a girls camp, “filled with friendship, mystery, and, most of all, fun,” says Kwak. Other titles in the Toonzone catalogue include Bigfoot Littlefoot, introducing kids to the twins bigfoot Kevin and littlefoot Troy.
“Toonzone’s overall expectations are
to find broadcast and co-production partners for Tiny Warriors.
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Tsuburaya Productions www.tsuburaya-prod.co.jp/en • Ultraman Saga • Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie • Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial
The latest installment in Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultraman franchise, Ultraman Saga, was released theatrically in Japan earlier this year. “We have made this Ultraman movie available in 3D for the first time,” says Takaaki Ezaki, who leads international business affairs in the visual content department at Tsuburaya Productions. This latest effort follows on the 2009 release of Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie and the 2010 sequel Ultraman Zero: Revenge of Belial. These two films have been picked up by HBO Latin America and also by Nickelodeon for the Indian subcontinent, among other distribution deals. “All three movies are fun to watch, even for people who don’t know about Ultraman,” says Ezaki. Ezaki says that the Tsuburaya sales team will be very busy at MIP Junior meeting with new potential partners. He also says that the company is actively looking for sales agents and distributors in the U.S. and Europe that can represent Tsuburaya projects for both program distribution and merchandising.
“All of the
Ultraman shows are about good versus evil; good always prevails.
V&S Entertainment www.vandsent.com • Everything’s Rosie • Blanche • Ebb and Flo
In the last 12 months, V&S Entertainment has achieved some significant milestones for its flagship series Everything’s Rosie, increasing the international broadcast footprint and extending its licensing base.The show now airs in 150 countries around the world.“Our international broadcast partners have been thrilled with the first-class production values, and the success of the series has been cemented with a broad licensing program that engages preschool girls and boys worldwide,” says Vickie Corner, the managing director of V&S.“Everything’s Rosie is fast developing into a global hit and we are sure that international broadcasters will be excited by the developments we have in the pipeline.” Corner adds, “We’re now looking to build on our relationships with the international broadcast community and take Everything’s Rosie to the next level, rewarding Rosie’s global fan base with brand-new adventures in 2013.” Other titles from V&S include Blanche, a 2D-animated series for kids 3 to 6 that stars a golf-playing sheep, and Ebb and Flow, based on a set of books and aimed at kids 2 to 6.
“Our top-rating series Everything’s Rosie not
only offers high-quality entertainment, but also encourages learning and promotes the values of friendship.
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Your Family Entertainment www.yf-e.com • Agi Bagi • Little Edo • Bob’s Beach
Founded more than 30 years ago,Your Family Entertainment (YFE) is not just a producer and distributor of kids’ content, it also operates two children’s channels. Alongside the yourfamily network,YFE recently launched the free-TV channel RiC. At MIPCOM and MIP Junior,YFE will be on the lookout for new partners in the channels space to help extend the reach for both of these services, says Klaus Forch, the executive VP of sales and legal at YFE. The company is showcasing three brand-new properties in Cannes as well. The first of which is Agi Bagi, a preschool series. It is about the adventures on the planet Agi Bagi, inhabited by two species: the Agingas and Bagingas. Little Edo, a co-production with RAI, features Edo, a young nobleman from the 18th century. “Little Edo is taking the 6-plus audience to the world of well-known legends and fairy tales,” says Forch. He adds that Bob’s Beach “provides endless fun for kids.” The show spotlights Bob, a native New Yorker who is stranded on an isolated island.
“With its vast portfolio of productions currently in development and its classic library, YFE addresses broadcasters, VOD and OTT platforms looking for a reliable partner.
Yu-Gi-Oh! • Yu-Gi-Oh! • Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexel
The Yu-Gi-Oh! brand will be front and center at MIP Junior. “With the newest strand of the popular Yi-Gi-Oh! program franchise, Zexal, the series is now in its 11th consecutive year of broadcast among some of the leading broadcasters in the world,” says Brian Lacey of Lacey Entertainment, a distribution consultant to Konami for the Yu-Gi-Oh! series. “Zexal will be the primary focus, especially the next season of Zexal, due out for the 201314 broadcast year.” The full Yu-Gi-Oh! catalogue—classic Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu-GiOh! GX and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds—is offered. In total, the Yu-GiOh! programs amount to more than 600 episodes. “Global broadcasters increasingly recognize the power and value of a brand,” says Lacey. “In the highly competitive and fastchanging world of kids’ television, brands are exceptionally rare. Global broadcasters realize that the Yu-Gi-Oh! programming gives them great content from which to build their respective program schedules. For new platforms (linear, satellite, digital), the Yu-Gi-Oh! catalogue provides [an opportunity] to build time-period franchises, engage in special programming stunts and other unique opportunities.”
“Yu-Gi-Oh! is a genuine iconic series
that has consistently demonstrated its appeal to kid viewers across more than 90 countries worldwide for more than a decade.
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ZDF Enterprises www.zdf-enterprises.de • Wolfblood • Wendy • Sherlock Yack
In addition to networking, gaining awareness of emerging trends and client preferences are top priorities for ZDF Enterprises at MIPCOM, according to Alexander Coridass, the company’s president and CEO. “We’ll actively be searching for new clients and helping them find their way among the many animated and live-action programs we have for children of all age segments,” he says. The company’s slate includes the kids’ series Wolfblood, which contains 26 half-hour episodes. “Wolfblood is an atmospheric coming-of-age series with great young actors and fantastic special effects, and it offers a new take on the popular werewolf and vampire trend,” says Coridass. “The fact that it’s a co-production between CBBC and ZDF is also a sign of quality.” Another highlight is the horse-and-rider series Wendy, a 26x26-minute animated children’s show. “Wendy capitalizes on a successful brand name, with the Wendy comics being regularly devoured by young girls in several European countries,” he adds. ZDF is also showcasing Sherlock Yack, a 52x13minute zoo detective series that has already premiered on ZDF and KiKA in Germany and on TF1 in France. Coridass calls the show “whimsical.” “We also want to showcase stereoscopic 3D-animated classics that include, among others, The Jungle Book and Peter Pan,” says Coridass. “One important aspect to be discussed with buyers and producers is the cautious modernization of classic stories.”
challenging times, making new contacts is indispensable.
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CAKE’s Oscar’s Oasis.
