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MIP JUNIOR & MIPCOM EDITION
Top Commissioners / U.K. Profile / Girls’ Shows / BLE Report / Rainbow Turns 20 / Turner’s Christina Miller DHX’s Dana Landry / DreamWorks Animation’s Marjorie Cohn / Regular Show’s JG Quintel / Scholastic’s Deborah Forte / Nickelodeon’s Russell Hicks
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4K Media Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V The key focus for 4K Media is the launch of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, the newest installment of the long-running Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. The action-packed show chronicles the adventures of Yuya Sakaki, who dreams of following in his father’s footsteps by becoming the best “duel-tainer” in history. Helping Yuya to achieve this goal is his discovery of the Pendulum Summoning, a never-before-seen technique that allows him to assemble many monsters at the same time. Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is making its international debut for buyers at the market. It is currently available for all territories, excluding Asia. The popular Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has enjoyed more than 13 years of brand awareness. Along with Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, there are Classic YuGi-Oh!, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL.
9 Story Entertainment Peg + Cat / Nerds and Monsters / Get Ace Gaining momentum around the world, Peg + Cat is a lead title from 9 Story Entertainment. The series features a little girl and her feline companion. “Peg is spirited, smart and funny and really connects with the audience,” says Natalie Osborne, the company’s managing director. “We are incredibly proud of the show’s recently earned three Daytime Emmy Awards, including outstanding preschool children’s animation program, which really speaks to the quality of the program.” Also on 9 Story’s slate is Nerds and Monsters, a tween castaway comedy that was recently greenlit for a second season, and Get Ace, which centers on a lovable geek who finds himself wearing top-secret, high-tech braces. “[Get Ace] has tremendous universal appeal with 6- to 11-year-old kids,” says Osborne.
“We have a really strong slate of both preschool and children’s 6-to-11 content that we are presenting at MIPCOM.” Nerds and Monsters
Animasia Studio Chuck Chicken / Harry & Bunny / Kung Fook College A security service operating on a chaotic, bird-filled island sets up the premise of Chuck Chicken, an animated action comedy that Animasia Studio is presenting. The company is also offering up Harry & Bunny, a non-dialogue comedy led by a magician and his stage rabbit, and Kung Fook College, about a martial arts fan who accidentally signs up for an art school. “We would like to meet and [start discussions] with potential buyers, distributors and investors to explore co-production opportunities with Animasia,” says Edmund Chan, the company’s managing director. “We are also a trusted work-for-hire studio that delivers highquality animation services; therefore, if there are producers out there looking for good studios to support their show, please do consider Animasia as your preferred partner in Asia.”
“These great concepts have strong story lines and unique character designs and are targeted at kids aged 7 to 11.” Harry & Bunny 260 World Screen 10/14
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Animation from Spain Pumpkin Reports / Filly Funtasia / I, Elvis Riboldi At MIP Junior, Animation from Spain is hosting a special screening session to showcase the latest and best-selling Spanish animation and programs for kids. Among the projects that will be highlighted during this MIP Junior session is Pumpkin Reports, a comedy for 6- to 10-year-olds that is being presented by Motion Pictures. Edebé Audiovisual is offering up I, Elvis Riboldi, meant for children ages 8 to 12. BRB Internacional is highlighting Filly Funtasia, which has been a best seller for the company. Clay Animation has its stop-motion hit Clay Kids to showcase, while Imira Entertainment shines a spotlight on its new comedy/adventure series Planet Play. Onza Distribution has Magic Mania, which is produced by Veralia.
I, Elvis Riboldi
Australian Children’s Television Foundation Hoopla Doopla! / Wacky World Beaters / The Flamin’ Thongs The live-action preschool program Hoopla Doopla! is one of several titles being offered up by Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). The show is about six zany characters who all live in the same colorful town and possess unique physical abilities. Then there is Wacky World Beaters, a live-action factual comedy that looks on as hosts Amberley and Gilly spotlight strange competitions around the world, including a pumpkin paddling race in Germany and a speed-eating contest in Japan. There is also The Flamin’ Thongs, an animated comedy about a disaster-prone family from Whale Bay. “Broadcasters from around the globe will find content [in our catalogue] that offers their audience a fabulous viewing experience,” says Tim Hegarty, ACTF’s international sales manager.
“No matter where they’re from, kids love adventure, laughter and reallife stories.” The Flamin’ Thongs
Bejuba! Entertainment Bubble Bath Bay / Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave / Buzz Bumble A sailboat and an aspiring water taxi take center stage in Bubble Bath Bay, which Bejuba! Entertainment is presenting to international buyers. “It’s fun, full of adventure, with compelling stories that kids 3 to 6 will enjoy,” says Tatiana Kober, the company’s president. “The appeal is universal. [It also contains] great storytelling, adventure, humor and high-quality CGI.” Another preschool highlight from Bejuba! is Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave, which comes from Collingwood & Co. The show watches as three characters are taken to fantastical lands by a hamster. “Kids at home can join in with the secondscreen app, or they can just play along,” says Kober. Buzz Bumble, meanwhile, is a flash-animation comedy following the antics of a group of B-level insect actors.
“These are all fun, high-quality shows; they’re compelling, and all very different.” Bubble Bath Bay 262 World Screen 10/14
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Breakthrough Entertainment Pirate Express / Zerby Derby / The Adventures of Napkin Man From Atomic Cartoons and Sticky Pictures comes Pirate Express, a character-driven animated comedy that is headlining Breakthrough Entertainment’s kids’ slate this MIPCOM. “Pirate Express is not the obvious pirate series that one might expect,” says Nat Abraham, the company’s president of distribution. “The series is filled with strange creatures, gods and demigods, and assorted pirate weirdos. Expect the unexpected.” Other highlights from Breakthrough include Zerby Derby and The Adventures of Napkin Man. “Both Zerby Derby and The Adventures of Napkin Man [have] performed very well,” says Abraham. “Second seasons will soon be available to offer our preschool buyers who invested in the first seasons or those who are looking to pick up preschool shows with multiple episodes to strip.”
“We have many new shows across [various] genres that we will be unveiling both as finished programs and also at the presale level.” Pirate Express
CAKE So Awkward / The Sparticle Mystery / Clay Kids Three smart yet socially inept teenage girls lead the plot of So Awkward, a brand-new sitcom that CAKE is bringing to MIPCOM this year. The company has also lined up The Sparticle Mystery, a live-action sci-fi series. “The market has an appetite for U.K.-produced live-action content for the preteen audience and we are happy to have found projects to respond to that need in So Awkward and The Sparticle Mystery,” says Tom van Waveren, CAKE’s CEO and creative director. Then there is Clay Kids, a claymation comedy about a group of quirky children. “The modern tone and subject matter of Clay Kids make it a really stand-out production,” adds van Waveren. “It is the cool look and relevant stories that appeal to all territories.”
“Our plan is to find good homes for all our stand-out shows and find more of them in the international market while we are in Cannes.” So Awkward
—Tom van Waveren
Cyber Group Studios The Long Long Holiday / Zorro the Chronicles / Balloopo The series The Long Long Holiday, part of the Cyber Group Studios catalogue, focuses on World War II from the point of view of children. The program is set to air in May 2015, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. “This series is based upon the eyewitness accounts of people who were children aged 7 to 20 at the time of WWII, and is meant to bridge the gap between great-grandparents and the children of today,” says Carole Brin, the company’s VP of sales, acquisitions and new media. Cyber Group also has the animated Zorro the Chronicles, featuring a teenage Don Diego, and Balloopo, which follows the adventures of best friends in a land where everything is made out of balloons. There’s also a second season of Zou.
“Zorro the Chronicles offers a new incarnation of one of the most internationally famous heroes of all times: the masked swordsman Zorro.” Zorro the Chronicles 264 World Screen 10/14
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Daewon Media GON / Jolly Polly / Noonbory A dinosaur-like creature living on a mysterious island is the main character in GON, which Daewon Media is showcasing this MIPCOM. The CGI animation is heading into its sophomore season. It has aired on a number of broadcasters, including TV Tokyo. Another highlight from the company is Jolly Polly, which targets youngsters between the ages of 7 and 9. The show is slated for delivery in Q1 2015. “Jolly Polly is going to become a global phenomenon and we are doing our best to achieve that goal,” says Young Choi, the CEO of Daewon Media. The company is also keen to secure sales for the preschool program Noonbory, the second season of which will be ready early next year.
“Our properties represent joy, pleasure and happiness, which attracts kids globally.” GON
DHX Media Inspector Gadget / Looped / Messy Goes to Okido The sleuth classic Inspector Gadget, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, is being reinvented for a new generation of fans. DHX Media is introducing the updated series, also titled Inspector Gadget, to international buyers in Cannes. “The new version, which is commissioned by TELETOON, retains all the popular elements of the classic show but is mixed with new characters and cutting-edge gadgets—all elements which will appeal to a wide international audience,” says Josh Scherba, the company’s senior VP of distribution. DHX Media is also highlighting Looped, which tells the story of two best friends who are stuck in a time loop where every day is the same, and Messy Goes to Okido, a magazine-based comedy/adventure series that combines live action and animation.
“We have a very diverse slate for this market, and we’re really looking forward to introducing global buyers to all of our new content.” Looped
Entertainment One Family Cupcake & Dinosaur / Zak Storm / Peppa Pig: Golden Boots Celebrating its tenth anniversary in the U.K., Peppa Pig has a brand-new special to offer. “With a running length of 15 minutes, it will mark the longest episode in the show’s history,” says Olivier Dumont, the managing director of Entertainment One (eOne) Family. The episode, entitled “Golden Boots,” centers on Peppa’s quest to find her golden boots and take part in a puddle-jumping competition. The market will also see the premiere of Cupcake & Dinosaur, a comedy about two brothers—one of whom is brainy while the other is slightly simpler. Another new title for eOne Family is Zak Storm, created by Man of Action, which is also behind the hit series Ben 10. “The look and quality of the show will blow everyone away,” says Dumont.
“Peppa Pig is fast becoming the number one independent preschool brand in the world.” Peppa Pig: Golden Boots 266 World Screen 10/14
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Foothill Entertainment Rollie & Friends / Gunk Aliens / Young Dracula Featuring a diverse cast of colorful characters, Rollie & Friends follows the residents of a magical theme park. This is one of the titles that Foothill Entertainment is presenting at MIPCOM, along with Gunk Aliens, which centers on a team of kids who work to protect the planet from invading aliens. The company is also bringing to the market Young Dracula, a live-action gothic comedy that is currently in its fifth season. “At its core it deals with universal issues for teens and families, such as fitting in, young love, rebellion and family conflict,” says Jo Kavanagh-Payne, the president of Foothill. “It’s these themes that apply to young adults growing up and trying to make their way in the world, which makes Young Dracula perfect for a global audience.”
“We see MIPCOM and MIP Junior as being a great opportunity for our wide range of projects, both produced and in development.” Rollie & Friends
Fred Media We’re Talking Animals / The Coolibah Kid / The Workers Best known for its factual content, Fred Media is attending MIP Junior for the first time this year. Among its kids’ highlights is We’re Talking Animals, an original series that skyrocketed to success last year. There is also The Coolibah Kid, about a real-life cowboy living on a cattle farm in Australia, and The Workers, a live-action educational show led by a builder, doctor, ballet dancer, fireman and police officer. The company is additionally promoting Meet the Menagerie, a collection of animal stories. “Our [kids’] content has a lighthearted, engaging approach to universal childhood themes and we package this in a colorful and dynamic way,” says Michael Aldrich, Fred Media’s general manager. “We have a clear understanding of childhood learning and development and feel particularly skilled in this area.”
“We look forward to meeting some new faces and building our reputation as a go-to provider of engaging children’s content.” The Coolibah Kid
Gaumont Animation Calimero / Lanfeust Quest / Dude, That’s My Ghost! The endearing little bird Calimero was first created in 1963. More than 50 years later, the character is the star of an animated series from the Gaumont Animation catalogue. “Through its universal stories, based on friendship, love and courage, along with strong and impactful designs and warm 3D, Calimero has the ability to become every kid’s hero,” says Pierre Belaïsch, the company’s managing director. “Also, parents who grew up with this adorable chick are eager to discover new stories together with their little ones.” Other titles on offer from Gaumont Animation include Lanfeust Quest, a comic book-based epic comedy, and Dude, That’s My Ghost!, a buddy comedy. For both series, the goal is to put in place the free-TV rights after Disney XD’s exclusive first run, says Belaïsch.
“What’s special about Dude, That’s My Ghost! is the relationship between Spencer and Billy Joe Cobra, as not everybody has a hilarious ex-pop star ghost for a best friend.” Dude, That’s My Ghost! 268 World Screen 10/14
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Genius Brands International Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab / Secret Millionaires Club / Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 Genius Brands International is dedicated to providing “content with a purpose,” according to Andrew Berman, the company’s head of global sales. This includes Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab, which “inspires kids’ curiosity and imagination and shows them how much fun science can really be,” says Berman. “Secret Millionaires Club, with Warren Buffett, takes kids on adventures that help them learn about ‘the business of life’ and along the way, they meet guest stars like Bill Gates, basketball great Shaquille O’Neal and rapper Jay Z, who impart words of wisdom from their own life experiences.” Berman adds, “Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 is the first superhero movie starring the legendary Stan Lee himself in the first reality comic-book series where comedy meets adventure and reality meets fantasy.”
“Our mission is to provide programming for kids of all ages around the world that is differentiated by its ability to entertain and enrich.” Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab
GO-N Productions Zip Zip / Lou! / Commander Clark The French outfit GO-N Productions is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. “When we created the company, we focused a lot on development,” says Eric Garnet, co-founder and producer at GO-N Productions. “We managed to bring to the market an original show, created within the company, called Commander Clark. Our next property was an adaptation of a French comic book called Lou!, which mainly targets girls. It’s so charming and very well written. It’s also very subtle and sensitive.” The next major mile marker for GO-N comes with the launch of Zip Zip. The show is about a group of wild animals that seek the comforts of suburban life, so they leave the forest, zip into costumes and disguise themselves as everyday house pets. However, their wild instincts tend to surface at the very worst moments.
“We are motivated by love at first sight, with an eye on the market and trends.” —Eric Garnet Zip Zip
Hasbro Studios Transformers Robots in Disguise / Transformers Rescue Bots / Rainbow Rocks The newestTransformers series on the market is Transformers Robots in Disguise, which Hasbro Studios is offering to international buyers. “We have lightened the tone, introduced more humor and added new and exciting Autobot characters to help Bumblebee stop the threat to Earth from new Decepticon foes,” says Finn Arnesen, the senior VP of global sales distribution and development at Hasbro Studios. Also on the company’s slate is Transformers Rescue Bots, the franchise’s youngerskewing series. Then there is Rainbow Rocks, the sequel to the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls film. “Equestria Girls appeals to younger and older girls alike, ensuring that we reach the teen and tween demographic while retaining the essence of what makes My Little Pony so compelling,” adds Arnesen.
“It always comes down to compelling characters and great storytelling that offer equal appeal to children and their families.” Transformers Robots in Disguise 270 World Screen 10/14
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HIT Entertainment Thomas & Friends / Bob the Builder / Little People Next year marks the 70th anniversary of Thomas the Tank Engine, the number one preschool property in several key markets around the world. HIT Entertainment is showcasing the Thomas & Friends series at MIPCOM, along with the animated shows Bob the Builder and Little People. “HIT’s primary goal is to tell entertaining stories with relatable characters,” says Christopher Keenan, the company’s VP of global content and executive producer. “The emotional connection between preschoolers and the characters they love is at the heart of everything we do and this connection knows no international boundaries. We are committed to being a trusted entertainment source for preschool children and their families as we spark the imaginations of children all over the globe.”
“As the quality and volume of our animation production increases, we are exploring a wide variety of traditional and emerging platforms and formats.” Thomas & Friends
IMPS The Smurfs / The Smurfs and the Magic Flute / From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf A trio of Smurfs titles lead the slate that IMPS is bringing to this year’s MIPCOM. There is The Smurfs animated television series, which follows the adventures of the little blue creatures living in a small village filled with mushroom-shaped houses; The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, a feature film focused on the recovery of a mystical instrument; and From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf, a documentary that looks at how Pierre Culliford became Peyo, the creator of The Smurfs. “The continuing success of The Smurfs is due to its broad appeal across cultural, age and gender demographics,” says Nele De Wilde, the company’s business affairs manager for audio and audiovisual. “The timeless stories with universal values continue to enchant children every day all over the world.” The Smurfs
“We are looking to expand our presence in the digital field with the best partners possible.” —Nele De Wilde
INK Global Masha and the Bear / D6 / ZAFARI INK Global heads to Cannes with the second and third seasons of Masha and the Bear, which tells the tale of an adorable little Russian girl and her retired circus bear best friend. “Since Masha’s initial success, we have taken on two new series, D6 and ZAFARI,” says Claus Tomming, the company’s managing partner. “We have taken them on for the simple reason that they are stories we love and want to share with the world, rather than worrying about concept, focus groups or marketing surveys.” D6 is about six kids who entertain themselves while their parents are away by fighting against aliens that have invaded their community. ZAFARI centers on an elephant with zebra stripes and a hyperactive monkey who live at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“We are giving stories a life on screen that will deliver happiness to any child in the world.” —Claus Tomming
D6 272 World Screen 10/14
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ITV Studios Global Entertainment Thunderbirds Are Go MIP Junior will play host to the world premiere TV screening of Thunderbirds Are Go, a reinvention of the classic series from the 1960s. The new iteration is set to debut on ITV and CITV in the U.K. in spring 2015. “There is already so much anticipation for the show since we started to unveil its development and production earlier this year, both with commercial partners and fans of the original 1960s show,” says Dan Gopal, the executive VP for EMEA distribution and global digital partners at ITV Studios Global Entertainment. Gopal says that Thunderbirds Are Go will respect the values of the original in terms of characters, story line and themes of family and heroism, but will be updated for a modern audience.
“Thunderbirds Are Go will have an entirely modern look and feel that will appeal to our audience of digitally-engaged kids worldwide.” Thunderbirds Are Go
m4e/Telescreen Mia and me / Tip the Mouse / Wissper The first season of Mia and me has been on the air in more than 90 territories around the globe, including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy. At this year’s MIPCOM, m4e/Telescreen is offering up the second installment of the hit series, which combines live action and CGI animation. Another highlight is Tip the Mouse, a new animated show based on the best-selling children’s books. “The program has already received major interest and placements, [including on] SUPER RTL in Germany, RAI in Italy, France Télévisions and CANAL+ in France, NPO’s Zapp in the Netherlands, VRT/Ketnet in Belgium, and many other countries,” says Sjoerd Raemakers, Telescreen’s general manager. There is also Wissper, a cartoon about a little girl who has the ability to talk to animals.
“With Wissper, we’re presenting a very high-potential TV show with outstanding quality in terms of content and animation.” Wissper
MarVista Entertainment Heroes: Legend of the Battle Disks / NFL Rush Zone / Zapped The action-based animated series Heroes: Legend of the Battle Disks brings together the same writer, director and artist responsible for the hit Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. MarVista Entertainment is offering the title at MIP Junior, along with NFL Rush Zone. The property has a movie and two seasons of an animated actionadventure series for buyers. MarVista is also presenting the teen comedy movie Zapped. “Each of these properties, in addition to delivering great production values, has tremendous appeal for today’s selective young viewers, while also being entertaining for the entire family,” says Vanessa Shapiro, the company’s executive VP of global distribution. “The movie Zapped, for example, features one of today’s hottest young stars: teen actress, singer and dancer Zendaya.”
“MarVista Entertainment continues its commitment to developing and expanding its entertainment offerings for children and family co-viewing.” Heroes: Legend of the Battle Disks 274 World Screen 10/14
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Rainbow a TV KIDS: What have been Rainbow’s major milestones since its inception? STRAFFI: Since Rainbow was founded as a small animation studio in 1995, it has thrived thanks to the passion, artistic ability and entrepreneurial skills of the people who have worked with us. In 20 years it has been transformed into a holding company that boasts ten companies dealing with a wide range of productions, from TV and movies to toys, Internet and multimedia products and publishing. Today, Rainbow represents one of the largest and most complete animation studios in the world and is among the few fully integrated production companies in Europe. It is a major European studio, with more than 300 employees and a network of freelancers. Among Rainbow’s major milestones is our flagship Winx Club property. The phenomenally successful brand is one of the most popular in the world and celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. It has greatly contributed to the global reputation of Rainbow. Other production milestones from Rainbow include Prezzy, Tommy & Oscar, Monster Allergy, PopPixie, Huntik and Mia and me. Rainbow has also embraced the field of cinematic production with four movies. These are Gladiators of Rome 3D and three Winx Club movies: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom, Magical Adventure and the latest, launching in fall 2014, The Mystery of the Abyss. In 2011, we also opened the Rainbow MagicLand theme park near Rome, the second-largest theme park in Italy. We are planning to replicate this success in other countries.
Iginio Straffi Twenty years ago, a talented comic-book author and illustrator set out to build an animation powerhouse. Today, Rainbow, led by founder and CEO Iginio Straffi, has a portfolio of TV hits—including the ever-popular Winx Club—as well as a theme park, feature-film capabilities and more. Straffi reflects on two decades of bringing high-quality animation and compelling characters to the global stage.
TV KIDS: How has the company been able to thrive in the competitive children’s programming business? STRAFFI: For us, the key to success in such a competitive market is to keep our brands fresh and relevant, which is why we constantly develop new content to maintain fans’ interest. We devote a huge amount of time and resources to production, as we know that we can’t just rest on our laurels and expect existing content to do the job for us. We regularly give fans something completely new, which not only has an energizing effect on a property from the consumers’ point of view, but also presents licensees with fresh opportunities for merchandising.
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w at 20 Signing a licensing agreement with Rainbow allows licensees to take full advantage of the opportunities and the added value that a company like ours can offer. Partners who work with us have the ability to exploit the synergy between their brand and ours. The relationship with our licensees covers all areas, from communications to marketing to retail, as well as involvement during special events, and we also create events that are specifically tailored to individual partners. TV KIDS: In a highly consolidated business, what benefits do you derive from remaining an independent? STRAFFI: Our independence has allowed us to grow and evolve in the way we wanted and felt fit us best. We are a content company known all over the world and are the largest in Europe, able to implement every phase of the animation process, including the ability to produce stereoscopic 3D animation. This successful formula has allowed our TV series to be present in over 150 countries across the world. As an independent, we have also been able to deal with our own licensing requirements, which has led to huge success. We regularly hold a top position in the global licensor rankings, with record numbers spanning all sectors of the market, including toys and video games, back to school and stationery, food and drink, and clothing and fashion accessories. TV KIDS: What do buyers associate with content from Rainbow? STRAFFI: They associate Rainbow with many things, chiefly very high-quality shows with strong story lines. We know that one doesn’t work without the other, so we make sure that in all our series the beauty of the animation is matched by the quality of the script in order to fully engage the viewer. The success of Rainbow is also due to the values that are intrinsic to any content we produce. The best example of this is Winx Club, which continues to captivate millions of young viewers worldwide through magical content and the values of friendship and positivity.
TV KIDS: What are the keys to building successful multiplatform brands today? STRAFFI: There needs to be an awareness of what is happening in the market and an ability to adapt to that. TV will play a less prominent role in the future, as there will be more content online and viewable through tablets and phones—even while kids watching TV are doing other things. The key to successful brand-building is to take note of these different methods of consumption and deliver content accordingly. At Rainbow, we have structured our portfolio to cover all of them and thus be close to kids with our brands. In addition to TV, we cover publishing and magazines, events and live shows, theme parks for children and families, apps and online games and toy production. We also recently launched a new online platform in Italy and across Europe that marks the entry of the Winx Club brand into the world of e-commerce. It is the first ecommerce channel entirely dedicated to the world of Winx.
TV KIDS: What do you see as Rainbow’s top growth opportunities in the next year? STRAFFI: We expect Winx Club to continue its strong growth, with the exciting and magical new content being released this year leading to higher viewer numbers than ever before and more Winx Club products hitting shelves. On the production side, we have many projects in the pipeline. At MIP Junior we will launch the first episode of the new animated series Royal Academy, and we are also going into production with My American Friend, a vibrant and fresh live-action show for pre-teens. Another exciting development that will bear fruit over the coming year is the agreement we signed in June with CCTV, China’s national television broadcaster. This will see us develop a theme park in China for families and children dedicated to the world of Winx Club, while Winx Club will be transmitted on the CCTV networks across the country starting this September. Rainbow Internazionale of Hong Kong will also launch a licensing program to cover a wide range of sectors, including clothing, publishing, fashion dolls and much more.
In addition to Winx Club, Rainbow’s slate includes, from left, PopPixie, Mia and me, Huntik, My American Friend, Gladiators of Rome and Royal Academy.
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The World of Winx sing, laugh and eat ice cream and pizza, just like any other teens. The show combines action and adventure with a light comedic touch, and the brand’s success is linked not only to the innovative content, but also to the positive values that have always accompanied the magical heroines—friendship, love, family, generosity and commitment. These qualities, combined with family-friendly story lines and beautiful animation, have enabled the brand to grow and prosper wherever in the world it has launched. The Winx Club pantheon now comprises 156 magical episodes and two feature-length movies in 3D animation and CGI. Winx Club is still growing. Season six has just been released to huge global acclaim and season seven is currently in production, with a projected release date of 2015. An eagerly anticipated third theatrical movie, The Mystery of the Abyss, enjoyed its global premiere in Italy in September and is now hitting territories across the world. Rainbow’s policy of regularly releasing new content has helped the property become a classic brand that is loved the world over, with Asian markets the latest to discover the magic of Winx Club. Broadcasting success has led to an enviably strong position in the licensing market, with over 500 licensees on board globally across a multitude of categories, including DVDs, toys, clothing, books and video games, with more than 6,000 new products developed yearly. Rainbow is currently looking to build on this success by expanding the property into less conventional sectors, such as Winx Clubthemed holidays and experiences.
inx Club is a true global phenomenon, an animated series that children across the world have fallen in love with. The brand is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and its audience continues to grow, underlining its status as one of the most successful girls’ properties of all time. From its creation in 2004, fans have delighted in the adventures of the show’s six fairies—Bloom, Flora, Stella, Aisha, Musa and Tecna—as they take on mystical adventures and battle the forces of darkness. Ten years of friendship, magic and love have seen the fairies fight to protect the planet from enemies, but also The Mystery of the Abyss is the third feature film from the Winx Club franchise.
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Milestones 1995 Rainbow is founded in Italy by leading comic-book artist Iginio 2008 Maya Fox is released, which sees Rainbow expanding its scope Straffi. The company’s first project is the production and distribution of an interactive educational CD-ROM.
through a series in a multimedia format designed for teen girls. Huntik wins the MIPCOM Licensing Challenge and is released in 2009.
PopPixie, a comedy animation series for the whole family, is launched. 1997 Rainbow is awarded the New Media Prize by Children’s Software 2010 The second Winx Club CGI movie, Magical Adventure, is released and wins an Review at the Avanca Festival for the production of the best CD-ROM, for Tommy and Oscar.
1999 The success of the CD-ROM leads to the production of Rainbow’s
award for Best 3D animated cartoon. Rainbow signs an agreement with Nickelodeon, which sees the network gain Winx Club TV broadcasting and merchandising rights in the U.S. and become co-producer of the fifth and sixth seasons.
first animated series, The Adventures of Tommy & Oscar.
2011 The Rainbow MagicLand theme park opens near Rome. It is the
2002 Prezzy, a series inspired by the mascot of Italy’s Gardaland theme
second-largest theme park in Italy. Winx Club wins the Russian Golden Bear Award for Best Licensed Property thanks to the quality of the product, its vast presence in the market and great economic results.
park, hits the screen in ten countries across the world.
2004 Winx Club, Rainbow’s most ambitious and demanding project to 2012 Rainbow expands its repertoire with Mia and me, a mixture of date, is released and is an immediate success.
live action and CGI animation that is a hit across the world.
Rainbow CGI’s Gladiators of Rome, the big-budget comedy movie in 3D stereoscopic animation set in ancient Rome, premieres globally.
Rainbow receives the award for Best Animation Studio of the
Year at the Cartoons on the Bay Festival in Positano.
2006 Supernatural comedy Monster Allergy is launched. Rainbow CGI is founded.
2013 The Winx Club online platform launches in Italy and across Europe. WinxClub.com, the official website of the brand, lands in Asia with localized versions for China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Five new apps are released on the online stores, with more than 2 billion play sessions.
2007 The first Winx Club CGI movie, The Secret of the Lost Kingdom, is 2014 Winx Club celebrates its tenth anniversary, and the third Winx released. It is the first CGI animated feature-length film ever produced in Italy.
Club CGI movie, The Mystery of the Abyss, hits cinemas across the globe.
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Mediatoon Distribution The Crumpets / SamSam / Linkers Since the acquisition of Moonscoop, Mediatoon Distribution has added a number of productions to its catalogue, including the comedy/adventure preschool program SamSam, which it is showcasing at this year’s MIPCOM. Other titles on offer from the company include The Crumpets, a 2D animated comedy about a supersized family living in a wacky house, and Linkers, a show that sees five friends trying to save their buddy, who’s trapped inside of a video game. “The strength that all these series share is the importance they place on strong and positive international values that really speak to kids: imagination, teamwork, humor, family and friendship,” says Jérôme Alby, Mediatoon’s deputy general manager. “Combined, they have the power to bring magic into households around the world.”
“Thanks to our group’s recent purchase of Moonscoop, Mediatoon’s collection of programs has seen a massive boost with star properties.” SamSam
Mondo TV Sissi, the Young Empress / Dinofroz / The Drakers Austria’s Elisabeth of Wittelsbach takes center stage in Sissi, the Young Empress, one of Mondo TV’s MIPCOM highlights. The show chronicles the life of the historical icon, known for her free spirit. The company is also promoting the second season of Dinofroz, focused on a group of friends who discover a strange board game that opens a gate between the present and the past. Then there is The Drakers, which spotlights two young racecar drivers competing in a championship. The series is a co-production with Ferrari. “Each of these three properties has a different target gender and age group; one is for girls and the other two are more likely for boys, varying between action- and adventure-geared topics and stories,” says Matteo Corradi, the CEO of Mondo TV.
“Our goal is to keep promoting and extending our sales force into new markets.” Sissi, the Young Empress
Nerd Corps Entertainment Slugterra / Slugterra: Return of the Elementals / Endangered Species The hit animated series Slugterra, from the Nerd Corps Entertainment catalogue, was recently greenlit for a third season. “Slugterra is infused with everything boys love about action shows—collectability, blasting, battling, plus lots of comedy— and we’ve seen the proof in ratings and toy sales worldwide this year,” says Ken Faier, the company’s president. The program served as the inspiration for Slugterra: Return of the Elementals, one of three Slugterra movies, which had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. and Canada over the summer. These titles are being presented by Nerd Corps this MIPCOM, alongside Endangered Species, a new character-driven comedy series that recently premiered on ABC3 in Australia and is slated to roll out in additional territories later this year and into 2015.
“We will be looking to strategically find the right broadcast and OTT homes for these properties worldwide.” Endangered Species 10/14 World Screen 283
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Nottingham Forest Sendokai Champions Four unpopular children are tasked with saving the world in Sendokai Champions, an animated adventure comedy that Nottingham Forest is hoping to secure further deals for this MIPCOM. The 52x12-minute series is co-produced by Kotoc, TVE and Planeta Junior. The show has already become a hit on Spain’s Clan, Portugal’s Canal Panda and Cartoon Network in Latin America. “Sendokai Champions has all the ingredients to be an international success: transmedia/interactive nature; high-quality animation; important values such as friendship, fair play, teamwork and heroism; and above all, the potential of its plots and the personalities of its characters, with whom kids identify [with] quickly,” says David Pérez Andrés, the company’s director of business development and sales. “Although the series could be [seen as] aimed at boys, the audience data has revealed that a large number of girls also love the show.” He adds, “Our aim for the upcoming MIP Junior and MIPCOM is to show that we now have 52 episodes completed that have premiered this year, reaching wonderful audience ratings. We want to reinforce that Sendokai Champions has been a success in every country it airs in. For these reasons, at MIP Junior and MIPCOM we expect to close new TV deals throughout Europe and the Americas—including the U.S. and free-TV deals in Latin America—as well as open new markets in Africa and Asia.”
“We are looking for partners that can help us to develop new content for Sendokai Champions—a new season, a movie, etc.”
—David Pérez Andrés
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PGS Entertainment ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks / The Jungle Bunch: To the Rescue! / Super 4 The very first episodes of ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks are being presented by PGS Entertainment at this year’s market. The updated series, which is a co-production between Bagdasarian Productions and OuiDO! Productions, has already secured such key partners as Nickelodeon, M6, SUPER RTL, Globo, YTV and Antena 3, to name a few. “I am confident all buyers will be excited to see the great, fun, beautiful stories and amazing animation that the 104 episodes bring,” says Philippe Soutter, the company’s president. “People are going to enjoy the Chipmunks and the Chipettes reunited in a groundbreaking CGI show full of fun and positivity.” PGS is also promoting the new season of The Jungle Bunch: To the Rescue! “As for The Jungle Bunch, on top of bringing groundbreaking animation, what makes the brand so cool are the characters’ personalities,” says Soutter. “Ask anyone what they think about a penguin who thinks he is a tiger, raising (very normally) a (tiger) fish adopted son! The characters have taken on more depth throughout their development and are bringing the audience the funniest stories ever.” Also part of the catalogue is Super 4, which was inspired by the Playmobil toy line. With Super 4, “we are bringing all the coolest universes of kids’ favorites together in one show,” says Soutter. “It’s something that has never been done… and that really works.”
“Where these shows really unite, and what is a strong part of what we love at PGS, is that they are loved both by kids and their parents.”
ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks
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Planeta Junior Egyxos / Bubble Bip / Sendokai Champions This year marks the first time that Planeta Junior is attending MIPCOM with its own stand. “We want to properly [showcase] and raise awareness for our most important brands,” says Judit Foz, the company’s TV sales and production manager. “We started distributing series from our territories internationally [during] the last two editions of the market, but we are currently also presenting our own co-productions internationally.” Headlining Planeta Junior’s slate is Egyxos, an animated series meant for boys between the ages of 7 and 11. The show centers on a group of mysterious creatures with amazing superpowers. Another highlight from the company is Bubble Bip, an animated preschool program that follows the adventures of a video-game character who finds a way to escape from his virtual world. There is also a new season of Sendokai Champions, which targets 6- to 11-year-olds. In the cartoon, four unpopular kids from Earth must learn how to battle an evil empire that is conquering every dimension of the Multiverse. “All of [these productions] are packed with exciting, modern values and great content, and are produced with high-quality writing and animation,” says Foz. “Because of our long-time experience in consumer products, they have a powerful orientation to a commercial strategy, involving nice style guides and lots of great concepts for our partners to develop products all around the world.”