Happy Hours A range of producers and distributors weigh in on what it takes to make a successful comedy for kids. By David Wood
Have you hung out with kids lately? Then you know what humiliation is. They are smarter, more agile and more quickwitted than you. They can outperform you on any portable electronic device and they’re world-class multitaskers. Yes, youngsters are a media-savvy, sophisticated bunch, and although they have countless entertainment options on myriad screens, they also have a lot of stress from schoolwork and from having to grow up so fast nowadays. The best tonic for them is comedy, to which they gravitate. Comedy shows offer a safe haven, a place where kids can kick back and relax. “I think comedy’s current popularity is a direct response to the pressure on kids growing up in the world today,” says Fernando Szew, the CEO of MarVista Entertainment. “It’s a world in which there is a lot of information flow, plus more and more social change in terms of both parents working or living apart. The household has changed—and TV has become more of an escape than before. Kids need to be entertained and parents want to allow that.” Vince Commisso, the president and CEO of 9 Story Entertainment, confirms that while the gaming console has taken over as the main lean-forward entertainment 310
experience for kids, TV comedy has become the key way for them to relax. “In contrast to the market for kids’ action adventure, which has become tougher, comedy is still very relevant to older age groups.They consume media in a much greater variety of ways, but comedy has become an opportunity for them to simply kick back and be entertained,” Commisso says. In addition to providing entertainment, comedy has virtues that appeal to broadcasters, points out Sander Schwartz, the president of kids’ and family entertainment at FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME). “Nothing has the potential to repeat better, last longer or travel better than a good comedy show—hence the enduring success of SpongeBob SquarePants,” Schwartz says. “It’s been running for over a decade and it continues to rate very highly, with kids laughing again and again at the same jokes.” Given that both audiences and commissioning editors are asking for comedy, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of TV producers and executives searching for the next big children’s comedy hit. “Right now there is strong demand for ideas which are fresh and funny,” says Schwartz. 10/12
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A good example would be Disney Channel’s surreal animated comedy Fish Hooks, which provides a unique yet familiar take on the U.S. high school comedy, transported to an aquarium. “This is the kind of thing we are always on the lookout for—a show that stands out from the crowd because it’s unlike anything else out there,” Schwartz says. His strategy for finding this kind of content is to “consciously look for things that are new, fresh and different and avoid proposals which seem derivative.” At CAKE, which has sold comedies like the Total Drama franchise, Angelo Rules and Oscar’s Oasis around the world, Tom van Waveren, the CEO and creative director at the company, looks for “a clear and recognizable premise that can be the starting point of an unlimited number of stories. The funniest series to watch are the ones that remind us of our own lives and dreams. They show funny observations about human behavior and magnify them in the process.” Asaph “Ace” Fipke, the CEO and founder at Nerd Corps Entertainment, says that “freshness is the biggest thing I’m always looking for in comedy—a new take on traditional comedic themes.” The two most important features of a good kids’ comedy series are the idea and its realization in the script, he states. “It’s script first, most definitely, and all the things that make up what that script is. By this I mean the unique and interesting characters and the situations the writers put those characters in.” For van Waveren, what’s absolutely crucial is comedic timing. “It’s not just coming up with funny ideas but making sure they are delivered in such a way as to maximize their impact. Think about it, a joke is only truly funny if it is well told. “Don’t forget, the difference between a good pitch and a good show is execution. That means finding the right writing, directing and talent to make that one funny idea into a great show. A well-executed good idea makes a much better show than a moderately executed great idea.” In particular, making sure that the writing lives up to the promise of the idea is crucial, says FME’s Schwartz. “As the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage.’ If the script isn’t funny, then neither will the end result be in terms of animation or live action.”
action series with comedic elements was co-created by Russell T Davies, the writer behind the revival of the BBC mega hit Doctor Who. According to Nerd Corps’ Fipke, to write successfully for different age groups you have to get down to basics and ask yourself, What is it that kids of different ages find funny? AGE DOES MATTER
In general, preschool shows are all about breaking the rules—a theme that comes at a time when young children are being taught a lot of rules, Fipke says. “The humor comes from the characters not fully understanding the reasons for rules. Kids enjoy seeing characters doing the wrong thing and experiencing the consequences.” For older children, from the age of four upward, you can begin to get a little bit more diverse and sophisticated, says Fipke. “Here you can introduce word play, subtlety and nuances of characters in situations where you know how they will react—kids can start to anticipate what will happen.” Commisso, of 9 Story, adds, “Material for older age groups can involve more conflict that can resolve itself in a comedic way. With younger age groups, the comedy can’t have as much of an edge.” Before he moved to CAKE, van Waveren was involved in distributing one of the first live-action kids’ comedies to res-
POWER OF THE PEN
Make sure you spend time finding the best writing talent that can fulfill the promise of the show, advises Schwartz, who drafted The Simpsons’ former co-showrunner Josh Weinstein to work on Strange Hill High, FME’s co-production with CBBC, created by the London-based outfit Yoshimi & Katoi. The show will pioneer hypervynorama, a technique that combines puppets—styled like Japanese vinyl toys—with animation to produce “real-time animation.” “Josh has a unique comedic sense of humor and he surrounded himself with writers who he knew would also understand the show,” says Schwartz. Schwartz stresses that finding the right writing talent can be one of the toughest challenges when trying to make quality children’s comedy, particularly when treaty co-production rules require writers to be drawn from specific territories— ones that otherwise might not have been used. There were no such problems on FME’s Wizards Vs Aliens, which is a CBBC commission. The sci-fi fantasy live10/12
Goofing around: Nerd Corps’ newest animated comedy is Endangered Species, a TELETOON Canada commission.
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Tuning in: MarVista worked with Disney Channel on the comedy TV movie Radio Rebel, starring Debby Ryan.
onate worldwide: Lizzie McGuire, which was targeted at tweens. “We realized that a big part of its success was that the audience was getting the same production values as the prime-time sitcoms they were watching, with themes and characters that resonated with their tween lives. Many shows have followed that model since then.” According to MarVista’s Szew, writers are only part of the talent base required to produce that vital but sometimes elusive alchemy of comic timing: “The biggest challenge is finding the right mix of talent to make the comedy work. In fact, it’s almost a miracle that it does work. In comedy, there aren’t enough writers, directors and actors who can combine to get that timing right.” Fipke adds that one good way of working toward the desired end result is by ensuring that each project has a creative champion or champions to drive the work forward. “It’s important that there’s a key passionate person or group of creators involved from the beginning to the end.They ensure that everything is authentic and has a reason.” The champions of League of Super Evil, one of Nerd Corps’ most successful animated comedies, were its creators, a group of young animators, says Fipke. “It was their passion that made that show what it is. Our job was simply to create the atmosphere in which they were allowed to be funny.” PLAY ROOM
“I’d love to be able to say there’s an exact process we follow, but it’s more about gut instinct, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Fipke says.“You go into development with designers, writers, actors and animators and then you have to step away and critique it.Then cut, edit and revise and take it to the next stage.The secret is to create an atmosphere where any idea is good in development, while retaining the ability to be discerning at the right time.” It’s really important not to be afraid to lose things that don’t work, which means that your creative team needs to be ready 328
to cut and move on, Fipke goes on. “It’s hard to know if you’ve nailed it until it’s on the screen.” Taking enough time with the development of an idea is crucial, he adds. “Sometimes it takes a lot of time for ideas to gestate. In my view you can always tell when comedy has been pushed through too quickly.” Nerd Corps’ animated kids’ series Endangered Species certainly benefited from not being hurried, says Fipke. “It started as a Looney Tunes type of ensemble, but we distilled it into the three strongest archetypes—happy and enthusiastic, paranoid and controlling, and dim-witted and socially inept—requiring the writing team to step up and develop the differences in those characters and how they would react in different situations.” Authenticity of characterization is one of the strengths that has sustained SpongeBob SquarePants for a decade, insists 9 Story’s Commisso. That’s a lesson that any kids’ comedy producer would do well to pay attention to. Commisso has taken characterization very seriously on animated comedies such as Almost Naked Animals, a series about a group of underdressed creatures who run a beach-front hotel. “With SpongeBob, everything that happened came out of the authentic relationships [between] the characters, rather than being driven by the script. We worked very hard on Almost Naked Animals, as well as the upcoming series Camp Lakebottom, to make sure the comedy stemmed from an authentic place. That’s important because kids can tell if the scripts are contrived.” TOON DAYS
Commisso describes Almost Naked Animals as being ahead of its time when 9 Story started working on it, four years ago. “Back then, kids’ TV was more about reality TV and live action, but since then animation has come back and gone wider and wackier.” Commisso warns that one potential danger of animation is that “practitioners learn their craft in an educational setting. That mindset can be a problem when it comes to creating 10/12
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House of fun: 9 Story has found slots across the globe for Almost Naked Animals, which was based on a popular website.
entertainment-based products, which is why we say, ‘Remember your audience and what they do and don’t like.’ ” Nevertheless, there are plenty of advantages to using animation for kids’ comedies.“We found that having animated characters in Total Drama Island [meant they could] be chased by bears or fall out of planes,” van Waveren says. “That took the physical threats to our characters to a completely different level than if we had been dealing with actors’ and benefitted from all the comedy we could derive from that. Furthermore, many animated comedies will actually take sponges, animals or other fantastical creatures to become conduits for telling stories about the human condition. Interestingly, live-action comedies have been [borrowing] from cartoons and vice versa, and I would argue that the principal distinction still exists but the boundaries are blurring.” One of the best ways to gauge what’s hot and what’s not is to pay attention to social networks and blogs where the latest kids’ content is discussed. It’s an informal type of research that can be pretty useful, says Commisso.