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Rainbow Winx Club / Winx Club 3D: Mystery of the Abyss / Royal Academy Nearly two decades ago, Rainbow was established as a small animation studio. Today, Rainbow is a leader in the kids’ entertainment industry, dedicated to TV and feature-film productions, along with managing business activities from concept to production to global distribution. “In 20 years, it has been transformed into a holding company that boasts ten companies dealing with a wide range of productions, from TV to movies to toys, Internet and multimedia products and publishing,” says Iginio Straffi, the president and CEO. “Today, Rainbow represents one of the largest and most complete animation studios in the world, and is the only example of a fully-integrated production company in Italy.” Leading Rainbow’s MIPCOM slate is its flagship property Winx Club. The company is specifically looking to secure sales for the show’s sixth and seventh seasons. Other highlights include Winx Club 3D: Mystery of the Abyss, an animated film. In it, human beings are polluting the seas, putting at risk the balance of the Infinite Ocean. The Winx must then try to defeat the Trix, restoring balance and bringing back peace. There’s also Royal Academy, which follows a new generation of fairy-tale characters. The 26x30-minute series is set against the backdrop of the Royal Academy, where Rose Cinderella and her classmates must balance their studies with dealing with their families.
“The phenomenally successful Winx Club brand is one of the most popular in the world and celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.”
Winx Club 3D: Mystery of the Abyss
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RCN Televisión Chica Vampiro Vampires and complicated romances are the focus in Chica Vampiro, a live-action children’s series RCN Televisión is showcasing at MIPCOM. The title’s star is Daisy, a normal girl who goes to school, dreams of a singing career and hopes to end up with Max, the love of her life. However, something about her isn’t normal: her parents are vampires. Daisy learns to handle this situation with humor and optimism, until an accident puts her at a terrible crossroad just when she’s about to turn 16. Her parents decide to bite her in order to save her, turning her into a vampire. This turn of events complicates her relationship with Max. Soon, the teen is torn between two lives: the one in the mortal world and the one she enjoys as a vampire.
Saban Brands Untitled Cirque du Soleil Média project / Power Rangers Dino Charge / Julius Jr. Saban Brands has partnered with Cirque du Soleil Média to produce an all-new preschool series. “We plan on introducing this show at the market and sharing our vision for this upcoming preschool series with our partners,” says Frederic Soulie, the senior VP of global distribution at Saban Brands. The company is also bringing out the newest iteration in its hit Power Rangers franchise, Power Rangers Dino Charge. “While we shared a sneak peek at Licensing Expo, MIPCOM is really the first time that buyers and partners will get to see what is new and exciting for the upcoming season,” says Soulie. Saban Brands also continues to focus on sales for its hit preschool series Julius Jr. The company will be giving a preview of the new multiplatform property Emojiville, developed through a partnership with JAKKS Pacific.
“Julius Jr. has become an international success because it is a show that both kids enjoy and parents appreciate.” Julius Jr.
Scholastic Media Astroblast! / The Magic School Bus / Goosebumps The series Astroblast! is an intergalactic preschool program that Scholastic Media is showcasing. “Astroblast! features a great cast of spirited and funny characters,” says Deborah Forte, the company’s president. Scholastic Media is also breathing new life into a number of classic brands, including The Magic School Bus and Goosebumps. “The Magic School Bus TV series, inspired by the best-selling children’s science book series with more than 87 million copies sold worldwide, continues to inspire kids to embrace science while entertaining them with great story lines and humor,” says Forte. “With the upcoming Goosebumps movie coming out next summer, we are excited about reminding attendees that the family-friendly, scary and fun Goosebumps television series is [also] available.”
“This year at MIP Junior, we’ll be focusing our attention on three key properties ideal for family viewing.” The Magic School Bus 292 World Screen 10/14
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Sesame Workshop The Furchester Hotel The main focus for Sesame Workshop this year is promoting The Furchester Hotel, a co-production with CBeebies that helps to celebrate Sesame Street’s 45th anniversary. “This co-production qualifies as European content, and we are excited to offer broadcasters 52x11-minute episodes featuring Cookie Monster and Elmo along with introducing audiences to a new cast of loveable monsters,” says Renee Mascara, the company’s VP of international media distribution. “The Furchester Hotel family as well as their guests are all puppeteered by U.K. performers and we know that kids and parents will enjoy watching together! The Furchester Hotel will inspire and engage our preschool audience with this fresh new content and expand Sesame Workshop’s global presence.”
“In addition to a robust publicity push, The Furchester Hotel will be front and center in our marketing efforts at MIPCOM.” The Furchester Hotel
Smilehood Media Plim Plim, a Hero of the Heart / Wake Up! with No Make Up / Pispas Currently airing on Disney Junior in Latin America, Smilehood Media’s animated series Plim Plim, a Hero of the Heart centers on a child who combines the attributes of a clown, a hero and a magician. “As a program oriented to the education and entertainment of little kids, Plim Plim gives a seal of prestige to broadcasters,” says Silvana D’Angelo, the director of Smilehood Media. For the toddler set, the company offers the preschool series Pispas, about a friendly van that is transformed into a spacecraft. Meanwhile, teens can enjoy the musical title Wake Up! with No Make Up, which follows a group of young people who form a band and try to transform an old fire station. The show’s themes include the search for one’s identity and the dreams of becoming an artist.
“We always offer 360degree properties that embrace not only TV but also a wide range of associated ancillaries: live shows, music clips, apps and more.” Plim Plim, a Hero of the Heart
SPI International MadscreenBox / 4KFunBox / FilmBox Family SPI International has been working on a live interactive game channel called MadscreenBox, which it introduced at MIPTV. “We have just launched MadscreenBox on several platforms, and we are eager to get feedback from the viewers,” says Berk Uziyel, the executive director of FilmBox International. “We are ready to offer MadscreenBox to new clients, who can choose to deliver it in SD or HD quality. One of the key characteristics of this channel is that it is free of violence and can be enjoyed by families and kids.” The FilmBox Family movie channel is another service from SPI that caters to a family audience. Offerings include animated features and family comedies. SPI is also developing a new channel called 4KFunBox, which will showcase a range of 4K content.
“Parents can tune into FilmBox Family knowing that their children will not see violence or other inappropriate content.” —Berk Uziyel Svein and the Rat on FilmBox Family 294 World Screen 10/14
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Splash Entertainment It’s Archie / Kulipari: An Army of Frogs / Gunk Aliens There are a number of animated series in the Splash Entertainment catalogue. First up is It’s Archie, based on the bestselling comic books. “Splash Entertainment is ready to bring a new spin to this classic series as the Archie crew uncovers wacky mysteries and urban legends in this fast-paced action comedy,” says Mevelyn Noriega, the company’s senior VP of sales. Then there is Kulipari: An Army of Frogs, which takes place in a hidden kingdom where frogs are feuding with spiders and scorpions. The movie trilogy drew inspiration from the book penned by former NFL superstar Trevor Pryce. There is also Gunk Aliens, a zany, character-based comedy/adventure focused on a group of neighborhood kids battling against invading aliens.
“While continuing our ongoing relationships with key broadcasters, we will emphasize formulating new partnerships with regional digital platforms.” Gunk Aliens
Studio 100 Media The Wonderful Adventures of Nils / Heidi / K3 Based on the novels by Sweden’s Selma Lagerlöf, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils is a new CGI series that Studio 100 Media is presenting to international buyers at the market. “With its great new design and adventure-packed stories, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils will be rich in its storytelling and will blend all the elements that children love—action, adventure, fantasy, fun and mystery,” says Patrick Elmendorff, the company’s managing director. Studio 100 is also promoting Heidi, a CGI/3D animation, which tells the famous tale of the Swedish orphan. “With its solid story lines and well-defined characters, the series and its classic stories are well known worldwide,” says Elmendorff. Another highlight is K3, inspired by the popular girl band of the same name.
“Nils’ adventures will ensure that kids all over the world will love the antics of a mischievous and headstrong boy.” —Patrick Elmendorff The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
Technicolor The Deep This MIPCOM, Technicolor is focused on showcasing the CGI animated series The Deep, meant for children between the ages of 6 and 12. The show is based on Gestalt Comics’ hit graphic novel series from author Tom Taylor and illustrator James Brouwer. It follows the explorations of a family that lives underwater in a state-of-the-art submarine. “The Deep features compelling writing and stunning visuals, and there’s really nothing else quite like it in the marketplace at all,” says Alison Warner, Technicolor’s VP of IP sales, acquisitions and co-productions. “On top of that, there are two very well-respected international coproduction partners producing this series—Canada’s Nerd Corps Entertainment and Australia’s A Stark Production—which add a new layer of creativity onto something that is already very solid.”
“The Deep is an adventure story that will appeal to everyone.” —Alison Warner The Deep 296 World Screen 10/14
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UNTIL YOU DROP Andy Fry surveys a number of top programmers about their acquisition wish lists. Once again, executives in the children’s television business from around the world are jetting into MIP Junior and MIPCOM for a few days (and nights) of intense networking, trend analysis and, most important of all, deal-making. Buyers have drawn up their content wish lists and are bracing themselves for the inevitable onslaught from producers and distributors. Jules Borkent, the senior VP of global acquisitions and international programming at Nickelodeon, says the golden rule for him is to find “shows that are compatible with what we produce
Mediatoon’s The Garfield Show.
ourselves. The first thing any content owner needs to do is understand what Nick is about. If they do that, they’ll realize everything we do is based around comedy—because that’s what our audience expects from us.” When making deals, Borkent has a wide degree of flexibility, “but I quite like enhanced acquisitions,” he says, “where we come in early on a show and have the opportunity to shape the creative so that it fits our requirements. As a general rule, I’m also looking for shows that have a minimum of 13 episodes.” One of Borkent’s most successful acquisitions over the years has been the preschool phenomenon Peppa Pig. More recently, he acquired ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks from PGS Entertainment, Zack & Quack from Zodiak Kids and Max & Shred from Breakthrough Entertainment. Ahead of MIPCOM, Borkent says, “I’m open to anything, but my acquisitions follow the needs of the network closely, and at the moment we have a lot of preschool. So I’m focusing on original comedy animation ideas for 6- to 10-year-olds. I’m also keeping a lookout for interesting game-show formats.”
SINGING DISNEY’S TUNE At a general level, content requirements for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior are similar to Nickelodeon’s. Live action and animation are both priorities and content needs to be complementary to existing titles. “On top of content from the U.S., we’re looking for shows that do two things,” explains David Levine, the VP of programming, production and strategic development at Disney Channels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “Firstly, shows that will help our channels fulfill their broadcast obligations with regard to European content. Secondly, shows across genres that will appeal to kids in EMEA.” For the most part, Levine is looking for content that can work across all markets in EMEA, “though there is some scope for tactical acquisitions market by market,” he adds. “We also get situations where certain kinds of content are tolerated more in some markets
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DreamWorks Animation’s movie-based Dragons: Riders of Berk series has found a home on a host of channels, among them CBBC and SUPER RTL.
than others. An example would be dubbed live action, which is a bit of a challenge in a market like the U.K.” One model that works well for Disney EMEA is telenovelastyle live action. An example is Violetta, produced in Argentina with an international Disney audience in mind. Now in its third season, it has proved popular right across Europe, including in Northern European markets like Scandinavia. In terms of more experimental live-action projects, says Levine, Disney EMEA recently commissioned Evermoor, a comedy-suspense four-part serial that will be produced in the U.K. by Lime Pictures but shown on Disney Channels around the world, including the U.S. The lead character is an American teen who lives with her mom, brother, stepdad and stepsiblings in a large, spooky manor on the edge of creepy English moors. The concept is from Tim Compton and Diane Whitley, who were both involved in the international version of the Benelux live-action hit House of Anubis for Nickelodeon. As for animation, “We’ve had a lot of success with the preschool show Zou, made by the French company Cyber Group Studios,” says Levine. “And we’re also working with Je Suis Bien Content on Boyster, an animated comedy about a boy who is part oyster.” Other series where Disney EMEA has played a lead creative and financial role include the preschool show Henry Hugglemonster and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja. As for his buying strategy at MIPCOM, Levine stresses that there is no point in replicating what Disney already does so well. “We don’t need sitcoms, but we are looking to build our live-action development slate and will be meeting production companies that have strong creative and writing talent. In animation, comedy is always critical because the audience loves it. And if it is repeatable, that’s even better. In addition, I’d say our European channels are always looking for classic European-heritage animated series with strong storytelling.”
TOON TIME At Turner Broadcasting System EMEA, Patricia Hidalgo, the senior VP and chief content and creative officer for kids, says that her priority this year is Boomerang. “We have made a strategic decision to elevate this channel to become our second flagship kids’ brand next to Cartoon Network. We will be aligning our Boomerang channels globally with a new look and feel and a common unique positioning that we believe will resonate strongly with boys and girls 4-to-7 and their families.”
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Hidalgo continues, “Boomerang is a timeless brand, it is a lighthearted, safe and playful place where kids and families can enjoy their favorite animated shows. It is the home of our heritage Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. characters. Coming up next year we will be launching new content from our own classics like Scooby-Doo!, Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes, as well as new seasons of acquisitions including Inspector Gadget, Mr Bean and The Garfield Show.”
CLASSIC COMEBACK “We are looking for classic content that can engage a new generation of viewers—and not only if the show has the exact same characteristics and/or similar animation style and values as our classic shows,” says Hidalgo. “We look for unique and surprising stories that have great characters that feel authentic to and for kids. If your show has these characteristics, then we want to hear from you!” Tapping into Turner’s U.S. portfolio, the U.S. originals Uncle Grandpa and Steven Universe launched on Cartoon Network across EMEA earlier this year, and Clarence will be rolling out this fall. “Globally for Cartoon Network we have commissioned more seasons of The Amazing World of Gumball and the first series of We Bare Bears, which is a comedy about three bear siblings and their attempts at assimilating into human society. That is from Daniel Chong, who worked on Cars 2 and The Lorax.” Global commissions include Wabbit, a series of comedic shorts featuring Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote, and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, an all-new animated comedy series. “In addition, we have pre-bought Mr Bean series two from Endemol and the new Inspector Gadget from DHX for EMEA and Asia Pacific,” she says. Hidalgo is not opposed to live action but animation really resonates with Cartoon’s viewers. “Live action is not out of fashion and we have seen kids’ telenovelas as well as drama working extremely well this past year, especially with the 6-to-11 girl demo. That said, it is getting clearer that comedy animation has broader appeal and our shows like The Amazing World of Gumball are attracting both boys and girls aged 6 to 11.” The big pan-regional kids’ channels have deep U.S.-based content-creation hubs to draw from, so often kids’ distributors will find the greatest opportunity for sales among strong local-market brands. In Canada, Corus Entertainment runs a portfolio of leading kids’ channels, including YTV, Treehouse and TELETOON. Comedy is still a driver for
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CBBC in the U.K. has made room on its grid for select acquisitions, such as 9 Story’s Arthur.
Corus’ audience. YTV’s recent commissions include The Stanley Dynamic, Max & Shred, The Game, Numb Chucks and Nerds and Monsters. At MIPCOM, the programming team will be looking for character-driven comedies in both animation and live action that have strong unique concepts and fun, relatable characters. On the live-action front, YTV is attracted to projects with visionary creators and showrunners that target kids, tweens and families. Live action can also include reality and competition series that empower kids. Treehouse focuses on the preschool demo and recently premiered the originals Trucktown and Dinopaws, a coproduction with CBeebies in the U.K. Acquisitions have included Silvergate Media’s Octonauts, Zodiak Kids’ Zack & Quack and 9 Story’s Peg + Cat. Treehouse looks for special properties that have strong characters preschoolers can relate to, and whose stories are age appropriate and have an element of humor. TELETOON’s recent commissions include The Bagel and Becky Show, ToonMart Marty and Craqué. It has also picked up Atomic Puppet, an animated comedy from Technicolor and Mercury Filmworks that will launch in 2015. The channel is on the lookout for animated shows broadly targeting the 6-to-11 set, with a particular focus on 10-year-olds. While TELETOON does have a boy audience skew, the channel also wants shows that are accessible to girls.