One thing that producers have realized is that kids are into fastpaced comedy, comments Commisso, which means that scripts have gotten longer.“It used to be 11 to 12 pages per script. Now the scripts are 20 pages, as the pacing is faster, with way more character integration—you have to keep that pace up.” In the quest for the next quality comedy series for kids, Commisso ultimately takes inspiration from Apple and the late Steve Jobs. “Apple executives famously ask themselves the same question over and over again: ‘How can we make this simpler?’ Producers of children’s comedy can keep asking themselves, ‘How can we make this funnier or more engaging?’ That’s the challenge.”
BEWARE THE BLOGGERS
But relying solely on the Internet as a focus group is risky, warns Fipke.“Disney, our partner on Slugterra, had done a lot of testing of pilots online to get feedback, which helped in development, and we’d love to do more. But it’s important to realize that you don’t really know who’s on the other side.” Focus groups are a more reliable way of market testing, he insists. The Australian producer Jigsaw Entertainment found it was able to keep the writing on its ABC3 sketch comedy You’re Skitting Me relevant to its intended audience by getting them onboard to help write the series with professionals. “Kids’ sketch comedy is a new genre here and it has been really successful,” says Bernadette O’Mahony, the head of development and production at the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, which is distributing the series worldwide. “What we found in writing and workshopping the series was that our writers, who ranged from 14 to 17 years old, had really strong opinions about what they found current and funny, which wasn’t necessarily the way adults saw things.” 330
Pig on wheels: Horace in Slow Motion is a series of animated shorts from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation. 10/12
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Gulli’s iPad app.
D E M A N D I N G
Kids A look at how on-demand platforms for kids’ content are helping—or hurting?—the children’s programming business. By Joanna Stephens
Friend or cannibal? This is the question at the center of the current debate on whether the new online and ondemand children’s platforms are complementary to the traditional linear TV services, opening up new sales prospects and revenue streams—or siphoning off audiences and income, diluting brands and setting a dangerous precedent in terms of unpaid content. Where you stand in this conversation appears to depend on your place in the content ecosystem. Producers by and large are cautious, worried that, while the new platforms offer more children easier access to their brands, they are also making it increasingly difficult to fund, or be paid fairly for, premium content. Distributors, meanwhile, are more optimistic, seeing digital licensing opportunities as a way to ease the pain caused by the collapse of the physical DVD market. And broadcasters are also upbeat, despite the recent Bernstein Research study in the U.S. that linked Nickelodeon’s ratings decline with the shift to online viewing in general and Netflix in particular. Andrew Beecham, the senior VP of programming for PBS KIDS Sprout— 332
the first 24-hour preschool destination available on TV, ondemand and online—speaks for many broadcasters when he says, “Collectively, each platform is complementary in maximizing our programming exposure to consumers.” Put like that, what’s not to like? “The problem of getting paid,” replies Pierre Sissmann succinctly. The chairman and CEO of the French producer and distributor Cyber Group Studios, whose catalogue of 368 half-hours includes such animation staples as Tales of Tatonka, Animalia and Manon, Sissmann believes the new platforms have much to say in terms of building audiences, extending brands and offering children the convenience of watching their favorite content anytime, anywhere, from the beach to the back to the car. For those reasons alone, he says, the online offer will inevitably grow in size and significance. “But from a revenue point of view, I’m not optimistic about the way the market is developing,” Sissmann adds. “We used to finance our series through home video, but that market no longer exists. And while I’m very happy to see my shows online, somebody has to pay for my content. Right now, that’s not happening.” 10/12
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Night to remember: Sprout’s model since its inception has involved making its series, among them The Good Night Show, available on demand.
Sissmann worries that the current model is also giving consumers “the habit of not paying for content at any early age.” And he makes the point that, while the A-list kids’ producers can afford to see online as an exercise in brand promotion, life is likely to get exceedingly tough for the smaller, poorer creative shops that form the backbone of the children’s programming industry. AN APP A DAY
Cyber Group’s response to the changing market dynamics is to focus on new forms of content, specifically games and apps. “People are used to paying for apps,” Sissmann observes. “But apps aren’t episodes, so it’s almost like entering a new business.” Sissmann’s concerns are echoed by his compatriot and competitor Pierre Belaïsch, the managing director of the producer and distributor Alphanim, whose 30-plus animation series are now on air in more than 130 territories. There’s a lot of “paranoia” about the new platforms and their potential for disruption, Belaïsch says, despite the fact that, in France at least, the nonlinear market is currently not that significant in pure business terms. “But it will be,” Belaïsch adds. “And the one thing that’s certain is we producers must hold on to our rights. Today we may be fighting for peanuts, but the online market is about to explode and, when it does, those rights will have real value.” The “confusing atmosphere” in which rights deals are currently being brokered is compounded by the lack of reliable 334
measurement tools with which to calibrate value. “We can’t say that 153 kids aged between 4 and 6 were watching Galactik Football at such or such a time on Netflix or Hulu or wherever,” Belaïsch says. “That will eventually be possible, and that will help to give our rights a market value. But at the moment, it’s a tricky and complicated situation.” Half a world away, in California, Richard Goldsmith, the executive VP of global distribution for The Jim Henson Company, has similarly trenchant views: “For us, the more people who consume our content, the happier we are. But everybody has to realize that content is costly and that topquality content is very, very costly. So if the networks and digital platforms want to carry quality programming, they need to invest accordingly. Because if they don’t, they’re going to be stuck with B- and C-rate product.” DIGITAL ORIGINALS
The funding issue aside, Goldsmith says the online platforms are opening up a range of opportunities for the company, which is currently in discussion with several on-demand services about producing original children’s content. He declines to name names, but points to Amazon’s recent announcement that it is to produce its own kids’ titles as illustrative of the trend. “My feeling is that the single biggest opportunity regarding on-demand is to complement what the TV networks are doing,” Goldsmith adds. “I believe most on-demand viewing is occurring with shows that kids already know and love. 10/12
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Race to the finish: Cyber Group, whose portfolio includes Mademoiselle Zazie, is looking to develop online games and apps in a bid to find newmedia revenue opportunities.