LAND DOWN UNDER In Australia, the public broadcaster ABC has a new head of children’s TV, Deirdre Brennan, who joined the company from BBC Worldwide. “ABC’s original content needs to be distinct and creatively adventurous, developing new local talent while celebrating the expertise of our international partners,” she says of her content strategy. Looking ahead at the 2015 production slates for ABC4Kids and ABC3, she says they “reflect a diversity of genres designed to engage young Australians (aged 2- to 14-years-old). Preschool titles include the flagship programs Play School and Giggle and Hoot, with new animated series Bubble Bath Bay, Guess How Much I Love You season two and The Kazoops. Older viewers will enjoy new seasons of the award-winning drama Nowhere Boys, factual hit Bushwhacked! and The New Adventures of Figaro Pho. New titles include the comedies Little Lunch, Winston Steinburger & Sir Dudley Ding Dong
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and the groundbreaking Prisoner Zero,” which is a 26episode science-fiction action-adventure series from Planet 55 Studios. Addressing her MIPCOM priorities, Brennan says, “Our acquired inventory consists of a variety of genres—live action, animation and mixed media. We will consider all formats and types of programming suitable for preschool (2 to 6), bridging (5 to 9), older children (8 to 12) and teens (13-plus). However, priorities for 2015/2016 relate to older children’s and family content, proven program brands and innovative scripted formats, such as TV movies, miniseries and events. With educational programming expanding onto ABC3 from July 2014, we are looking for learning content. Preschool opportunities are currently limited, with no new titles required until 2016.” Commenting on Australian market trends, Brennan says, “The children’s industry is still adapting to the creative opportunities offered through digital convergence, but new concepts designed to pull audiences across platforms are starting to emerge. Broadcasters are also looking for proven, entertaining factual formats that can engage local audiences.”
BRITISH REVIVAL CITV, operated by the U.K.’s leading commercial broadcaster, ITV, has stepped up its commissioning budget over the last few years. Coming to the channel in 2015 is the muchanticipated new series of Thunderbirds, called Thunderbirds Are Go. It will also have a brand-new series of the animated Mr Bean, plus the returning Horrid Henry. Another important addition has been the recently launched weekend breakfast show Scrambled! “This gives the morning block a real sense of personality with a fresh presenting team,” says Jamila Metran, the head of programming at CITV. “The format includes chat, games and comedy sketches interlinking between great shows such as Victorious, Horrid Henry, Deadtime Stories and Adventure Time.” CITV’s main rival is the BBC, one of the major forces in European kids’ content. With a commissioning budget of around £100 million ($163 million) a year, it supports production across all genres for its two kids’ channels, CBBC, aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds, and CBeebies, for the preschool set. Because of its status as a public broadcaster, the BBC tends to plough most of its money into original shows
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that have been produced in the U.K. The BBC does also have room in its schedules for complementary acquisitions such as Arthur and Dragons: Riders of Berk.
Among the broadcasters that have signed on for Gaumont Animation’s Calimero are TF1 in France and SUPER RTL in Germany.
In Germany, there have been big changes following the arrival of the new free-to-air Disney service at the start of 2014. The biggest transformation has come at SUPER RTL, which YTV’s original commissions include Max & Shred, which is repped by Breakthrough Entertainment. had been heavily reliant on Disney tures of Peter Pan from ZDF Enterprises and DQ Entertainkids’ content until the new channel arrived. Required to ment is performing over the top. So is MDR and ARD’s The drop all its Disney daytime programming, SUPER RTL Adventures of the Young Marco Polo from MotionWorks. responded by signing a five-year output deal with Dream“There are also titles like Mouk from Millimages where Works Animation, which gave it access to shows like Dragyou look at the ratings and can’t help but say, ‘Yes, more, ons and Turbo F.A.S.T. It also ramped up its budget for origplease!’ ” Debertin adds. “Also, The Cat in the Hat has inal programming and put more emphasis on select gained many German fans, although the books (by Dr. acquisitions like Calimero, from Gaumont Animation, Seuss) are not so well known here. We also acquired PopCalidra and Studio Campedelli. py Cat from Coolabi and King Rollo, and Small Potatoes “We have been really active over the last two years [replacfrom Josh Selig’s Little Airplane. The latter is fun but was ing] our Disney content,” says Frank Dietz, SUPER RTL’s head difficult to dub, as it is more or less a lovely musical.” of acquisitions and co-productions. “As a consequence, we have signed deals with partners such as DreamWorks, Warner Bros., FremantleMedia and 9 Story, to name a few.” GETTING REAL The channel has also been active in preschool, acquiring local Live action remains popular with a segment of KiKA’s viewbroadcast, licensing and home-entertainment rights to Kate & ers. “Real life does not go out of fashion, as we can see from our Mim-Mim, which is produced by Nerd Corps Entertainment audiences, especially when it comes to the 8-plus age group,” and distributed by FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainexplains Debertin. “So Mako Mermaids and Dance Academy ment. The series was acquired for SUPER RTL’s Toggolino preare doing well, as are Sadie J and Tracy Beaker/Tracy Beaker school block. Returns. We have some great live-action series from Looking ahead, Dietz says, “MIP Junior/MIPCOM is an Scandinavia. The only wish I would like to get fulfilled is they important date in our annual calendar of markets. The event should produce more episodes. Often they just come up with gives us the opportunity to screen finished six, eight or ten episodes, where we would need 26.” shows we have followed over the years Not surprisingly then, at MIPCOM Debertin will be looking and also to discover and discuss new for high-quality live-action series for the 6-to-9 demodevelopment. In terms of trends, graphic. He is also in the market for “great animation, for animated comedy shows remain school-age girls and boys.” Feature films will also be on his a hot topic for us and there is a shopping list, as KiKA has three slots to fill per week. constant need for this kind of Caroline Cochaux, the director of programs for kids’ and show. But we are more hesiyouth channels at Lagardère Active—which include the tant to pick up live action.” dominant French kids’ services Canal J and TiJi, and the The other big player in family-skewing Gulli—says she is off to MIPCOM in search Germany is public channel of “big brands that will appeal to children and the entire KiKA, a joint venture between family. It can either be animation or live action. We also ZDF and ARD. “KiKA is doing look for animation specials or TV films.” extremely well because of Listing recent successful shows, Cochaux picks out Back many great titles we produced, at the Barnyard and My Fairly OddParents. The latter show co-produced or acquired durshe calls “funny and a bit crazy! The whole family loves it, as ing the last 24 months,” says there are several ways to understand the dialogue.” Sebastian Debertin, the head of Addressing the relative appeal of animation and live acquisitions, co-productions and action, she says, “I believe youngsters would prefer total fiction. “It paid off to look long term animation, and pre-teens would go for live action! That said, and follow our high-quality content we have had real success with Mia and me, which is a part strategy. Despite new competition, we are live-action, part animated series.” the daily market leader in kids’ prime time Comedy programming is “definitely hotter than ever,” and the number one channel for the youngest Cochaux says, a perspective backed by all the buyers sur[viewers]. SLR Productions’ Guess How Much I veyed here. Love You is fantastic and so is Tilly and Friends from “There continues to be a significant amount of animated Aardman. The new CGI series Maya the Bee and Vic comedy available in the market with broad, international the Viking are great fun, while The New Advenappeal,” observes ABC’s Brennan. “As the children’s indus-
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“We know children’s media habits are changing and we must innovate to reach audiences whenever and wherever they are,” says Healy. “Dixi is a great example of how content can work across multiple platforms and at the same time help children and parents engage with important issues and continue their learning.”
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
KiKA is the German broadcast partner for ZDF Enterprises’ The New Adventures of Peter Pan.
try moves increasingly toward this genre, we need to ensure that distinct, live-action storytelling remains part of our content mix. We should also explore innovative production models and new formats, including short-form, miniseries and features, that push beyond the prescriptive nature of current kids output.” Revivals are another key trend to watch, CITV’s Metran notes, “with Thunderbirds Are Go for us, Teletubbies and Clangers for CBeebies and Danger Mouse for CBBC.” Turner’s Hidalgo backs up that view, adding, “Reboots of successful classics continue to be popular. We will be bringing back The Powerpuff Girls, which we are really excited about, as well as working with Warner Bros. to launch new series featuring core Boomerang characters.”
KIDS ONLINE Broadcasters are also closely tracking how kids are using online and mobile platforms. The BBC is one of Europe’s most active broadcasters when it comes to digital content for kids. It approaches digital in various ways. For example, it debuted the last season of the comedy drama series Hank Zipzer on its on-demand platform BBC iPlayer, underlining the shift in viewing patterns among British kids. It also creates online gaming content to complement series such as Junior Vets and Strange Hill High. In addition to this, it created a 30-webisode comedy drama called Dixi specifically for distribution across mobile, tablet and desktop. Available in the form of daily video blogs, the series encourages children to enjoy the creativity of the Net while also getting them to think about the potential dangers of social networking, explains Patrick Healy, the head of product for BBC Children’s.
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Nickelodeon’s Borkent says there is room in his remit for content “that is specifically aimed at nonlinear platforms. We know kids are watching content everywhere, so we have to scope out interesting short-form ideas for our Nick apps. Not only is that useful in its own right, but it’s a really good way of figuring out if content has the potential to be adapted for long form.” While Borkent is seeking out new concepts for Nick’s nonlinear platforms, most broadcasters are using apps, websites and other destinations to extend the linear storytelling experience. “If an idea fits better or has its roots in the nonlinear space, then we are interested,” Turner’s Hidalgo says. “Kid audiences are moving into those spaces so we are also moving there with our own production of shorts, apps and games that are produced purposely for that. So yes, we are looking for good content ideas wherever they come from. We can expect an ecosystem where TV is the core element, but we will increasingly deliver across multiple platforms and devices.” Levine says there is no requirement for stand-alone nonlinear content at Disney at present. “Our emphasis is on content that extends the experience of our shows. We’re not looking to launch new IP from the nonlinear space.” At ABC in Australia, Brennan says that it is “vital we create the infrastructure that can support a platform-agnostic approach and manage content accordingly. In the future, this will include programming or gaming that lives away from the channel.” In Germany, there are regulations in place that limit how much KiKA can do in terms of its original nonlinear content strategy. “Public TV in Germany is limited by law in order to keep the commercial broadcasters happy,” Debertin says. “So we are not allowed to put original content only online. Instead, a show has to be on TV before a rerun on the web is allowed for a certain time only.” At rival SUPER RTL, Dietz says nonlinear commissioning is something he looks at, “but we are very careful about our content selection.” As buyers adjust to the realities of serving kids across multiple platforms, they are also facing competitive threats from new services—namely Netflix and Amazon. “It seems that producers are quite happy with their recent SVOD business as new platforms emerge,” Dietz says. “Let’s see which shows will make it to the second round of licenses and which platforms will make it in this competitive environment.” Tara Sorensen, the head of kids’ programming at Amazon Studios, says she is looking for “original content and innovative ideas in the preschool and kids 6-to-11 demos (11- and 22minute formats) for consideration on Amazon Prime Instant Video. We want to see projects that are character- and storydriven and can be signature [properties for] Amazon.” Clearly, from the traditional free-to-air broadcasters to the pan-regional giants to emerging platforms, all buyers are searching for the same thing: great content that will keep kids coming back to the screen.
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I R B T
Sesame Workshop’s The Furchester Hotel on CBeebies.
KIDS A look at the latest developments in the U.K.’s children’s content market. By Andy Fry s with many kids’ TV markets around the world, how you assess the health of the British industry depends on whether you analyze the broadcast side or its production base. Viewed from a channel provider perspective, the U.K. is a vibrant, dynamic market with dozens of linear and interactive services for kids of all ages. But focus instead on indigenous production and the situation is more fragile. Although there are some reasons for optimism (discussed later), a reduction in channel commissioning, lower licence fees, restrictions on advertising to kids, the increasing domination of the U.S. content pipeline and
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the negative impact of a protracted economic downturn mean that the industry that gave us global hits like Teletubbies, Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and Peppa Pig is facing challenging times.
AT THE BEEB Before we explore the prospects for producers, however, it’s important to look at the channel landscape. The obvious place to start is the BBC, which delivers its kids’ content via two complementary services, CBBC (for 6- to 12-yearolds) and CBeebies (for preschoolers). Kids’ content was moved off the flagship BBC One and BBC Two in 2012.
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The BBC is by far the biggest backer of U.K.-produced kids’ content. Even after a recent wave of programming budget cuts, around £140 million ($230 million) a year is allocated to the CBBC and CBeebies services, of which £100 million ($163 million) is earmarked for production.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE The BBC spreads its investment across a range of genres, including drama, news, factual, entertainment and animation. Current kids’ drama and comedy titles include Grandpa in My Pocket, Katie Morag, The Dumping Ground and the Henry Winkler series Hank Zipzer, all of which have been renewed. Scotland-based Katie Morag is unique because it has been co-commissioned by CBBC and CBeebies—marking the first time the two channels have partnered on a show. Cheryl Taylor, the controller and portfolio head of CBBC, says some episodes will be aired exclusively on CBBC to cater to older children. “The exclusive episodes on CBBC will allow us to develop more multifaceted story lines for the older CBBC audience,” Taylor said when announcing the co-commission. Among the new titles is Millie Inbetween, about a young girl whose parents have split up and formed new relationships. “Millie Inbetween is a timely commission,” says Taylor, “as many in our audience are now living in blended families.”
The new and returning animation titles include the preschool shows Tree Fu Tom, Sarah & Duck and Boj, and comedy animation series Strange Hill High. While the BBC’s slate retains a good deal of range and diversity, there’s no question that competition on the broadcasting front has forced it to adopt a more commercial stance with regard to its kids’ content. A good indication of this is the five-year development and production pact BBC Children’s signed in 2013 with FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment. Titles that have come out of the joint venture include Tree Fu Tom, Wizards vs Aliens and Strange Hill High, all of which have done well enough with young audiences to earn recommissions. The next show to come out of the partnership will be Danger Mouse, a reboot of the classic 1980s animation series, co-produced by FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment and Boulder Media. “Danger Mouse is the last word in delightfully eccentric heroics, and with [sidekick] Penfold at his side, the muchloved duo will win over a whole new generation of fans,” says Taylor, who commissioned the show. This move toward reboots and franchises is evident in other CBBC/CBeebies commissions. Recent developments include a recommission for Teletubbies (now owned by Canada’s DHX Media) and the introduction of The Furchester Hotel, a co-production with Sesame Workshop featuring Elmo and Cookie Monster. The latter was produced over a three-month period at MediaCityUK in Salford, underlining the BBC’s policy of trying to keep as much kids’ production as possible based within the U.K.
STIFF COMPETITION Peppa Pig, made by Astley Baker Davies and sold by Entertainment One Family, has been the biggest hit to come out of the U.K. kids’ TV space in recent times.
In broadcasting terms, the BBC’s rivals split into two camps. First, there are the traditional free-to-air broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 (all of which now have a presence in digital pay TV and DTT). Then, there are the international pay-TV players, led by Disney, Nickelodeon and Turner. ITV, the largest ad-funded broadcaster in the U.K., made a similar move to the BBC, taking kids’ content from its main channel and putting it on a dedicated service, CITV. The channel airs daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., targeting a core base of 6- to 12-year-olds. “Animated comedy series are doing particularly well for us, especially Horrid Henry, Mr Bean: Animated Series and Almost Naked Animals,” says Jamila Metran, CITV’s head of programming. “Boy-skewing action-adventure series such as Digimon Fusion and Matt Hatter Chronicles perform fantastically well for us in our weekday morning slots, pulling in an average 9.4-percent and 7.2-percent share of viewing, respectively, in children 4 to 12. Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge also performs well, bringing our viewers adventure and high-quality entertainment on a large scale.” Metran says CITV’s budget is split about 70/30 in favor of commissions over acquired content. “New commissions can be commercially challenging, but we continue to commission original U.K. children’s content as part of our programming mix.” Coming to the channel in 2015, for example, is Thunderbirds Are Go. There’s also the recently launched breakfast show Scrambled!, which “regularly encourages viewers to be fully involved in the action by soliciting submissions from the audience, including photos and videos,” Metran notes.
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While it takes a lot of content from its sister U.S. channel, Nickelodeon U.K. is also commissioning its own originals, such as Lily’s Driftwood Bay from Irish indie Sixteen South.
“As a free-to-air channel, we’re also in a fortunate position because we’re able to pick the best titles on offer from the U.S.,” she adds. Examples include The Looney Tunes Show and Pokémon. While ITV has maintained some investment in kids’ content via CITV, the U.K.’s other leading commercial broadcaster, Channel 4, has significantly reduced its commitment to the genre and has a negligible budget for kids’ originations. Channel 5, meanwhile, is best known for its early-morning kids’ block, Milkshake! Launched in 1997, Milkshake! has been an important platform for preschool brands to establish themselves in the market, providing the exposure they need to drive consumer-products programs. Right now, for example, the channel airs titles such as Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, Thomas & Friends, The Mr. Men Show, Noddy in Toyland, Tickety Toc and The WotWots. For 2015, Channel 5 has committed to The Wombles, a revamp of a classic 1970s brand.
TAKE FIVE This relationship between Channel 5 and preschool property owners could be about to change dramatically. Earlier this year, Viacom International Media Networks, owner of Nickelodeon and MTV, agreed to acquire the broadcaster for £450 million ($730 million). In September, Nickelodeon announced it would be teaming with Milkshake! on their first joint commission, Nella the Knight. The show will be produced in the U.K. and jointly funded by the two broadcasters. In addition, Viacom announced that two top Nick shows, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, would begin airing on
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Channel 5. Prior to the acquisition, in 2013, Viacom International Media Networks made a deal to place the Nick Jr. preschool series Bubble Guppies on the free-to-air broadcaster. That coincided with a Bubble Guppies consumerproduct rollout across publishing, toys, software and home entertainment. As for the British pay-TV market, the three main players are Nickelodeon, Disney and Turner. Their strategies involve largely using U.S.-produced programming, supplemented with some local commissions and tailored presenters and promotions. There has also been a concerted shift toward supporting the main network brands with time-shifted +1 hour services, online gamebased destinations and, increasingly, mobile apps. Tina McCann, the senior VP and managing director of Nickelodeon U.K., says her division is currently in good shape, having seen a 12-percent gain in audience share year-on-year. “We benefit from a great content pipeline coming out of the U.S.,” McCann says. “There’s been a particularly strong investment in animation recently, and we will see the benefits of that in the next year or so. One thing we are doing is giving Nicktoons more of a personality of its own.” McCann says there are also plans to refresh Nick’s preschool offering. “Nick Jr. is very important to us right now because the U.K. birthrate means there are lots of under-9s! Fortunately, we’re in a strong position with shows like Peppa Pig and the arrival of the new Dora and Friends series, which looks fantastic.”
LOCAL VIEW There’s been a feeling in the last few years that the pay-TV channels have not done much for the U.K. in terms of supporting local kids’ production. McCann believes that this situation is changing. She points to three preschool shows that Nickelodeon U.K. has given the greenlight to recently. Lily’s Driftwood Bay from Belfast indie Sixteen South has just been rewarded with a new season. Puffin Rock is being made by Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon and Northern Irish indie Dog Ears in partnership with Penguin for Nick Jr. and RTÉjr. Digby Dragon is based on books by Sally Hunter and produced by British animation company BlueZoo Productions with Aardman Animations. On top of all this, McCann says, “We’re about to shoot a live-action pilot. That’s a very exciting development for us and something we think will be of interest to our sister networks.”
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EMEA, says, “We will be aligning our Boomerang channels globally with a new look and feel and a common unique positioning that we believe will resonate strongly with boys and girls 4 to 7 and their families.” Disney’s presence in the U.K. pay-TV market is led by three channels, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior. All three rely heavily on the U.S. pipeline of liveaction and animated hits. The portfolio is the number one pay kids’ multiplex in the U.K. for the seventh year running. The biggest challenge for the multiplex is the sheer competitiveness of the market. Disney’s recent U.K. commissions include the football program Goalmouth and the preschool animation Jungle Junction. Disney Junior has also greenlit a second season of Nina Needs to Go, a U.K.-produced shortform preschool series about a girl who always needs to use the toilet at awkward moments. While the big three pay-TV firms still dominate the market, one development worth noting is the recent acquisition of CSC Media Group by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). While this isn’t a kid-specific deal, a key part of CSC’s 19-channel portfolio are the kids’ brands POP, which airs shows such as Littlest Pet Shop, Totally Spies!, Transformers Rescue Bots and Rekkit Rabbit; and PopGirl, skewing older with live-action series like Life with Derek. It’s too early to say whether SPT will build up POP as a rival to the big three. Previous contenders to be a fourth force in global kids’ platforms—such as KidsCo, which closed down last year, and Discovery Kids—have struggled to compete with the volume of content coming out of Viacom, Turner and Disney. Clearly, though, a well-resourced POP would be useful for independent kids’ studios—though the role of fourth major kids’ player may already have gone to Netflix.
One of the top series on Channel 5’s Milkshake! block is Toby’s Travelling Circus, which is sold worldwide by CAKE. Turner, similarly, has a strong pipeline of shows from the U.S. for use across Cartoon Network and Boomerang. These include new series such as Uncle Grandpa, Steven Universe, We Bare Bears and Clarence, all of which have come out of Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank. Turner’s biggest contribution to British production, meanwhile, has been the creation of a U.K. studio for international creative development, which led to The Amazing World of Gumball, a successful animated series that has aired on Cartoon Network feeds worldwide. The big story at present for Turner is a planned revamp of Boomerang. Patricia Hidalgo, the senior VP and chief content and creative officer for kids at Turner Broadcasting System
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While the broadcasting space appears to be in healthy shape, recent times have not been easy for British kids’ content producers, with a significant drop in commissioning over the last few years. According to regulatory body Ofcom, total spend on U.K.-originated first-run kids’ programming by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 dropped from £97 million ($158 million) in 2006 to £83 million ($135 million) in 2012. First-run originated hours on this basket of channels more than halved from 1,584 in 2006 to 778 in 2011. Since 2006, kids’ drama output has declined by just over a third, while factual programming has declined by two-thirds. John McVay, the chief executive of the independent producers trade body Pact, doesn’t really blame the broadcasters for the reduction in local commissions, pointing out that it is the result of a market failure brought about by government strategy. “The Communications Act in 2003 didn’t require broadcasters to air a set number of kids’ hours in their schedules,” McVay says. “And then, a few years later, we saw the introduction of restrictions on advertising to children. When you combined those interventions with the high cost of kids’ origination and the lack of incentives to produce in the U.K., it was inevitable that the kids’ business was going to find it tough.” More recently, there has been some better news, says McVay, with the introduction of tax credits for film, high-end
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Made by the British indie Spider Eye, Jungle Junction airs on Disney Junior in the U.K. as well as in a number of other markets.
TV and animation. “The current government introduced new tax credits in 2012. It’s still quite early in terms of feeding through into the animation business. But it’s definitely a welcome development, which will help put U.K. producers in a better position when negotiating on rights and production finance.” In fact, McVay is lobbying for the tax credits system to be extended to cover all forms of kids’ shows. “British TV producers have created many successful, innovative and creative programs for children, but there’s nothing at present to support children’s drama, documentary, game shows and mixed-media programming. In our view, it is time that children’s TV is recognized alongside film and TV drama.” McVay is optimistic that the current government will listen. “The indie production sector is recognized as an economic success. With a lot of our members active in kids’ TV, tax relief would nurture talent and create employment opportunities,” he says.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNES While extending tax incentives would be welcome, it’s not clear whether this alone will be enough to reverse the fortunes of the British kids’ TV production industry. But there is one other factor helping to underpin the status of the local production sector, namely increased involvement from international studios. FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment’s partnership with the BBC is a good example of this. While the international rights reside with FremantleMedia, the benefit to the U.K. is that the content is produced in the U.K. for the BBC. This is broadly analogous to the situation with DHX Media’s new Teletubbies, which is being made in the U.K. by Darrall Macqueen for CBeebies. There’s a similar
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dynamic with HIT Entertainment. While HIT now belongs to the Fisher-Price division of Mattel, it is still an active producer within the U.K. In June, for example, it unveiled plans for a British-produced CG-animated series based on Fisher-Price’s Little People brand.
SOLID FOUNDATION Another company that combines international financial and distribution muscle with British production capability is Zodiak Kids, which is active in the U.K. via indie producer The Foundation. The Foundation CEO Michael Carrington acknowledges that the last decade has been tough for British kids’ content producers, but he believes there are reasons to feel encouraged looking forward. “The introduction of tax incentives is good news, but I’m also excited by the fact that the BBC is abandoning its in-house production quotas. That will open up opportunities for indies.” He also sees Viacom’s acquisition of Channel 5 as a positive development: “They don’t have enough content to fill Milkshake! completely, so I expect they’ll still need thirdparty suppliers.” Carrington also says that the increasingly global nature of the TV business can work in U.K. producers’ favor. “I think the emergence of platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Google provides an incredible opportunity for U.K. producers because their audiences have such an insatiable appetite for content. In addition, there are opportunities for us to work for broadcasters in other markets.” Considering all these points together, Carrington is optimistic. “It has been a tense time for children’s producers, but I think it is time to move on. I definitely think we’re heading for a more enthusiastic environment for U.K. kids’ content.”
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Producers and distributors are beginning to address the gap in the market for top-quality content aimed at girl audiences. By David Wood The news that The Powerpuff Girls will return to Cartoon Network in 2016 after an absence of more than a decade has been mooted by some as the return of girl power to international children’s TV schedules. The show was—and presumably will continue to be—all about girl power. It involved the adventures of three young girls created by Professor Utonium, who used sugar and spice and mixed them with Chemical X to create three energetic “daughters” with superpowers who fight crime in the fictional Townsville. But their return has prompted a bout of navel-gazing about gender imbalance in children’s animation. Does The Powerpuff Girls’ reboot mean that program-makers have been unable to come up with enough fresh, new girl-centric ideas to excite the taste buds of commissioners? While the live-action genre is well known for its girl-led creations, from iCarly to Hannah Montana, one issue is that animation, certainly for 6- to 11-year-olds, has tended to remain very boy-skewed. “Boys are more spoiled, with more great content made for them than for girls,” says Philippe Soutter, the president of PGS Entertainment, which has on its slate the girl superhero series Miraculous LadyBug. “The big question is, Do we have enough great content for girls on the air that makes them excited by the television medium?” The answer seems to be, not yet. And it’s not for lack of interest from broadcasters. “At MIPTV earlier this year, there were several broadcasters and producers, including HIT Entertainment and Hasbro Studios, who were open to finding shows with strong girl leads,” says Tom van Waveren, CEO and creative director of CAKE, which is home to hits like Ella Bella Bingo. “Everyone is looking for a fresh approach. In fact, we have been talking about making shows with more girl lead characters for 20 years—but it’s still mainly boy animation heroes out there.” Micheline Azoury, the head of international sales and brand manager at Mondo TV, confirms that it’s the relative success of boys’ series and their associated licensing and marketing activities that has pushed the girl-oriented content to the sidelines.
“In the past two years we noticed a lack of girls’ animated properties in the market, due to a wave of successful boys’ action-adventure programs backed by toys and merchandising,” Azoury notes. “But also we have broadcasters asking for more girls’ properties, particularly with a comedy flavor,” she observes. Among Mondo’s girl-skewing properties are Angel’s Friends and the brand-new Sissi, the Young Empress.
GROWING PAINS It’s clear that there are big opportunities out there for producers who can successfully develop girl-centric properties. But it’s not easy. “I think it’s one of the most exciting genres of kids’ programming, but it’s a challenge,” says PGS’s Soutter. “There are very few ideas that managed to break through or that have had the ability to succeed in the long run.” Maybe that’s why Cartoon Network has gone back to The Powerpuff Girls, updating the show with a more contemporary approach. PGS has risen to the challenge to create more girl-skewing content with its representation deal for Miraculous LadyBug, a new animated property for 6- to 10-year-olds from Zagtoon and Method Animation, with Korea’s SAMG Animation Studio and Japanese producer Toei Animation. The show will premiere on Disney Channel across EMEA and France’s TF1, and is billed as “the property that girls have been waiting a long time for.” Soutter notes, “Full of power and energy, she’s the 2.0 superhero. What makes the show so cool to buyers is that, on top of an amazing theatrical look, LadyBug brings a modern twist to the girl superhero genre. She is a positive, aspirational brunette heroine, but also has her daily teenager challenges with her friends, school and passion for fashion.” Although boy-skewed series have dominated the schedules, that’s not to say that there have been no successful girl-skewing franchises. “There’s our own My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop,” says Finn Arnesen, Hasbro Studios’ senior VP of global sales distribution and development, “alongside Dora the Explorer, Doc
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For Hans Ulrich Stoef, the CEO of m4e, girls’ shows have to be “adventurous, exciting, different and made in a way so that girls can clearly identify with the main characters.” Stoef adds, “The storytelling has to be funny, but at the same time emotional. Characters have to be developed in a very deep way, and you need to give them heart—and also make them authentic.” A lot of time and investment into the story, design and animation are required of any successful property, but with girlfocused titles, that’s even more the case, insists Stoef. “We feel that girls’ shows need more of a unique and clear style compared to boys’ shows.” Stoef points to Mia and me, m4e’s venture with March Entertainment, Lucky Punch and Rainbow that has resonated with girls across the globe, as a success story. “It’s a very creative, hybrid show combining live action and CGI animation enriched with mystic unicorn characters, as well as Mia and her friends Yuko and Mo, who kids love and can easily identify with.” The German company’s latest collaboration is with Londonbased animation studio Absolutely Cuckoo and Telegael in Ireland on the CGI-animated TV series Wissper for fall 2015. The series—the brainchild of Absolutely Cuckoo’s Dan Good, who also created Waybuloo—follows the adventures of a girl “animal whisperer” who helps creatures around the world. “Wissper is a story about a girl who has the unique ability to listen and talk to animals and thus helps solve their problems,” Stoef says.
Cyber Group’s Mademoiselle Zazie features a young girl as its lead character but targets a gender-neutral audience with its focus on friendship.
McStuffins and Sofia the First. These successes show that broadcasters are now also open to programming skewed toward girls, as well as more gender-neutral shows. They are bringing a better overall balance to schedules, countering the boy-skewed series that have been so dominant in the past.” Internationally successful girls’ series will need “a strong female lead who should be relevant, upbeat, positive, funny and a little feisty and ‘kickass,’ ” says Arnesen. “That said, you must still have great writing, wonderful characters and a compelling story line to succeed.”
COOL KIDS Patrick Elmendorff, the managing director of Studio 100 Media—distributor of the live-action megahit House of Anubis, as well as the new CGI take on Heidi—adds that in both live action and animation, “the story arcs must be captivating with modern content portraying girls as ‘cool’ friends, accepted for their intelligence and loyalty and being part of the clique or ‘gang’. Girls like story lines about friendship, mystery and adventure and, of course, romance appeals, whereas boys are more into pure action, fun and fantasy.”
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The most progress to date has been made in the creation of gender-neutral shows, which appeal equally to boys and girls, with enough action and comedy to keep boys hooked and enough positive female characters to keep girls happy. Studio 100’s Elmendorff points out that as a general trend, broadcasters are definitely looking for more genderneutral formats. One of Cyber Group Studios’ big new series, Zorro the Chronicles, presold to France 3, RAI, Télé-Québec and VRT for delivery next year, illustrates how the market has changed, says chairman and CEO Pierre Sissmann. “The Zorro property has, in the past, targeted boys pretty emphatically. Twenty years ago, we would not have produced Zorro with female characters, but this time we are introducing Zorro’s twin sister, Ines, which has allowed us to update the concept. In particular, it has allowed us to develop a series with more comedy, which is one thing that broadcasters are asking for. “We didn’t really set out to make it more girl-skewed,” admits Sissmann. “We did it simply to bring more comedy by trading off boy/girl differences in particular. The benefits are that it has allowed for the development of different themes and better, stronger scripts. There’s no doubt that introducing a heroine who challenges her brother is very attractive to girls.” A female character takes center stage in Cyber Group’s Mademoiselle Zazie, following the adventures of a young girl and her friends. In order to create a show that will speak to today’s girl audiences, it is essential to “create characters that are not clichés, but that are well rounded, charismatic and compelling,” says CAKE’s van Waveren. “Aspiration comes through charisma, which comes through characters with a
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Mondo is firmly targeting girls aged 4 to 10 with Sissi, the Young Empress.
positive outlook and optimism, and that’s what we find broadcasters respond most strongly to.” Easier said than done, of course. “I can’t think of that many groundbreaking new shows that are focused on girl lead characters,” admits van Waveren. “One of the best examples remains Dora the Explorer,” Nick Jr.’s successful, long-running animated series about an intrepid explorer. “She’s a charismatic character that doesn’t fall into any clichéd category, which is why the property has proved so strong in my view.” CAKE has its own preschool girl-skewing series in Wanda and the Alien, from Komixx Entertainment, which works because it has a very positive, original message, according to van Waveren. “The lead character just happens to be a girl, and the show’s message is about embracing what’s different, because that’s what makes life interesting.” A rare success in animation aimed at older girls was Cartoon Network’s Totally Spies! from French producer Marathon Media. “This was a particularly smart show,” says van Waveren. “Basically, it was a French animated version of Charlie’s Angels that both boys and girls could watch and enjoy.” The fact that there are so few similarly successful animation series aimed at older girls highlights the difficulty with girl-led narrative, argues van Waveren. “Examples in the 6-to-11 age group are hard to find, perhaps because we all think in archetypes and finding a female archetype is
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hard. Maybe it’s simply that there are not enough female creators out there,” muses van Waveren. At least there are some positive signs in the form of creative talent such as Jennifer Lee, co-writer of Wreck It Ralph and director of the Oscar-winning Frozen, and Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe.
GENDER GAP? There is no evidence that girls watch any less television than boys, m4e’s Stoef stresses. “Looking at the German market, about 90 percent of 6- to 19-year-old boys or girls watch TV daily, with no significant difference between the amounts they watch.” But there is some evidence that the type of television they watch differs, with boys tending toward animated action shows, while girls begin to watch more live-action and prime-time television entertainment as they get older. “Preschool boys and girls watch the same programs, but from the age of 6 they start to deviate,” observes Elmendorff. “Boys watch more animated series than girls and also prefer shows with action and adventure. As girls mature faster than boys, they tend to watch less animation and move toward watching more tween/teen live action and dramas that better reflect their own world and their own experiences.” Clearly, the boy-skewed animated properties have limited appeal to them, and it’s no surprise that live action and sitcoms are the genres where girl power is most clearly expressed.
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Hasbro Studios has a broad slate of girl-skewing shows, among them My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Nickelodeon and Disney Channel have broken a lot of ground in finding strong lead female comedy characters in live-action series such as iCarly and Hannah Montana.
action, it’s crucial to properly develop the social-media side of a property.” This means offering interactive components, such as apps and Facebook and Twitter engagement, to allow girls to communicate about the brand with their friends. This is in addition to core licensing and marketing activities such as publishing, toys and games and, of course, fashion. Mattel’s Monster High broke the mold with its unconventional horror- and sci-fi-themed collectible dolls and accessories. Compare and contrast the waning fortunes of its traditional Barbie dolls range, where sales are on the slide as the brand looks increasingly dated and in need of reinvention. One new property that ticks all the L&M boxes is Studio 100’s pop-oriented K3 animation series, based on a real Benelux girl band of the same name. The franchise has already spawned live-action TV shows and movies. “It’s a great girl-skewing property which focuses on fashionable teenage girls’ matters, with vibrant music and zany adventures,” says Elmendorff. Ultimately, says Mondo’s Azoury, “A successful girls’ property these days needs to copy how girls live their lives, with fun, comedy and adventure, preferably mixed with fashion and glamour.”