The second opportunity is that on-demand allows children to watch shows that would otherwise not get on air—like library content that already has some profile in the market. And ultimately there’s the opportunity to develop new content specifically for these platforms.” THE LINEAR EQUATION
Goldsmith is also impatient with the notion that online is killing linear, observing that the networks have been airing shows on catch-up for years without dire consequences. “Frankly, I’m more excited about on-demand than about anything else that’s happening in children’s TV,” he says. “It’s the fastest growing area of our business and it’s creating amazing opportunities for producers, distributors and audiences. But we have to take all this with a grain of salt.Yes, the new platforms are exciting, but traditional TV is alive and healthy and growing. It’s still the engine that powers this industry and will be for a long time to come.” Claiming that 2011 was KiKA’s best year ever, driven by “recordbreaking ratings,” Sebastian Debertin, the head of fiction, acquisition and co-production at the children’s channel, which is operated by the German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, is certainly not concerned that kids are deserting traditional TV. Given that KiKA’s ondemand service, KiKA, reported “fantastic user figures” over the same period, Debertin is confident that both delivery platforms can exist in harmony. “VOD is simply not a business yet in Germany,” he says of KiKA’s competition in the online/on-demand space. Germany’s rich free-TV offer means that viewers have little incentive to pay for content, especially when much of it is available free online via outlets like YouTube. “VOD only starts to work where adults have special interests that free and pay TV do not deliver, such as watching U.S. series in their original versions,” Debertin adds. “If the market situation remains the same in terms of free and pay TV, I see no real development potential for VOD services in the kids’ area.”
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Screen shot: Kidobi has been signing deals with content owners around the world for its preschooler-focused video platform.
So how much online viewing do children actually do? Over in France, Gwenaëlle Le Cocguen, the digital director of Lagardère Active’s TV channels, which include the children’s services Gulli, Canal J,TiJi and the Santa Claus channel, reports that Gulli Replay generates around 6 million video views a month across all its platforms (IPTV, website and mobile apps). Sprout, meanwhile, claims 18 million views per month for on-demand, with an average of 5 million to 6 million video starts online. THE AGE GAP
Differences are also beginning to emerge in what children are viewing across the various platforms. Le Cocguen says that shows aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds are the most viewed online, whereas preschool content is more popular on IPTV. “The screen has a real impact on the way shows are watched,” she adds. “Computers are used more by children on their own, while access to the TV screen remains a parental prerogative.” Sprout’s Beecham adds, “For VOD, some of our most-viewed titles are programs that have been around a bit longer and are more well known. Online, some shows that are strong both onVOD and linear are also getting play on the site—Caillou and Thomas & Friends, for example—but other, newer titles like Justin Time and LazyTown are getting heavy sampling too.” As to what age children start to consume media, a study by pediatrician Dr. Dimitri Christakis of the University of Washington found that, by three months, 40 percent of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, video or television; by the time they are two, almost 90 percent are spending two to three hours a day in front of a screen. Another recent study, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, looking at the role of media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds, reveals that “over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by 1:17 hours daily, from 6:21 to 7:38— almost the amount of time most adults spend at work each day.” This comes as no surprise to Leo Henning, the founder and CEO of the Toronto-based start-up Kidobi, an online preschool destination that creates tailor-made video playlists for children based on their age, interests and skills. “The age children begin to consume screen content is coming way down,” he says. “There are some scary statistics about babies, but we put the minimum age at two.” Kidobi was born of Henning’s own experience of attempting to find appropriate programming online for his daughter, who was having trouble with counting. What he imagined would be a 20-minute job took him over three hours of searching, previewing, evaluating and assembling. “I found it took me longer to program a half-hour playlist than it took for my daughter to watch it,” he says. The result was Kidobi, a collective of software developers, designers, researchers and child-development experts whose mission is “to make
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Going fishing: PGS is remaining focused on delivering top-quality content like The Jungle Bunch to platforms, both linear and on-demand.
screen time count.” Henning notes, “At first, people were resistant to the idea that a computer can make reasonable choices for something as important as a child’s viewing. Of course, a computer could never make as good a choice as a parent, but, for most parents, it’s simply not a scalable solution.The sheer volume of content out there makes it unfeasible.” Henning’s first challenge was to get the technology right; the next was to find programming. “That’s been a huge hurdle,” he admits, explaining that, without deep enough pockets to acquire product, Kidobi has been forging revenue-sharing deals, trawling the MIPTV and MIPCOM content bazaars for quality back catalogues “that haven’t made it over to North America.” He adds, “Now, 18 months later, we feel we’ve gotten to the point where we have enough content to be engaging, grafted on to a system that really works.” Kidobi, Henning believes, is ahead of the curve—“but I hope not too far ahead”—in terms of the way children’s viewing is going. He believes that, ultimately, traditional TV will inevitably be challenged by platforms such as Kidobi. “Linear works for now, but when the online market matures, it may not,” he says. In the meantime, he is excited about the reintegration of parents into their children’s viewing experience.With the traditional model, he says, the only parental involvement is the on or off button. Whether the content is good, bad or indifferent is not the central focus: it’s getting “bums on seats.” Online, on the other hand, is a two-way medium, enabling parents to make active choices about what their children can watch and when. PARENTAL CONTROLS
“In the future, it’ll be about what kids and parents want, not what broadcasters want them to want,” Henning concludes. “I think that will change the children’s business in a big way.” Occupying the same space as Kidobi is another fast-developing startup, the Los Angeles-based Toon Goggles, which launched in October 2011 to offer prescreened, safe and age-appropriate entertainment programming to children under the age of 13. “We exited beta in January of this year,” says Stephen L. Hodge, the managing director of the free online channel. “Since then, we’ve been busy acquiring content, securing deals and further developing our apps for mobile devices.” Recent moves include partnering with Techno Source to preload the Toon Goggles app on the kid-friendly Kurio7 Android tablet; teaming up with Toon Boom Animation to develop apps that will allow children to create and netcast their own animations; and adding France’s Millimages and Spain’s BRB to its growing list of content providers. In June, Toon Goggles also announced that more than 1,200 hours of cartoons would make their IPTV debut in the U.S. and Canada on Panasonic’s VIERA Connect-enabled HDTVs.
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Full speed ahead: The IPTV kids’ platform Toon Goggles has a content deal with Your Family Entertainment, bringing Heroes of the City, among other titles, to the service.
Hodge believes that Toon Goggles plugs a gap: “Platforms like Netflix and Hulu and Crackle speak to adults, but there isn’t an IPTV platform that speaks to kids. We’re hoping to fill that void.” He is also hoping to fill it before too many others have the same bright idea. “Statistics are beginning to show that TV viewing among kids has gone down but that online viewing is up,” he says. “Every network will have to adjust to that. I think, in the long run, on-demand is going to prove to be the dominant way of distributing content.” Hodge observes that the consumer-electronics industry is increasingly driving and shaping content creation and consumption, and points to the tablet as a genuine game-changer. But he also doubts whether children differentiate between linear and other devices: “They are growing up in times where they just expect everything to be available on everything. In their innocence, they don’t understand why their favorite TV show isn’t also available on their tablet or cell phone or PC.” A COMPLEMENTARY APPROACH
On balance, most children’s players are choosing to see the new platforms as an opportunity and are working hard to harness the synergies between on-air and on-demand to bolster viewing across platforms. Beecham, for example, says that Sprout’s new “strategic scheduling” provides children with a compelling reason to visit all its destinations, from linear through Sprout On Demand to SproutOnline.com. “As mobile devices, tablets and technology continue to develop, I believe that, for preschoolers, linear TV will remain dominant, with online and on-demand playing a complementary role, deepening the experience for our audience,” he adds. In the end, it all comes back to content, maintains Philippe Soutter, the president of the Paris-based distributor PGS Entertainment. “For me, this is more about new ways to consume product rather than a different product. It’s still about the same thing—quality content with strong values and a great track record.” In other words, the sort of gold-standard content in which PGS specializes. The company has built an impressive portfolio in just four years, representing such animation power players as Method, Marvel, Samka and Studio Hari. Its top titles include The Little Prince, now launching into its third season; The Jungle Bunch, set to debut as a longform series; and Marsupilami Hoobah Hoobah Hop! Soutter is refreshingly unruffled by the new digital order. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says, “and for us, it’s not that much of an issue.We will continue to invest in the best possible content and supply it to the partners that suit it best, whether that’s linear, DVD or online.” His take-away point is equally robust: “I think it’s important not to have too high hopes or too low hopes. The new platforms are not the end of the world as we know it, and they’re not something magical, either. Good content will always make good money regardless of screen or platform—and bad content won’t.”
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TV KIDS: What was it about the property back then that captured your imagination? SABAN: Action combined with very campy humor and a positive message in each episode. The combination of those three elements made it very appealing to me. TV KIDS: How have those elements endured while the chil-
dren’s television landscape has changed so much? What has given Power Rangers such longevity? SABAN: The show gets revitalized every season. All the actors are new. The superhero costumes are new. The robots are new.You keep the basic concepts of action, campy humor and moral message going but at the same time you completely revamp and refresh the show. These elements are the main reason that this show has been going on in Japan for 35 years, and in 2013 will be 20 years in the Western world. TV KIDS: My son was a little boy and completely enamored of the Blue Ranger, and I remember standing in line a long time in stores waiting for the blue costume at Halloween! SABAN: My question, did you buy any costumes? TV KIDS: Oh yes, absolutely. SABAN: Thank you for supporting my family, we always
need it! TV KIDS: Power Rangers changed the rules of the game for a
Saban Capital Group’s
Haim Saban By Anna Carugati
More than 20 years ago, Haim Saban spotted a children’s show in Japan and saw the international appeal of a group of teens who “morphed” into superheroes and fought evil in an attempt to make the world a better place. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered in the U.S. in 1993, helped launch the Fox Kids programming block and was sold to broadcasters around the world. Saban’s instinct was right—the show’s campy humor, mixed with messages of empowering kids, making good choices and helping others caught on with children everywhere. Today, as Saban invests in major media holdings around the world, he remains committed to children’s properties—his company Saban Brands is investing in a number of them—and loyal to the power of television. Recently, a Saban subsidiary took over the Saturday morning children’s block on The CW in the U.S., creating a destination for action-adventure fans. The block includes Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Iron Man: Armored Adventures and WWE Saturday Morning Slam. Saban talks to TV Kids about Power Rangers’ longevity and about building brands in today’s crowded market.
TV KIDS: Power Rangers is coming up on a very important
anniversary: 20 years. Did you imagine when you discovered the property that it would have this kind of staying power? SABAN: I have a very wild imagination! 346
property because it really reached out to many different areas in a way that properties before had not. What was the reasoning that went behind that? SABAN: It really is the fundamentals that I just mentioned that have universal appeal. It was our job, when we owned the property and then when we bought it back, to just do one thing—make the kids aware that it’s out there. Because with the proliferation of platforms and options kids have, it has become more challenging to expose properties to them. But I believe we have done the right thing in ensuring in 150 countries, which is where it airs now, that it is exposed on the right platforms. We’re on the main vehicle in America for kids, which is Nickelodeon. And we are on all the main outlets in [the other] countries, where it airs both on free TV as well as on pay TV. So when you combine that marketing effort with the fundamentals of the show, you basically end up with a winning formula. TV KIDS: Given the complexity of the market nowadays, is it
easier to accomplish what you have accomplished with a brand that already has a certain awareness than with a new one? SABAN: Yes, clearly, having the notoriety that Power Rangers has has made it easier. Nothing is 100 percent easy, but having a property with that kind of notoriety clearly made it easier. TV KIDS: Are you looking to acquire other brands? SABAN: The answer to that is yes. We are always evaluating
potential acquisitions that fit nicely into our portfolio. In fact, in early August Saban Brands acquired the Playforge business, a leading mobile-games developer and publisher, known for Zombie Farm, which is the third-highest-grossing iOS app in 2011 and a top ten grossing game for nearly two years.This followed closely on the heels of our acquisition of a programming block for morning kids’ television, which we have branded Vortexx. 10/12
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camera on us, because then we could win a bet as to who had the idea first. It was like both of us just went, Well that’s it! And dammit it all, he said it first! He literally went, Aliens Vs Wizards, as it was then. I said, Damn! I was seconds away from saying it. [Laughs] We were at dinner and right then I could see this, now: it having been made, me publicizing it, the launch, the merchandise—I knew it would work. That doesn’t happen often. Normally you come out of meetings with a half-baked idea about some girl who’s got some superpower and a wicked uncle and you think, We’ll make that work somehow, and three years later you realize it doesn’t work. [Laughs] TV KIDS: And you knew you wanted to
do it for CBBC? DAVIES: We had previously worked on The
Russell T Davies By Mansha Daswani
The kids’ blogosphere has been abuzz for months about Wizards Vs Aliens. The CBBC commission, which is being represented worldwide by FremantleMedia Enterprises, is the brainchild of Russell T Davies and Phil Ford, the duo behind the much-loved CBBC hit The Sarah Jane Adventures. Davies, who is best known for relaunching the iconic Doctor Who in 2005 and then creating Torchwood, tells TV Kids about the battle between magic and extraterrestrial powers in the show, and the joys of writing for children.
TV KIDS: What was the inspiration for Wizards Vs Aliens? DAVIES: It literally came out of a conversation I was hav-
ing with Phil Ford about what to do next. I wanted to do a science-fiction show, because I love them. And he wanted to do a more fantasy-, magic- or even horror-based show for kids. We were saying, isn’t it funny that you never put science fiction and magic together? You can’t. In a science-fiction world, you can’t have such a thing as magic. And in a magic world you can’t have laser beams and robots. I wish someone had had a 348
Sarah Jane Adventures and that, sadly, had come to an end when Lis Sladen passed away. Although we’d made a program that was very successful for CBBC before, they didn’t just turn around and say yes to us.They made us go through the whole pitching process, refining and developing the script and having meetings with them. It wasn’t an automatic commission.That was one of the best things they could have done. We really tested and challenged every element: the magical side, the family side, the alien side, the divine side, the spaceships, the wands, how you cast a spell.We went through versions where they had amulets, versions where they said rhymes, and we kept on testing everything. It was a very fruitful year of development that now— it was driving me mad at the time—with hindsight was the best year we could have possibly spent.The show is watertight. It has real integrity and all its logic stands up.