That success continues with the latest shows from Disney, including the tween comedy Girl Meets World, the family comedy Jessie and Evermoor, a new British tween drama. Nick’s live-action production slate includes Bella and the Bulldogs, which follows a perky head cheerleader who unexpectedly becomes the new quarterback for her school team. Also going into production is Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn from Matt Fleckenstein, a writer on iCarly and Victorious, which tells the story of a 10-year-old girl whose sibling rivalry with her three brothers is heightened by the fact that they are quadruplets. In live action, there is much more balance between male and female lead characters, perhaps because there is a pool of young talented girls out there who can lead these liveaction formats. The challenge for producers of girls’ live action is to match the production values of Disney and Nickelodeon, which rule the roost in this genre. For properties to gain traction with older girls, they should be attuned to their particular preferences, particularly for online and social media. “Research shows that girls are online communicating rather than playing,” says CAKE’s van Waveren. “Boys are more easily drawn into fantasy worlds. They will take their physical friends from school into a fantasy gaming world, whereas girls’ social interactions are more based in the real world.” Stoef from m4e adds, “Because girls are very much into communication and inter- Studio 100’s new animated series K3 is about a girl band and their adventures while on tour.
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Unveiling its slate of new and returning shows to advertisers earlier this year, Cartoon Network in the U.S. introduced a new motto: “Always On.” Evolving its efforts to reach kids on every platform, the network is ramping up its digital-only content offerings with acquired and commissioned shows, and giving kids more ways to access that programming. The Cartoon Network App delivers full episodes and games, while Cartoon Network Anything is a new service built exclusively for mobile devices. These complement the linear channel—regularly the leading network for boys 6 to 11 and often the top-rated network for all kids in prime time—which has been enthralling audiences with hit series like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Steven Universe, Uncle Grandpa and more. Delivering more great content, on every platform possible, will be among the focuses for Christina Miller, the new president and general manager for Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim at Turner Broadcasting. Another priority for Miller will be greater collaboration with Cartoon Network’s programming teams around the world as the platform looks to build more global brands that are able to extend from TV to digital to consumer products. That’s an area that is not new to Miller; prior to running NBA Digital at Turner, she was senior VP at Cartoon Network Enterprises, launching the Ben 10 consumer-products franchise and extending a host of other TV shows into toys and related merchandise. Miller also previously oversaw brand licensing at HIT Entertainment. She tells TV Kids about some of her plans for Cartoon Network and Boomerang in the U.S.
CHRISTINA MILLER By Mansha Daswani
TV KIDS: What appealed to you about the prospect of leading Turner’s kids’ and young-adult portfolio? MILLER: This was a great opportunity to not only return to the Turner business that I originally joined but also to help unlock its growth potential and to leverage the strength of the brands globally at a very pivotal and exciting time in our business. TV KIDS: What are the strengths of the Cartoon Network and Boomerang brands in this highly fragmented channels landscape? MILLER: Both of these brands have incredible equity and an audience with a strong affinity for the content they each offer. Cartoon Network’s strength is being the dominant funny place for boys. Boomerang has always been multigenerational and a destination for families to share content that is enjoyed by all ages together. For our business overall, both of these brands complement each other really well and together give us a wider audience across many demos.
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TV KIDS: From your experience at Cartoon Network Enterprises and at HIT, what do you see as the key factors needed to build a great TV show into a brand that kids can engage with through multiple consumer products? MILLER: Great storytelling. There has to be an immersive approach that combines strong storytelling, relatable characters and themes, along with innovative products and partnerships. Add a strategic and comprehensive franchisemanagement plan, and, with a little patience, you may just have all the right ingredients to have a sustainable global consumer-products program.
TV KIDS: How is Turner enabling kids to engage with Cartoon Network and Boomerang on nonlinear platforms? MILLER: By always being on and making sure kids have access to our content whenever and wherever they want it. Whether that is through VOD, mobile platforms, tablets, etc., we are developing specific content and gaming for each platform
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and making sure it is a fun and seamless experience. We’re also offering innovative products like the Cartoon Network App, which allows kids to watch live programming and play games simultaneously on their tablet; and Cartoon Network Anything, a fast-paced micro-network, made exclusively for mobile phones and media players, with an ever-growing stream of games, activities, trivia and clips, each lasting around 10 to 15 seconds. All of these experiences are taking into account the daily behavior of kids today and how they like to consume and discover their content. TV KIDS: Your original series, among them Regular Show and Adventure Time, have devout fans across the globe. What has gone into building a creative environment that fosters talent? MILLER: We have a very strong content team led by [chief content officer] Rob Sorcher at Cartoon Network Studios. They have done a great job of finding, embracing and nurturing a new generation of young animators who have a unique voice and a special way of telling stories that have really resonated with our viewers. They are given the opportunity to explore, share and bring their vision to life in a very creatively led environment. TV KIDS: Tell me about how your U.S. teams are working with the international Cartoon Network and Boomerang programming executives. How would you like to develop more cooperation across the globe? MILLER: We are now working even more closely together on being strategically aligned with a single global point of view so that we can take every advantage of leveraging the scope and scale of these brands around the world. We are putting a strong globalfranchise-management structure into place to support and partner across all territories so that we have continued growth with global hits like Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Regular Show, Steven Universe and Clarence, as well as with future brands. TV KIDS: What are your goals for the linear, nonlinear and consumer-products businesses in the year ahead? MILLER: Along with leveraging these brands across all territories to grow and discover emerging audiences, we must be taking a cross-platform approach that harnesses the total strength of all lines of business to deliver an experience to our fans wherever and whenever they want to be reached. We need to also find new ways to increase the exposure and consumption of our brands that will add to this overall experience.
Cartoon Network’s success continues to be driven by its original commissions, among them The Amazing World of Gumball, which is made in the U.K., Steven Universe and the megahit Adventure Time.
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TV KIDS: What are your expectations as you head to your first MIP Junior in your new role? MILLER: Along with seeing new content, I am looking to get a good overview of what the global marketplace has to offer in the kids’ space, and to also hear how others are finding ways to keep this audience engaged. I am especially looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues, friends and partners whom I’ve worked with in the past.
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strengths across multiple platforms. We’ve done a lot through acquisition over the last few years, and while we continue to seek future acquisitions, I’d also like to increase the focus on the organic side of the business. We have added a number of key drivers in the content world, brands such as Teletubbies and Degrassi. We believe that these brands have tremendous long-term value, and growing them organically is really where we will increase our attention in the near term. We have also recently added Family Channel, Disney XD and English- and French-language Disney Junior [in Canada]—four channels that give us additional great platforms to leverage our content. TV KIDS: What advantages does DHX derive from the Family Channel portfolio? LANDRY: For us as content creators, to be able to acquire a linear channel with access to the great system that is Canada is a tremendous advantage for a number of reasons. Family Channel’s customers are all blue-chip Canadian cable and telco companies, [with whom it has] long-standing relationships, so it allows us to diversify the revenue and cash flow for DHX. Revenues from production tend to be irregular at times, but Family Channel gives us a stable base going forward. It allows us
DHX’S DANA LANDRY By Anna Carugati
DHX Media has always been on a growth trajectory, but a series of recent acquisitions has given the producer and distributor further scale and reach. Already home to such well-known brands as Caillou, Inspector Gadget and Johnny Test, DHX has acquired Epitome Pictures, producer of the hit teen franchise Degrassi, and Ragdoll Worldwide, creator of the preschool phenomenon Teletubbies. This summer, DHX also finalized a deal for the Family Channel portfolio in Canada. Newly appointed CEO Dana Landry tells TV Kids about what these acquisitions bring to the company.
TV KIDS: What are DHX’s key strengths, and what are the areas you would like to focus more on? LANDRY: Our strength is content creation in the kids’ and family genre. We’ve attained this through leveraging the Canadian system and having access to subsidies. Many of the original founders of the company have multiple years of experience in the content space. We’ve also built strength in global distribution on multiple platforms. We have relationships with linear television outlets in more than 300 different territories and with digital platforms. We’ve added some licensing strengths over the last few years through some of our recent acquisitions, starting with Wildbrain in 2010, then the Cookie Jar business in 2012, and then CPLG, which is a representation agency business. We’ve grown into a diversified, vertically integrated media content company with
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to leverage our existing brands and move them into production at an earlier stage than we would have had we been just a content company without a linear channel.
TV KIDS: DHX recently acquired Epitome and Ragdoll. Why were they important acquisitions? LANDRY: Both were tremendous opportunities for different reasons. With Epitome, the main asset we acquired was Degrassi, which is a world-renowned leader in teen angst drama series. It sells in more than 140 countries and has a long-standing relationship with TeenNick in the U.S., where the current version of the show is in its 14th season. In Canada, Degrassi remains extremely popular on MTV. The Degrassi brand has been on television for more than 30 years. By adding the Degrassi title, we have expanded our portfolio; we’re aging it up a little bit, but still keeping it in the family category—it’s a perfect fit. With Epitome we also added a new series, another teen drama, which will play opposite Degrassi on TeenNick, called Open Heart. In Canada, Open Heart will be on YTV. Ragdoll is a bit of a “pinch-me” kind of moment for us at DHX. A property like Teletubbies, which we acquired in the Ragdoll transaction, only comes around once in a long time. Teletubbies is one of the top preschool shows of all time. At its peak, it generated almost $2 billion a year globally at retail. We recently announced that we are partnering with the BBC to
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Down Memory Lane Nostalgic TV viewers are abuzz with news that several beloved childhood cartoon characters are returning.
Ricardo Seguin Guise Publisher Anna Carugati Editor Mansha Daswani Executive Editor Kristin Brzoznowski Managing Editor Joanna Padovano Associate Editor Joel Marino Assistant Editor Simon Weaver Online Director Victor L. Cuevas Production & Design Director Phyllis Q. Busell Art Director Cesar Suero Sales & Marketing Director Faustyna Hariasz Sales & Marketing Coordinator Terry Acunzo Business Affairs Manager
Ricardo Seguin Guise President Anna Carugati Executive VP & Group Editorial Director Mansha Daswani Associate Publisher & VP of Strategic Development TV Kids © 2014 WSN INC. 1123 Broadway, #1207 New York, NY 10010 Phone: (212) 924-7620 Fax: (212) 924-6940 Website: www.tvkids.ws
The ’60s hit Thunderbirds is back, with Thunderbirds Are Go making its world premiere at MIP Junior this year. The iconic cartoon Danger Mouse is returning to screens in 2015. The Magic School Bus is being redone for 2016. The Powerpuff Girls is being reinvigorated as well. From Clangers to Teletubbies, the list goes on. These shows and characters come with a sense of comfort in their familiarity, notably for a generation that is now starting to have kids of their own. The sharing of nostalgic toys and TV shows between parent and child fosters a sense of togetherness. It’s no wonder, then, that Millennial women have been declared the most powerful segment in the U.S. toy industry, accounting for 26 percent of all American toy sales. In the first quarter of 2014, the NPD Group found that women aged 25 to 34 made up 75 percent of all Millennial toy buyers. Oftentimes, the toy-shopping process is a parent/child negotiation. While the parent has the purchasing clout, the child will ultimately decide what he or she wants to play with. More and more, children are embracing their power of choice. With OTT, VOD and other digital platforms, this new generation is choosing when and where they watch their favorite shows. The industry has had to shift accordingly. Nowadays, apps, websites, games and immersive virtual worlds are top of mind when developing a property. While some will argue that digital has yet to really deliver substantial revenue returns, no one can deny that kids today expect to be able to engage with content outside of just watching the TV set. In this edition of the TV Kids Brand Licensing Europe Special Report, we survey the latest trends in the children’s licensing and merchandising business, including a look at how digital is impacting the industry. TV Kids also speaks with Edward Catchpole, the senior VP and general manager of HIT Entertainment, about the ways in which the company is responding to the changes in how kids are consuming media. At the end of the day, Catchpole reminds us, all of the toys and digital bells and whistles mean nothing if there’s not a good story and beloved characters at the heart of the property. —Kristin Brzoznowski
6 TOY STORIES At Brand Licensing Europe in London, brand owners will be busy pursuing toy, apparel and back to school, among the traditional categories, while also exploring apps, games and e-books to extend their properties.
12 HIT Entertainment’s Edward Catchpole
The head of the Mattel-owned outfit talks digital deals, enduring characters and the importance of toys.
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TOY ITVS GE’s Thunderbirds Are Go.
Kristin Brzoznowski surveys f you’ve ever gone toy shopping with children, you know well how their eyes light up the minute they notice one of their favorite TV characters featured on the shelves. (This is usually followed quickly by an “I want!” and a “Can you buy this for me?”) Adults are not immune to this attraction either, as they often gravitate toward products associated with the latest blockbuster movies or their favorite television shows. Indeed, the entertainment licensing industry saw a nice lift last year. Sales of licensed entertainment merchandise accounted for $2.66 billion in royalty revenues in the U.S. and Canada, and an estimated $51.44 billion in retail sales in 2013, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. That’s an increase of 4.3 percent from the previous year. And, not surprisingly, merchandise from children’s TV programming was a big driver for the business. But all is not necessarily on the rise within the kids’ licensing and merchandising (L&M) industry. While it may seem like most markets are on their way to having recovered from “the Great Recession” of years past, those in the L&M business are still dealing with some of the after-effects. Notably, retailers remain cautious of working with new, unproven brands. “It’s tough to launch new properties into the market without a big marketing spend and confidence around the property,” acknowledges Trudi Hayward, the senior VP of global merchandising at ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE). Lucky for ITVS GE, its portfolio is led by the flagship property Thunderbirds Are Go, a reimagining of the iconic 1960s Thunderbirds series. Not only does this property come with brand recognition, there’s already quite a bit of buzz around the new iteration. ITVS GE also has the Thunderbirds Classic property, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Hayward says that the veteran brand has seen renewed interest from licensees in the collectible niche categories. “We tend to look at toys, publishing, DVD and digital as the launch categories, and then we extend into the peripheral categories of softlines [apparel, footwear, etc.], paper products, back to school, lunchware and homewares once we know the kids are engaged,” says Hayward of the company’s L&M approach. “We pretty
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Y STORIES the latest trends in the kids’ licensing and merchandising business. much have all of these categories covered across our portfolio. Construction is a segment we want to be dominant in with Thunderbirds Are Go, as the property lends itself perfectly to this category.” Another classic brand returning to the marketplace is Danger Mouse, which makes a comeback more than two decades after the popular show originally went off the air. FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment (FMKFE) owns the global TV and licensing rights for Danger Mouse and is partnering with CBBC to produce the new series. Rick Glankler, the executive VP and general manager of FMKFE, says that there has been “an overwhelmingly positive response” to the news that the show is coming back in an updated format. This buzz should bode well for the property’s impending retail launch. FMKFE has already enjoyed L&M success with the Tree Fu Tom property, which has an established TV presence. There are around 30 British licensees on board, covering toys, apparel, publishing, lunchware, apps and bedding, according to Glankler, “and we are now working with a number of international agents across Europe and the Middle East.”
There are already more than 300 licensees for Maya the Bee covering all major categories, according to Marchand, including food, promotion and loyalty programs. For Vic the Viking, between the German and Benelux market, there are now approximately 60 partners, with Simba Dickie as the master toy licensee for
STRANGE TIMES For Strange Hill High, which has also had time to build up a TV following, the consumer-products line is just starting to roll out in the U.K. This includes products in the toys, books and DVD categories, with other lines to launch later this year. The focus now for both Tree Fu Tom and Strange Hill High is to break out of the U.K. market and sign up more international agents. For its newer properties Ella the Elephant and Kate & Mim-Mim, FMKFE is focusing first on lining up master toy, publishing, digital and apparel licensees. Similarly, Studio 100 International is betting on the built-in recognition and nostalgic values of its revamped classics Maya the Bee, Vic the Viking and Heidi to help drive retail success. “These are classic brands from the ’70s that parents know and like,” says Marie-Laure Marchand, the international licensing director at Studio 100 International. “They have grown up with these brands and have developed a special emotional bond with them, and can now see them rejuvenated in CGI with their children.”
FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment has a host of toy partners on Tree Fu Tom.
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won over kids (and parents) around the globe. The property is celebrating its tenth anniversary in the U.K. this year, and internationally the brand continues to strengthen its foothold in key markets such as Australia, Italy, Spain, Latin America, the U.S., Russia and Benelux. “Most categories are already in place for Peppa in the U.K., but we’re always looking for more,” says Hannah Mungo, the head of U.K. licensing at eOne Family. She notes that around 12 new licensees have been signed for Peppa in the last year, and that eOne is careful to ensure that new partners bring unique selling points and don’t dilute sales for existing licensees. eOne is also firmly focused on its L&M plans for Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, which has now achieved full retail distribution throughout the U.K. following Character Options’ relaunch of the master toy line this summer. The Character Options range will also be distributed globally throughout 2014 and 2015. Mungo says that toys, DVDs and publishing are the core licensing categories for Ben & Holly at present.