TV KIDS: Casting teen actors must be challenging. How did the process go to find your leads? DAVIES: It is hard.You’ll never know quite how much stamina and how much integrity they’ll have. We auditioned hundreds of people. I’d love to tell you that there were great big arguments and people storming out of rooms or hitting each other with big books. But actually it was very obvious—it was one of those remarkable situations where we just agreed straight away that it would be Scott [Haran] and Percy [Ascott].They’ve got to be team leaders, they’ve got to have stamina to carry this, and they’ve got to be good actors.The trap that you can fall into here is just casting a handsome face.There are a lot of handsome boys out there who are quite good at acting.You can’t be quite good if you’re the lead actor. Otherwise all the effort you’ve put in, all the writing that’s been done at 2 o’clock in the morning, all the design that’s been hammered out, all the latenight shoots, just die on screen.The fact that these two are very handsome boys as well is just lucky beyond! 10/12
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TV KIDS: How have you mapped out the season? Can view-
ers still tune in even if they’ve missed an episode? DAVIES: I am very averse to shows that are so complicated that you can’t follow them. These [shows] are repeated, they’re repeated out of sequence—they should have a stand-alone quality that you can just leap in and understand it from the word go. At the same time, once you get an audience hooked, you should reward loyal viewers. And hopefully there will be a lot of children who will see connections in the script, lines that pay off ten episodes later. There’s a slight arc to it.The Nekross [the aliens that invade Earth in the show] do have a master plan up their sleeves, and by the time you get to episode 11 the master plan is unveiled. It’s such an evil plan. I just love it! [Laughs]
One and go only onto CBBC. As someone who is 48 years old, I would object to that—I can’t help thinking that these things should be on BBC One, where they can be seen by more people. However, I know from my own experience that we saw higher viewing figures on The Sarah Jane Adventures when we premiered episodes on CBBC rather than on BBC One. With my own programs I’ve seen the change happen, for the better. So I can’t argue against it. I’m being old fashioned when I think that Blue Peter should still be on BBC One. I do think that there’s an issue of visibility. If you were inventing a brand-new show now called The ABC Show, it’s hard if you’re only on a digital niche channel— getting to a bigger audience, carving it into the cultural landscape, is harder work.
TV KIDS: How do you incorporate kids’ real-life
issues into the story lines? DAVIES: That’s the only way I operate through
science fiction.When I brought back Doctor Who in 2005, I grounded it in real-life emotions, within family and friendships. Frankly, that’s what made it a success. Yes, it’s wizards and aliens, but we’re really telling the story about a friendship. Kids feel things more keenly than anyone else. If you’re 6 and you lose your felt pen, it’s a disaster! If you’re 6 and you lose your best friend, it’s your entire world in turmoil.You can’t have soulless robots fighting soulless spaceships. These characters have homes and loves and passions and families.That’s the only way I’ve ever told these stories. TV KIDS: Do you think writers of prime-time programming sometimes look down on children’s television? DAVIES: They can do. To be honest, most writers and creators of 9 o’clock shows don’t give it any thought whatsoever! But actually, there’s quite a tradition in this country of very experienced writers writing for children. Look at the stalwarts of British drama: Paul Abbott started out in children’s television; Tony Marchant did a CBBC drama last year called Postcode.There’s actually a very fine tradition of writers loving that sort of material.The opening ceremony for the Olympics put children’s fiction right at the heart of the most important things in Great Britain. It said the Child Catcher and Mary Poppins andVoldemort are central to our culture and central to our identity to such an extent that we’re going to spend millions of pounds on them and broadcast them to a billion people watching worldwide. That’s how much pride Danny Boyle had in children’s literature. TV KIDS: How central is the BBC in supporting the British children’s content industry? DAVIES: The BBC’s role is massive.There’s no sign of that being taken away. The BBC itself could always fight to make children’s more important within its own structures. They do support programs enormously and put money into them. Children’s programming is about to disappear off BBC 10/12
Moments of magic: In CBBC’s Wizards Vs Aliens, which is sold by FME, two boys have to battle evil aliens.
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TV KIDS: What is the positioning of CBeebies and CBBC in the British kids’ market today? GODWIN: When they started, in 2002, they were both fairly late entrants to an already quite busy children’s multichannel world. And ten years on they are both the market leaders for their target audiences. CBeebies is the most successful, most watched preschool channel in the U.K., likewise for CBBC with 6- to 12-year-olds. We’ve got a very crowded marketplace in the U.K., lots and lots of dedicated children’s channels, lots of competition, probably more than any other similarly sized territory. The fact that the two leading channels are public service, publicly funded from the BBC, shows there’s an appetite from children and their parents for quality content that speaks specifically to a U.K. audience. Our competitors do fantastic stuff, some of the highest quality content made for children in the world, but it can’t replace the fact that kids growing up in different parts of the U.K. want to see lives and hear voices that are like theirs. It also reassures me how discerning children are. The success of CBBC particularly—with the amount of quite challenging factual content on it—shows that children want to be challenged. They don’t just want an easy, brainless watch. They seek out [content] that needs a bit more thought. That’s very reassuring to everybody who makes media for kids. TV KIDS: You mention the volume of challenging factual
content on CBBC. How do you determine what kinds of difficult topics you can cover? GODWIN: The starting point is, success will come from being bold and distinctive. It won’t come from being “me too,” from trying to out-Disney Disney or out-Nickelodeon Nickelodeon. [We ask ourselves] Why is this something the BBC would do? Why would a kid in the U.K. want to watch this, need to watch this? We’re here to be distinctive, we’re here to do things that other people don’t do or can’t do or won’t do. That leads you to—you can do anything. If it’s relevant to children in the U.K. and it’s done in an appropriate manner, you can do anything. Done properly, children’s television is a huge force for good in society. We think we’ve got a clear remit to encourage children to be active and curious citizens.And we’re here to treat children as intelligent citizens.Which is why on CBBC, particularly in the factual stuff, we will tell tough stories, but it’s about doing them in a relevant and appropriate way. So in our Newsround strand, we’ve done stories about how children cope with bereavement, with poverty, with having a family member who has an alcohol problem, how to stay safe on the Internet. All tricky stuff.