Studio 100 is pursuing toy and gaming deals on its refreshed classic Heidi. Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Studio 100 has also developed more than 50 board games, puzzles, books and arts and crafts tied to the brand. For Heidi, the company secured a number of publishing deals and is now in discussions for toys and games. “Retailers are looking for sure-fire hits with their customers and are also expecting heavy and creative marketing campaigns to help drive brand awareness,” says Marchand. “It is increasingly difficult for new brands to get through nowadays unless children have developed relationships with the characters.” Many in the L&M industry share Marchand’s view about the difficulty of launching a new brand. This is especially true for independent companies that are competing in a market dominated by powerhouses such as Marvel and Disney. Entertainment One (eOne) Family was able to buck this trend with its smash hit Peppa Pig. The series and its companion consumer products have
Both Peppa and Ben & Holly tap into the lucrative preschool market. Also angling for a piece of that pie is the brand-management firm m4e with its new property Tip the Mouse. Based on a set of successful children’s books, Tip the Mouse launched as a TV series this fall. Despite the show being new to television, the company is already looking at ways of extending the brand at retail, according to Bernd Conrad, the head of licensing at m4e. The first categories, with product launches in 2015, are toys, magazine publishing and home entertainment. The German outfit already has an L&M hit on its hands with Mia and me. The TV show airs on broadcasters in more than 80 territories, with this exposure helping to push a successful consumer-products program that continues to gain momentum. “Two years after the initial launch of licensed products in the German market, Mia and me is one of the best-performing girls’ properties on an international level,” says Conrad. “There are more than 120 licensees on board worldwide at the moment.” While the focus has primarily been on physical product segments, Conrad acknowledges that digital must also be part of the plan for any property launching nowadays. This is particularly true, he says, when it comes to home entertainment. Conrad believes that a multiplatform strategy is best in order to serve those markets where physical DVDs are still strong and also those where SVOD and OTT are picking up steam.
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“We see the same in publishing,” he says. “The e-book market is growing for kids’ titles, but not really as a substitute for printed books. The smart way is to offer different forms of entertainment. An e-book with some animated content can be nice to read and watch in the afternoon, while a printed book is still first choice for nighttime.” Cyber Group Studios is also making use of the new opportunities popping up in the digital space. For its TV series Zou, which has sold in more than 150 territories, there are e-books and apps in multiple languages. The Zou app has been particularly successful, according to Pierre Sissmann, the chairman and CEO of Cyber Group Studios. However, even with this strong performance, the revenue it delivers just can’t compare with what a successful toy line can bring in, he says. “I have not seen any independent producers bringing in big revenues from digital,” asserts Sissmann, “even though a lot of people seem to be bragging about it.” He views apps and other digital extensions not as moneymaking ventures, but as tools to give youngsters deeper engagement with a brand. “People have looked too much at doing apps just as a way to increase revenues [to counter] having fewer sales for toys or apparel,” says Sissmann. “But apps are not just another line of revenue; they have their own specific entertainment content. Instead of [looking at it simply as a] source of revenue, I’m looking at digital as a way to involve our viewers in a different kind of entertainment and to complement the experience they have watching a show.” For Cyber Group’s latest launch, Mirette Investigates, the company is developing a set of apps right alongside the development of the series itself. Sissmann promises that the Mirette apps will deliver a fully immersive, 360-degree experience. Cyber Group is working with a major tablet manufacturer on this effort, to allow children to interact in real time with the stories they’re seeing on the TV screen.
DIGITAL PLAYGROUND Studio 100’s Marchand has a similar view about how digital is impacting the children’s L&M industry. “This is a growing side of the Studio 100 business model, although it is currently quite low in terms of revenue,” she says. “We have created a new dedicated digital department at Studio 100. We are developing our own apps and websites and will be launching an extensive social-gaming platform—which will include e-books, episodes and games showcasing our main properties—in Belgium and the Netherlands very soon.” Marchand adds that Studio 100 is exploring opportunities to extend this platform internationally, with the
intent that these activities in the digital sector will not hinder sales of products that involve physical play. Children’s play patterns are changing, though. Kids today are constantly plugged in, using smartphones and tablets with ease. It’s not uncommon to see even the youngest of toddlers clutching an iPad nowadays. This has led many in the children’s L&M business to ramp up their digital strategies, making them a key part of the overall consumer-products package, regardless of the size of the revenue return. At FMKFE, for example, there are already three apps for Tree Fu Tom and more to be announced. The brand has a presence on CBeebies Playtime, currently the U.K.’s number one preschool app. FMKFE also developed, with Crane Media, Tree Fu Tom 3D Adventures,
m4e is already developing the licensing plans for Tip the Mouse, which is new to TV but has strong brand heritage from a series of books.
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which was the U.K.’s second most popular paid app at launch, as well as Tree Fu Tom Squizzle Quest, developed with Cupcake Digital. “The apps are each distinctive and offer alternative ways to further engage with the brand,” says Glankler. He adds that many of FMKFE’s publishing partners have also come out with e-books, which have extended their businesses rather than cannibalized the sales of physical books.
eOne is currently focusing on the consumer-products campaign for Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.
Even with this increased focus on digital, FMKFE has not forgotten that traditional forms of entertainment are still relevant in the kids’ market. “Live events and attractions targeted at preschoolers are continuing to grow, as many theme parks are realizing the benefits that can come from getting families in when kids are at an earlier age,” says Glankler. “We have seen this with the recent inclusion of Tree Fu Tom in CBeebies Land at Alton Towers [Resort].” eOne is also carefully balancing its emphasis on the digital and physical product segments, and has not seen one take anything away from the other. “We have launched apps, e-books and digital magazines, and sales have been purely incremental,” says Mungo. “Consumers are still buying physical products, but are also engaging with digital content. This is a huge opportunity for us, and this area will continue to adapt and grow.” Another development within the L&M arena that Mungo has taken notice of is the changing nature of relationships between retailers and brand owners.
Cyber Group’s Zou has done well across a host of L&M categories. “Retailers are much more keen to build relationships with licensors directly, which has a hugely positive impact on all parties: retailers, licensors and licensees,” she says. “Retail teams are starting to see licensors as key sales drivers for [product ranges]. We are all after the same thing at the end of the day, so working together to make that happen seems like the obvious plan.” In today’s competitive marketplace, more and more alliances are being formed early on between retailers and independent producers—in some cases, at the inception of the IP. This is a route that Cyber Group is pursuing, Sissmann says. The company is working with a major toy company on a new animation project that the two are creating together from scratch. “We are jointly thinking about the characters and the story lines at the same time as we’re planning the toy lines and interactive development,” says Sissmann. “It’s not like we create a story and then go after licensing on our own. I think those days have passed because of the way the market has evolved.” Cyber Group is also in advanced discussions about a new IP with a leading video-game company, with plans for the simultaneous release of a multiplatform game and media exploitation through traditional and digital channels. Sissmann sees this as one of the major developments for the future of the business, and many others in the children’s L&M industry agree. Retailers and producers starting strategic partnerships at the earliest possible stages of projects could certainly be one way to overcome the challenges of the still-risk-averse market.
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Edward Catchpole By Mansha Daswani
Early this summer, HIT Entertainment entered into a partnership with Amazon that many are calling a revolutionary new distribution model for the kids’ programming business. The online retailer is now offering its U.S. customers streaming access to the preschool hit Fireman Sam alongside a host of related merchandise, from e-books to lunchboxes. For Edward Catchpole, who moved over from Mattel to take up leadership of HIT following its sale to the toy giant, the Amazon deal speaks to the ways in which the company is responding to the dramatic changes in how kids are consuming media today. TV KIDS: What were some of the key strategies you implemented at HIT following the sale to Mattel? CATCHPOLE: As a division of Fisher-Price/Mattel, HIT is the content engine for our preschool brands. HIT brings new capabilities to Mattel, with expertise in storytelling, content development, production, distribution, live events and attractions on a worldwide scale.
We [set out] to build a phenomenal organization, with very talented individuals creating stories that engage, inspire and captivate children. If you don’t do that, you have nothing. We want children to care about our characters. We want them to laugh with them and be invested in them. That is very different from, “Here’s a toy, how do we sell it?” Furthermore, establishing a centralized creative structure in the U.K. helps us rally as one organization with clear priorities and the flexibility to support our global activities as needed. This approach reinforces our position as a true creative hub, while helping us strengthen our relationship with our partners worldwide and improve the quality of our output. TV KIDS: What benefits does HIT derive from being part of Mattel? CATCHPOLE: We have access to resources to invest in redeveloping our brands. In August, we premiered Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave. I believe it is the best movie we’ve produced to date. I had challenged the [creative] team to produce an epic for 3- and 4-year-olds. It had to justify parents getting out of bed on a Saturday morning and taking the children to the cinema. Mattel is a global company, so there’s an ability to invest in and scale the brands around the world. For the first time, Thomas is taking off in Latin America. It’s in Russia. It’s in China. As we approach the 70th [anniversary of Thomas the Tank Engine] next year, we’re expanding the brand not just to new generations, but to new continents as well. TV KIDS: Why do you think Thomas has been able to endure for so long? CATCHPOLE: In the U.K. it’s almost a rite of passage for a little boy to get a Thomas book. Thomas is like a cheeky little boy; it’s very easy for a young child to connect with the experiences he has and the challenges he faces through the stories we tell. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that trains themselves, and especially steam engines, are incredibly interesting for 2-, 3-, 4-year-olds. Combine the physicality of the trains with the emotional connections to the characters—that’s why those Thomas stories that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry wrote so many years ago are still absolutely relevant for today’s children. TV KIDS: What led to the deal with Amazon for Fireman Sam?
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HIT has inked a deal with Amazon in the U.S. that includes streaming rights to Fireman Sam.
CATCHPOLE: If we look at the last 50 years, content consumption for preschoolers has been dictated by the schedule. If the program a child is watching on television isn’t engaging, they won’t switch the TV off; they will just start playing with a toy or go to mum and dad. Content producers like us had been protected by the schedule. Once smart TVs, tablets, etc. hit the tipping point of penetration within families, content consumption will no longer be dictated by that schedule. If content on my tablet has not engaged my 4-year-old son within the first two minutes, he’s looking for something else. We need to make sure that our content is engaging. There is also massive change on the distribution side. The linear process—developing a series, 26x11 or 52x11, built around schedules—is going to shift. However, terrestrial is still very important and it will continue to be. The partners we have around the world are not going to disappear, but they will shift more towards digital. As you move to digital, there are new partners playing in that space. It’s important for our brands to be available to our audiences wherever they are. We do not have a broadcast channel, and that gives us huge opportunity to partner with the best [platforms] around the world. We had conversations with Amazon about how they approach content. Together, we developed a unique way to launch preschool content in the U.S. We’re taking a longer-term view. We’re saying, let it slowly build, and we think it will [endure] over a longer period of time. We also looked at the whole ecosystem of how our consumers now engage with content and how to activate brands within that ecosystem. Partnering with Amazon enables us to explore a new way of brand activation. TV KIDS: What are HIT’s greatest opportunities in this shifting landscape? CATCHPOLE: This year, we’re seeing our new content— based on ideas and strategies put in place when [Mattel] acquired the company—released into markets. Our approach is [to produce] exceptional content in a wide, wonderful world that is totally fragmented, where the rulebook has been thrown out the window, where we’re playing with short form, long form, linear TV—with the world’s largest toy company behind us. Toys are really important. Brands that truly become global and powerful are the ones that a child wants to engage with in multifaceted interactions. The toy is the physical embodiment of the brand. When you’re 3 years old and you love Thomas, the first thing you want is Thomas, and Thomas is the die-cast or wooden toy train. Kids will engage with the content in a book, in a movie or in a TV series or app, but with the toy, they are controlling the story. There’s a symbiotic relationship between content and toy.
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make 60 more episodes of Teletubbies. The other major asset that we acquired in the Ragdoll transaction is In the Night Garden, an award-winning series that is one of the most beautifully produced shows of all time. Typically with kids’ content what you want to do is get kids up and moving, and that is why you have bright colors, loud music and lots of action. But In the Night Garden is the exact opposite. It’s a show that was meant to calm kids down and be the last show they watch before bedtime. Conceptually it’s beautiful, but it’s very difficult to place in the linear world because on major broadcasters kids’ programming is often on in the morning. Getting kids wound down at nine o’clock in the morning is not cool! The show couldn’t really find its place in the linear world. However, in the on-demand world, it plays very well across multiple platforms. TV KIDS: How are you reinventing Teletubbies? LANDRY: We felt it was critical to get the BBC’s engagement. We were able to convince them that they should continue the brand, and we’ve announced 60 new episodes. We will update Teletubbies; for instance, the Teletubbies used to have linear televisions in their tummies that they’d view in every episode. In our version, we will look at ways we can update this feature with newer screen technologies to match the expectations of today’s children. In little ways we can pay homage to the classic brand, yet modernize it and bring it into today’s world. This is crucial because you have to give broadcasters, toy companies and licensing companies a reason to re-engage with the brand since it’s been around for a while. The most tried-and-true way to do that is by bringing it into the modern day with new content. This gives you a whole new opportunity to touch new consumers, who, oddly enough, are often the old consumers—people who had a connection to the brand when they were growing up. As they have kids or nieces and nephews, they will introduce them to the brand, and everything old is new again.
TV KIDS: Are you updating some of DHX’s other properties? LANDRY: Yes, we are about a year into updating Inspector Gadget, one of my favorites from when I was growing up! This is quite exciting because it was classic, what we call lay out and pose animation; it was two-dimensional. Today we are able to make it three-dimensional, which isn’t necessarily the 3D you see in the movie theater but 3D in terms of the visuals, which allows us to get the gadgets to pop. There are great ways you can modernize a classic brand. We are looking forward to launching it in late 2015 or early 2016. We will be updating more brands, but we haven’t made those announcements yet. TV KIDS: What is driving this trend of updating classic children’s shows? LANDRY: You have to think of it like fine art. The Scream, painted by Edvard Munch, sold a few years ago for over $100 million. I’m sure that when the artist made it, it wasn’t more than a few days worth of work and he never thought much more about it. But what you have now is a scarcity situation; it’s a supply and demand scarcity. In the case of The Scream, there is scarcity of art that is viewed as being first class; its supply is limited and fixed forever because most of the renowned artists are dead. It’s a lot like that with television shows. The shows that you watched as a little girl are fixed and finite forever, but they have a connection to you, and you remember them fondly. Whatever your favorite show was from childhood, if there is a remake of it, you will automatically introduce your kids to it because you have that connection. That’s why when you go into a toy store today, much of the shelf space is for brands that are 30 to 40 years old. It’s a proven winning strategy to go to brands that people who are now having kids were connected to when they were young, because when they see them again, they’ll buy them. The kids may say they want a certain thing, but the parent
DHX’s stable of properties includes the much-loved Inspector Gadget, which is being rebooted for contemporary audiences in 3D CGI.
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Epitome Pictures, the producer of the longrunning tween and teen hit Degrassi, was acquired by DHX earlier this year.
is the one who is making the decisions, so if there is a choice, the parent will steer them to the things that they remember fondly. It becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling situation where the old shows are having a resurgence. This is also particularly the case in the digital world, where it’s a menu universe. If you’re on a streaming site and you see a title that you remember, you are apt to pull it up for your kids and let them watch it. That is what is great about these old brands, because as a content owner, you are constantly trying to get your television show to become more than just a television show. You want it to become a household brand so that you can license your properties across multiple platforms. TV KIDS: What opportunities are you finding with SVOD platforms? LANDRY: This is another area that is truly amazing. Every six months I go to our head of sales and ask, Who are our top ten customers? Inevitably there will be one or two new ones that we didn’t have before. It comes back to supply and demand. For years and years in the linear world, there was limited shelf space for shows. The major broadcasters would only air cartoons on Saturday morning or in the morning Monday through Friday. They would choose shows that they thought would drive ratings, but they weren’t necessarily what consumers wanted. So there was pent-up demand for many years. Now, with digital platforms and over-the-top services, there is the opportunity to get direct access to the consumer, and the consumer is demanding the content in an on-demand world. More people are looking at this and seeing opportunity, and more capital is coming into the system and customers are proliferating. That’s happening in every territory of the world. Netflix is in only about 40 countries, whereas we at DHX have sold shows in almost 300 territories. There is lots of runway ahead for companies like Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and some new entrants like Kidoodle.TV. But for us, the way we can take advantage of this digital revolution is to own the content, focus on kids and family and make brands that people want to watch. We can’t get too focused on one piece of technology over the other, but instead must allow ourselves flexibility so we can license to all of these platforms.