TV KIDS: There’s not much of that kind of factual program-
By Mansha Daswani
The U.K. is one of just a few markets in the world where Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network haven’t managed to take the lead ahead of local incumbents in the competitive kids’ TV landscape. In the ten years since they were launched as stand-alone digital channels, CBBC and CBeebies have soared to the top of the ratings for their respective demographics. Indeed, viewership has been so strong on the dedicated channels that the BBC has decided to pull the plug on the kids’ blocks that have been airing on BBC One and BBC Two after the digital switchover. Key to the success of both networks has been the BBC’s commitment to investing in high-quality content made specifically for British kids, Joe Godwin, the director for BBC Children’s, tells TV Kids. 350
ming for kids in the U.S. GODWIN: I don’t think there’s a lot of it anywhere. It is hard
to do, and if you’re a commercial organization, it’s very hard to do. Obviously, to maximize commercial opportunities, you have to make shows that can travel and sell, and I understand that. What our competitors do is extremely high quality. Our brief is different. It’s about this distinctive voice for children in the U.K. We’re also in this ultra-privileged position of our funding.The BBC is uniquely funded and it puts us in a very, very good position to take risks. TV KIDS: In addition to the factual slate, you run a lot of dra-
mas and comedies. 10/12
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Sparking imagination: BBC Children’s preschool channel, CBeebies, co-produces the animated series Tree Fu Tom with FremantleMedia Enterprises. GODWIN: Both CBeebies and CBBC are quite broad in the genres they cover. That’s why they’re such brilliant, successful services. It goes from daily news through documentaries through factual entertainment, entertainment comedy, serious drama, light drama—that breadth has been part of the BBC’s mission to children since the 1940s, really, when people envisaged a mini-BBC for children. CBBC and CBeebies aren’t dry, dull and worthy, filling in the gaps between the commercial channels. We’re not here just to provide the Brussels sprouts to go with their pizzas. We make our own pizzas as well. I’m not sure how far I can take this analogy! [Laughs] You can have pizzas, ice cream, Brussels sprouts and vitamins in our menu. That mix is important.We will do fantastic comedy dramas like Young Dracula. We’ll do fantastic gritty, really intricate and complex dramas like Tracy Beaker Returns and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s not that we do fun stuff and we do worthy stuff.Actually, the most successful stuff combines the two. TV KIDS: And shows like Tracy Beaker or The Sarah Jane Adventures will also find audiences around the world. GODWIN: That’s the thing.When you get it right, and it’s about good storytelling, brilliantly made, it isn’t just the worthy filler between the fun, it travels. But we’re lucky because of our funding—it’s not essential that we have to be able to sell everything. If we can augment our budgets by co-productions and sales, brilliant. But the great thing about our funding is that a great thick core of what we do, we can fully fund to serve our audience. TV KIDS: Are you already developing marketing initiatives to alert viewers that kids’ programming will be moving off BBC One and BBC Two? GODWIN: We’re in the middle of talking about all that at the moment. The fact of the matter is, for nearly 100 percent of kids, that isn’t a message they need telling, they know it already. One of the rationales for the move is, it’s what the audience is doing already. Children are instinctively going to 352
the dedicated digital channels and decreasingly looking to the main general channels for their blocks of kids’ programming. There’s some messaging to be done for parents and opinion formers and license fee–payers generally, to make sure they don’t forget that the BBC still makes this huge investment in children’s content. But as far as the kids’ audience is concerned, we’re following them, really. TV KIDS: How are audiences using your nonlinear platforms? GODWIN: A big part of the brand of both CBeebies and CBBC
is the deeper interactive engagement you can have through their websites.Whether it’s for gaming or finding out more information or saying what you think about things. [They’re also watching] video on demand on BBC iPlayer. A bigger proportion of children’s viewing takes place through the iPlayer than the adult viewing, and that’s because children are just savvier about these things. I think the death of television has been highly exaggerated. What we will see is a shift to a much more balanced mix of live, linear viewing and video on demand. TV KIDS: What are your big-picture goals for the two channels in the next year? GODWIN: Staying ahead. We have appointed a new controller for CBBC, Cheryl Taylor. When you get a new creative head of a channel, there’s an opportunity to look at how you’ve been doing things. We’re not talking about any seismic strategic shifts. I think CBBC and CBeebies have got the balance right in terms of the mix of genres. Personally, and I’ve been saying this for a while, I think we can always do more in the factual sense, especially on CBBC for older children who are wrestling with the terrible conflicts and confusions of growing up. Nobody else is going to talk to them appropriately about some of these things, which is why programs like our Newsround specials and our My Life documentary series are hugely important, and we’ll do more of that. 10/12
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TV KIDS: It’s been a decade since you took ownership of
The Jim Henson Company’s
Lisa Henson By Mansha Daswani
From the 1960s through till his untimely death in 1990, Jim Henson was behind some of the most iconic characters in kids’ and family entertainment: Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie, The Muppet Show’s Kermit the Frog, the Fraggles and the Doozers from Fraggle Rock, among numerous others. The company that he founded has undergone several changes over the last 20 years, including the sale of Henson International Television—which would become HIT Entertainment—and the 2000 buyout by EM.TV. Three years later, the puppeteer’s children bought The Jim Henson Company back from the struggling German firm. At the time, Brian Henson said the move would allow him and his siblings to “preserve and enhance those assets, fully realize that potential, and thereby honor our father’s legacy.” Today, Brian Henson serves as the chairman of The Jim Henson Company, while Lisa Henson leads the firm as CEO. As the tenth anniversary of the change in ownership approaches, she speaks to TV Kids about The Jim Henson Company’s positioning today, the innovation taking place at the Creature Shop, and plans for the future. 354
the company back from EM.TV. What were some of the key strategies you put in place at the time that got the company to where it is today? HENSON: I can’t believe ten years went by that quickly! One of the things we had to decide at the beginning was whether it was feasible for us to continue to run the company the way it had always been run. And in some ways it really wasn’t possible. We had to think about new strategies and new structures. For one thing, EM.TV had completed a transaction shifting ownership of the Sesame Street characters to Sesame Workshop, and that [had been] a large part of our business.We also decided to complete the long-predicted and long-awaited transaction of the Muppets being sold to Disney. We became for a time a smaller company. Our library was smaller and the properties that we represented were newer. So we focused on being a production company and on the intellectual property and the technologies owned by the Creature Shop.We worked immediately to take our digital puppetry, or our puppeteered animation—we call it HDPS [Henson Digital Puppetry Studio]—which we’ve had for many years as a visual-effects tool, and turned it into a television-pipeline-ready technology. It had been a high-end visual effect that we did inside the Creature Shop, and we wanted to make it so it would be efficient in terms of budget and time for a TV series. One of the advantages of our system is that so many parts of the animation process are collapsed into a real-time section of the pipeline. When we’re doing a show like Sid the Science Kid, we don’t do a voice record, or storyboard, or cut an animatic [a series of animated stills edited together in sequence]. We take the script and we shoot it on our animation stage with our puppeteers and motion-capture performers. It’s a wonderful way to produce animation that utilizes a lot of skills and a lot of the style that people associate with The Jim Henson Company. We’re able to improvise moments and we can go completely off script when we’re making animation because the person who is doing the voice is also animating the face with their puppetry skills.We have further condensed the regular CG animation process by having, for instance on Sid the Science Kid, a motion-capture body performer who is doing the body motions at the exact same time as the facial animation is being produced, at the same time as the voice is being performed. TV KIDS: Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train have done so
well in the U.S. and internationally.Why do you think they’ve resonated with kids? HENSON: I have to give a lot of credit for how we’ve reinvented The Jim Henson Company to PBS Kids and Linda Simensky [the VP of children’s programming at PBS]. She took a gamble on our company and this new technology with Sid the Science Kid. Both of those shows have a real curriculum and they offer something to kids that is important for their development and is truly educational.These are the skills of inquiry and really developing what’s natural to all children, which is to have a curiosity about why things are the way that they are. It’s been so gratifying for us to be on the ground floor of new educational programming. Halle Stanford [the executive VP of children’s entertainment at The Jim Henson Company] and I have just been the happiest we’ve ever been professionally doing work that’s rewarding and also doing some good in the world. 10/12
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TV KIDS: Are you developing new properties in-house, or
reaching out to the broader creative community? HENSON: Both.We did create the idea and the original materials for Sid the Science Kid internally, but with most of our projects we have met with outside talent and we work with creators. Whether we are developing properties in-house or externally, we have to see in the property not only the possibility of it getting on the air but something that will make it an international success and a merchandising success.And have the humor and the humanity that we look for in every Henson property. TV KIDS: What has been your approach to finding co-
production partners for your shows? HENSON: One thing that we’ve not tried to do here is to run
a soup-to-nuts CG house with several hundred animators. There are so many companies that do that and they are located all over the world, and many times in places where it’s easier and less expensive to work than Los Angeles. So we have partnerships in almost every property that we’re doing for television. TV KIDS: What are you doing in terms of creating original
content for digital platforms? HENSON: We’ve been in that business longer than most of our competitors.We’ve had a wide range of experience in the last few
years.We jumped into it right away, as soon as there was financing available for any kind of online content. We created a web series for Disney online called The Possibility Shop.That was run like a television series with three seasons of original content, sponsored by Clorox. Almost with the same scope is a multiyear online property for PBS Kids, Wilson & Ditch: Digging America. That uses our puppeteered animation and promotes geography and American history. One of the things that we are looking at all the time is not only how to have the material work effectively online creatively, but how to get people to see it. It’s almost as much work for us to create an online program as it is to create a television program. But sometimes it’s daunting at the end of the day if you’ve made this program and people are not seeing it. We’ve been focusing on creating entire seasons of content or online destinations that have enough critical mass that it’s not about two minutes of footage going viral. TV KIDS: What are your growth opportunities in the next year? HENSON: We’re already doing so well in preschool.We’ll take
what’s already a successful business for us and continue to grow it. Our area to expand into is [content for] older kids.We now have quite a bit of development for older kids, both live action, utilizing a little bit of our Creature Shop expertise, and also animation.
Wave of innovation: The preschool series Sid the Science Kid, which has been a hit for PBS Kids in the U.S., is produced in the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio.
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Alphanim’s Pierre Belaïsch By Mansha Daswani
In late 2007, the iconic French movie studio Gaumont began looking for ways to make its return into television production. In 1999, it had offloaded its TV arm—which had been involved in producing animation—and it was eager to get back into the market. It achieved that aim by acquiring Alphanim, which had been founded in 1997 and had made a name for itself with global hits like Galactik Football and Hairy Scary. For Pierre Belaïsch, who was brought in as managing director of the company in 2010, the association with Gaumont has been beneficial. “Gaumont is a well-known and respected company worldwide in the movie business,” Belaïsch says. Alphanim can “benefit from that kind of awareness,” especially in light of the recent successful launch of Gaumont International Television in the U.S. 356
As a subsidiary of Gaumont, Alphanim’s catalogue stands at about 800 half hours of animation, mostly for kids. Its focus remains on producing the highest quality product, says Belaïsch, who is tapping into his experience from the broadcasting side of the industry—notably at TF1’s kids’ department and at Lagardère Active, where he ran Canal J, Gulli and TiJi—to ensure that Alphanim produces properties that will appeal to channels, and children, across the globe. “Alphanim has always had a solid reputation for being an expert in terms of production pipelines and delivering on time,” he says. “That allowed us to produce large volumes of animated series. Now we’re more focused on putting the creative first.” Placing more of an emphasis on the development process, Belaïsch says, has borne fruit, with a number of new commissions in the works. Dude,That’s My Ghost!, about an aspiring teen filmmaker struggling to cope in a high school full of Hollywood stars, who befriends the ghost of a pop star, is slated for Disney XD EMEA. Calimero, a CGI series based on a little black chicken, half enclosed in its shell—a character that was created in 1963 for an Italian TV advertising campaign on RAI—has a green light from TF1, with RAI on board as a co-production partner. And Lanfeust Quest, based on a popular comic book, is being produced for M6. The focus, Belaïsch says, is on developing brands that will work across a number of platforms. Belaïsch notes that getting a commitment from a broadcaster these days has become more challenging. Channels, he says, are “mainly in favor of strong licensed characters rather than pure original content.” Furthermore, “presales are getting more difficult as more and more broadcasters would like to see completed episodes to make a decision. They are more and more risk averse and are seriously concerned with recouping their investment. Financing a show has become a true challenge these days.” Because of this challenge, co-productions are more important than ever. “In many countries, co-production means tax shelters and government subsidies,” he says. “Also, splitting work with other producers might be a way to reduce your domestic budget. That’s something we’re looking for, provided that not too many people have their say on the project, which could make it quickly unmanageable.” Heading into MIPCOM, Belaïsch is eager to complete the financing, production and delivery of the comedy Pok & Mok for Canal+ Family and France 3, and the second season of the hit series Gawayn. A sequel to the 2010 animated feature Santa’s Apprentice is on the slate as well, along with the new series Calimero, Dude, That’s My Ghost! and Lanfeust Quest. Also in the works, Belaïsch continues, is a sports-themed comedy show called Powerball, for which discussions are ongoing with an pan-European broadcaster. These join properties like The Green Squad, The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog, Matt’s Monsters and Mouss & Boubidi, all returning to MIPCOM. 10/12
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video-game company. Another preschool project we have is Mica, Mica, and a big part of the financing comes from the Santillana [publishing] group. If anyone wants to continue financing animation in Europe or locally [in Spain], it has to be with a very measured budget. The only way is by building worldwide brands, there’s no other way to work in animation nowadays. International coproduction is another way of working with new territories like Asia, including India and China, as well as Brazil and Russia, which in the next four years I believe will be very important strategic territories, together with the Middle East. TV KIDS: You began working very early on with new plat-
Carlos Biern By Elizabeth Bowen-Tombari
In the highly competitive kids’ business, which has seen a number of companies fall by the wayside in the last few years, reaching 40 is a major milestone. Spain’s BRB Internacional heads into MIP Junior armed with four decades of experience producing top-quality children’s fare. The company, led by CEO Carlos Biern, will be using the market to launch the pilot for InviZimals, a show inspired by Novarama’s video game of the same name, produced in partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Biern speaks to TV Kids about the new project, and about how the company is preparing for its next 40 years by delivering content on multiple platforms.
TV KIDS: How has Spain’s animation industry been affected
by the economic conditions in Europe? BIERN: I think the situation for any producer is bad, be it
fiction or animation, especially when you consider the resources needed for a big production. What we’ve done with the new projects we’ve worked on in recent years is find partners that aren’t from the world of television. For example, we’re presenting InviZimals, a project with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE). It is their first animation project and part of the financing comes from a 358
forms, including striking a partnership with Wuaki.tv, the Spanish VOD and streaming service. How did these business opportunities develop? BIERN: We have over 2,000 half hours of animation. We’ve worked on these for many years and they are renowned by kids and parents alike.We think that multiple screens are very important right now with families. Tablets have changed the way audiences watch animation on a daily basis, there’s no turning back. We can’t conceive of any content that’s not interactive and can’t be used on tablets or smartphones.The experiences we have are very important, because, firstly, we’ve found that when home video and DVD [revenues] plummeted, we weren’t affected because we already had a plan four years prior. If we hadn’t begun working with IPTV and content providers on a global scale, we would have suffered heavy losses. I think we have to enter the world of interactive content. Web platforms around the world are requesting more content. Social media is also a powerhouse as far as user feedback is concerned, where kids share the projects they like and that have the potential of traveling farther. The most important thing we’ve learned is that by having animated shorts without dialogue, our content has traveled around the world faster in the last four years. We haven’t had to wait for dubbing or editing. We’ve had excellent results in countries we never imagined [we’d be in business with], like Indonesia, Russia and Malaysia. TV KIDS: What have been some of the company’s major milestones in the last 40 years? BIERN: The most important thing during these 40 years has been the evolution of our business model every four or five years. We started distributing North American animation in Japanese, and later in the ’80s began co-productions in European and Japanese territories. In recent years, we’ve tried to be leaders in content offerings in Europe.We were the first to offer animation in HD, the first in stereoscopic 3D and now augmented reality. Regarding new apps, it’s important to see how a company and a producer of content evolves in new business models. The big change is that we won’t only work on new brands, we’re going further, to our [most ambitious] project: high-budget animated theatrical features. We’re already working with Bernard, Super Bernard and we’ve announced the new feature film, Dogtanian and the Muskehounds. These are series that have already reached milestones in England, Spain, France and Italy. Taking these series into 3D and into theaters is a great marketing effort and parents will want to watch this content again with their kids. 10/12
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TV Kids MIPCOM 2012