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TV KIDS: What are the biggest challenges facing companies in the kids’ content business today? How is DHX positioned to overcome those challenges? LANDRY: That’s an interesting question that can be answered two different ways. One is that if you looked at us a couple of years ago, the challenge would have been getting scale, which is the biggest challenge that independent kids’ content owners face. It’s not dissimilar to my example of Degrassi—you can have the greatest one-off brand, but Netflix or any of the larger digital players can’t deal with 1,000 different producers, they can only deal with larger companies. It’s just the way the business works. Scale really matters, so if you are an indie you will struggle. For us, now that we’ve got scale and acquired additional platforms like the Family Channel, and as the new customers have proliferated and there are new opportunities like YouTube, we are extremely well positioned because we do have scale and we can compete head to head with the studios. Then it comes back to execution on our end. We have to execute a strategy and continue to compete. TV KIDS: What are your goals for the next 12 to 18 months? Are you looking to make more acquisitions? LANDRY: We’re definitely focusing on the brands. I’d like to have a hit or two come out of what we have, whether it’s Teletubbies or Inspector Gadget or the next one. I do believe we will achieve that because I think we have all the necessary ingredients. It comes back to execution. We have made a lot of acquisitions, so now there’s an opportunity for us to look internally and see whether there are ways to get integration out of the transactions we have made. Obviously the Family Channel one is very intriguing, because we believe it will provide multiple revenue opportunities. The last thing is that even though we have done a lot, we are still ambitious. There are still libraries we are looking at. We are still looking at doing some acquisitions. Our next acquisition would be in the category of an Epitome or a Ragdoll—companies that have key brands that we think can be global brands. Under the DHX ownership, we can make one plus one equal three by leveraging them into our platform.
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wide. For SUPER RTL, we are delivering the same shows we’re providing to Netflix, and then creating content that goes over and beyond that. This includes some international coproductions and also shows from the Classic Media library. TV KIDS: What new properties are coming down the pipeline? COHN: We’re very excited about Dinotrux because we’ve fallen in love with the characters. That’s what happens; you spend so much time with them that they become your best friends. Dinotrux’s characters are a combination of dinosaurs and trucks that we think will capture the imaginations of kids everywhere. I can’t provide too many details on the other new properties, but I can say that we have 14 shows in production, and we’ve really attracted first-class talent for all of our projects. TV KIDS: How are you working to introduce the properties in the Classic Media library to today’s young audiences? COHN: There is a lot in the Classic Media library that we feel will resonate as deeply with today’s audience as the original shows did when they first appeared. We will refresh and modernize some of them, but the characters and core attributes still feel modern and relevant. TV KIDS: Is children’s programming one of the growth areas for over-the-top services like Netflix?
MARJORIE COHN By Anna Carugati
A 26-year veteran of Nickelodeon, Marjorie Cohn has been engaged in the development and production of some of the most successful children’s programs in history, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Rugrats and iCarly. When DreamWorks Animation was working to ramp up its TV efforts, the company looked to Cohn to lead the charge. As DreamWorks Animation’s first-ever head of television, Cohn is responsible for the development and production of 1,200 new original episodes over the next five years. This slate will feature TV series based on DreamWorks’ crop of current franchises, future films, the most popular heritage properties from Classic Media and original concepts. Cohn talks with TV Kids about delivering beloved DreamWorks Animation brands to media-savvy youngsters on multiple platforms. TV KIDS: What appealed to you about joining DreamWorks? COHN: DreamWorks has always stood for quality and innovation. The idea of starting from the ground up is also very exciting. I knew I would get to work with the most creative people in the industry and with the best characters and stories.
TV KIDS: How did the partnerships come about with Netflix and Germany’s SUPER RTL? COHN: The deals preceded me, and I was hired to execute against them. Netflix was looking to get into the original kids’ business with content that would break through the clutter. What’s great about these DreamWorks Animation brands is that they are recognizable to consumers world-
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COHN: If you look at what’s available right now in online services, most of it is second-run. As these digital TV companies grow, they want to put a stake in the ground for originals. Netflix has done that very successfully with its drama series, and now there’s a huge need for super-high-quality, original entertainment that appeals to kids and families, so that’s the great opportunity that awaits us. TV KIDS: How is DreamWorks Animation positioned to offer kids what they want to watch, when they want to watch it? COHN: With adult programming, there’s such a glut of great programs, you can’t get around to watching it all. And you can choose when you want to watch it. Kids already do that with their entertainment, but when it comes to ondemand content they have much less variety and choice right now, which needs to change. They want something original, fun and appealing that is made for them. I think one of the advantages of the on-demand model is that you don’t live and die by the ratings. You can take your time to build a series and develop it in a way that allows it to grow, and also give your audience the time to find it. We feel that we have an advantage, because of the DreamWorks brand. We’re not simply doing “trendy” cartoons, per se; we’re making the sort of imaginative, storydriven, visually appealing animation that DreamWorks is known for and bringing it to TV.
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By Mansha Daswani
In 2010, in a bid to foster a new wave of animation talent, Cartoon Network established The Cartoonstitute, a shorts program that took an alternative approach to the development process. The biggest success to emerge from that content incubator was JG Quintel’s Regular Show. The Emmy-winning series chronicles the adventures of best friends and groundskeepers Mordecai, a blue jay, and Rigby, a raccoon, along with a quirky cast of characters, including Benson the gumball machine and Pops, who has a lollipop-shaped head. Now in its sixth season (and renewed for a seventh), Regular Show has earned legions of devoted fans, young and old, across the globe for its pop-culture savvy and off-beat humor. Quintel, who also voices Mordecai, tells TV Kids about his motley animated crew. TV KIDS: Tell us about the origins of Regular Show. QUINTEL: It evolved from a few of my student shorts. I was attending CalArts [California Institute of the Arts] and I’d done two short films that had a few of the characters from Regular Show, like Pops, Mordecai and Benson. I was working at Cartoon Network, and The Cartoonstitute started up as a shorts program looking to escape the traditional development pattern that most studios use. They said, “Pitch a storyboard, and if we like it we’ll make it into a pilot.” They wanted to make a pilot with no bible and almost no notes. So I pitched Regular Show and luckily for me they liked it. TV KIDS: Do you think the show would be what it is today had you gone through a more traditional development process? QUINTEL: I really don’t think so. When I first pitched the concept to ask if I could do a storyboard, I was worried that if I explained it—it’s a blue jay and a raccoon and a gumball machine—they would have thought, “This is crazy.” I showed them a picture of Mordecai, Rigby and Pops running, just on one Post-it. I said, “Trust me, I think I can make this really funny, but I don’t think explaining it is going to help, I need to show you an episode [played out on storyboards].” If I had had to make a bible first and explain it all, I think it would have been noted to death. TV KIDS: Did you go into it knowing you would voice Mordecai, or did that develop along the way? QUINTEL: I definitely wanted to be Mordecai because I had voiced him in my short films. My friend Sam Marin—we were both in the character animation department at the time—did a bunch of voices for my films, pretty much all of them, so I wanted him to be Pops and Benson. We were always thinking that we would do it. The network was a bit [unsure]. They wanted us to try out other people. We had never done [professional voice acting] before; we were not professional voice actors. Luckily for us they let us go through with it! TV KIDS: What kind of creative environment have you found at Cartoon Network? QUINTEL: They give us a lot of creative freedom at Cartoon Network. There are not a lot of heavy-handed notes. We
really only deal with a few executives at a time. As far as our process goes for coming up with episodes, we have traditional writers, but our show is not script-driven. There are no scripts with dialogue. It’s a storyboarddriven show. We write very short premises, about a page to two pages, that explain what’s going to happen in the episode. And then we let our storyboard artists write all the dialogue and draw the storyboards, kind of like making a comic book, and pitch that to us. Then we can decide how to change the writing as we go. TV KIDS: I watched some episodes and found myself laughing out loud, and I’m well, well past Cartoon Network’s target demo! I’ve read that many adults enjoy watching the show. How do you find the right tone for your core kids’ audience? How do you know if you’ve gone too far with the humor? QUINTEL: First, I’m very glad that you were laughing hard at the episodes! When we’re writing these episodes, we’re not thinking to ourselves, We need to make this for an 8- to 12-year-old boy. For a lot of us, we’re just trying to make ourselves laugh. I can remember being a kid. Any cartoons that were too babyish, I didn’t like. They seemed dumb. [Laughs] Kids are smart, and they want to watch intelligent things. If we’re just writing it and making it funny for ourselves, [kids are] going to think it’s funny too and there’s no need to pander to them. We try to make something that’s going to play for all audiences, so the whole family can watch and enjoy. As a kid, I always liked watching shows with my parents. Those shows were rare, where you could find something that everybody liked. That’s what we’re trying to do. TV KIDS: What are some of your creative influences? QUINTEL: I was pretty much raised watching The Simpsons. I watched Rocko’s Modern Life [an animated series on Nickelodeon] when I was growing up, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Futurama. As far as live action goes, I got really into British comedy, so The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd and The League of Gentlemen—darker humor, really funny and kind of cartoony in ways. Those two things [American animation and British comedies] melded together—I think Regular Show is a good balance [of the two].
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Renewed for a seventh season, Regular Show has become one of Cartoon Network’s biggest hits.
TV KIDS: Do you have story arcs that evolve from one season to the next? QUINTEL: When we started, I asked [the network], “Do you want us to make a serialized show where we have big major story arcs?” They really wanted stand-alone episodes, which is traditional in animation. But as we went along and got further into season three, season four, certain story lines started standing out, like Mordecai’s romantic interest in [a robin named] Margaret. We started tracking that more and built the relationship so that he wouldn’t always be looking from afar, having a crush on this girl. He could actually go up and talk to her and they could become friends and then they’d start going on dates. It was fun to have a bit of the show have that kind of arc. But then we still like doing the standalone episodes where there are just crazy adventures where anything can happen. [Laughs] TV KIDS: Kids have so many more distractions today than they did when you or I were that age, making it that much harder to get them to watch TV shows. Is that something that you think about as you’re crafting the episodes? QUINTEL: Yeah, with the Internet, with how many hours they’ve logged watching entertainment in their lives, it’s much harder to stand out nowadays. Especially at the beginning, we worked really hard to make sure every episode was on—there were no B episodes. We were really hard on ourselves and made sure they were all As. It only takes one [weaker episode] and kids will think the show is bad and they won’t want to watch it anymore. We’ve kept up that mentality the whole way through, that no episode can be bad, and we have to make sure they’re all good! TV KIDS: Are you making any content specifically for Cartoon Network’s nonlinear platforms? QUINTEL: We would like to. We do a lot of 11- and 22minute episodes but to do shorts, 2- or 3-minute things, would be really fun. We did a short where it was just Mordecai and Rigby trying to make ringtones for phones,
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and it ended up being something you could actually download and get on your phone. That was fun. TV KIDS: And there’s a Regular Show video game too? QUINTEL: Yes! I grew up playing video games. I was excited to get the opportunity to try to make one. Not that I knew how to program or anything like that, but I had a say in some of the content and what the story was going to be, and got to see how video games are put together. What are the game-play dynamics? Which characters do we use? We made a game for the Nintendo 3DS and I think it turned out really well. It was a good learning experience for me to understand what goes into these games. TV KIDS: Do you have a say in any of the consumer products based on the show? QUINTEL: We’ve done a lot in terms of approving and making sure that all the artwork is from the show. I’ve given tons of suggestions for things like fanny packs, things I’m not sure anybody would even want to buy, but that we just thought were really funny. [Laughs] TV KIDS: Is the Mordecai and Rigby relationship inspired by anything from your own life? QUINTEL: The way Mordecai behaves and acts, he is pretty much me. Rigby is a combination of one of my best friends and my brother. The brotherly stuff with the punching each other and getting into trouble—there are many things in the show that have actually happened in real life. [Laughs] We’re definitely [inspired by] some of the things we did when we were less responsible! TV KIDS: Do you hear from your fans on social media? QUINTEL: All the time. It’s really cool with social media nowadays that you can actually get a response from fans to hear how they like the show. You can even see, as the show is airing, what jokes are landing, what people like. One of my favorite tweets though, and this happens more and more now, [was about] kids who walked in on their parents watching it without them, which I think is awesome. [Laughs]
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By Mansha Daswani
Scholastic Media is having a very good year. The arm of the publishing giant Scholastic that is tasked with extending best-selling books into TV shows and movies came out of Comic-Con in San Diego with plenty of buzz around the upcoming feature film Goosebumps. Based on R.L. Stine’s much-loved book series, the movie builds on a franchise that already includes a live-action show from the late ‘90s. This year also saw Scholastic Media ink a deal with Netflix to update The Magic School Bus series, and launch a brand-new animation, Astroblast!, on Sprout. Deborah Forte, the longtime president of Scholastic Media, updates TV Kids on how her division is finding new ways to provide enriching content for kids on multiple platforms. TV KIDS: Tell us about the process of updating The Magic School Bus for today’s kids. FORTE: We’re very aware that the brands that we’ve built through publishing and media are even more valuable in today’s landscape than they were years ago. This idea of taking The Magic School Bus, which is one of our most loved and treasured brands, and reinventing it for a new generation was encouraged by a number of things. First, the innovations in technology and the sciences allowed us opportunities to
explore a new curriculum for the show, new science topics, and they allowed us to tell our stories more dimensionally with CG animation. One of the components so essential to telling the Magic School Bus stories is for the characters to be able to interact with their environment. All of the Magic School Bus stories center around going on a field trip, and demonstrate the kids doing science, not just observing scientific phenomena. CG allows us an opportunity to use those environments more proactively as participants in the storytelling. TV KIDS: How has the relationship with Netflix been? FORTE: Scholastic is delighted with our partnership with Netflix. Our shows tend to be different from traditional commercial shows. They have a strong point of view, they’re based on our best-selling book series, and we don’t have constrictions on our brand [demanding] that all Scholastic shows have to hit the exact same notes—other than achieving high-quality storytelling and being true to the underlying property. Netflix bought some of our library—The Magic School Bus, Goosebumps and Clifford the Big Red Dog, among other shows—and saw that our
SCHOLASTIC’S series had high audience appeal. With The Magic School Bus 360˚ they saw an opportunity for us to work together to do something entirely new based on a valuable franchise that could offer their subscribers a great value proposition. It’s a high-profile brand with proven traction and continued relevancy from both an entertainment and education perspective. It’s also highly differentiated from many of the pure commercial shows that are available.
TV KIDS: You’re also producing Astroblast! for Sprout. How did that series come about? FORTE: We were big fans of Bob Kolar’s artwork and loved his Astroblast! books. His art inspired the show, which was developed for preschoolers. It centers on a group of disparate animals who learn about themselves and adopt healthy lifestyles while encouraging confidence and empathy through the experience of working together and operating their space café. It was a good fit for Sprout, because they are very successful and focused on co-viewing. That’s an important characteristic we’ve seen [contribute to] the success of our programming. The Magic School Bus has demonstrated a high co-viewing quotient. We try to create our programming so that it works on a variety of levels. It’s important for parents to talk about the shows that their kids are watching; we like that Sprout’s platform makes this a strong part of their brand promise. TV KIDS: Are you making related Astroblast! content for Sprout’s nonlinear platforms? FORTE: We’ve done some games and they’ve been very popular. We’re looking at the market holistically and organically. We want to make sure that kids have access to our brands, and the content that they love, on a variety of platforms and that they can have complementary experiences when they do so.
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Scholastic Media’s key new TV property this year is Astroblast!, a preschool show made for Sprout in the U.S.
DEBORAH FORTE TV KIDS: How has the process of bringing Goosebumps to the big screen been? FORTE: It’s been a long time coming. The challenge with Goosebumps was, how do you take all of these great books and make a decision about what the movie should be? We finally came to a decision on that with our wonderful writers, Darren Lemke and Mike White, who really understood how to differentiate Goosebumps within the family film genre. And, there’s no one more perfect for this movie than Jack Black, who is loved by parents and children alike. It was the combination of all of these elements that allowed us to move forward.
TV KIDS: What do you look for when determining if a book can be adapted into a film or TV series? FORTE: We’re not really interested in doing more of something that has already taken flight in the marketplace. When we did Goosebumps [the TV series], there were no really successful anthology live-action hits. When we said we wanted to do a science series based on The Magic School Bus, everyone said, you can’t do anything that has educational value in animation, because animation is fantasy and science is reality. We were very successful with the show, despite the naysayers. When we did Clifford, the market was engaged in pushing the envelope on animation with anime. We wanted to do something really sweet and safe that would promote good citizenship and love and understanding, using one of the biggest well-known symbols of that, Clifford. In fact, all of these properties have been among the longest-running series on children’s TV. We see the Goosebumps movie as an opportunity to do something different from the big superhero and fantasy films that have been dominating the family film market. TV KIDS: What are your priorities for Scholastic Media’s international business?
FORTE: We have been very fortunate that our media brands have traveled the world very successfully. Even Goosebumps [has been successful], even though historically live action has never traveled as successfully as animation. We’re looking forward to going out with Astroblast! as our new show, and we have The Magic School Bus and Goosebumps episodes to sell. We’re looking forward to meeting with and getting to know some of the new digital distributors in the international markets— we think those are growth markets for us and our brands.
TV KIDS: What have been the biggest challenges to overcome in this new landscape, and what do you see as the greatest opportunities for Scholastic Media? FORTE: The economics of the business continue to get tighter. That’s always a challenge if you are a producer who really wants to put a lot on the screen and have a certain level of quality. For us, that’s so important, because our shows have to live for a very long period of time. We don’t do a lot of programming, and the programming we do needs to work globally and it needs to sustain. That’s one of the challenges, and so far we’ve been able to figure out how to face it. The other challenge is scale. There are many people in the market now who have achieved such enormous scale and influence. On the other hand, the benefits and the opportunities make the business exciting. We’re optimistic. What has been a true constant is the fact that quality content works as a key driver for the emerging and changing distribution networks. Parents and children still want high-quality, entertaining, high-value programming. And now they’re able to get it from a growing number of outlets, 24/7. That’s what makes us optimistic about the business. For us, that’s good news. We never had a huge, deep catalogue, but the library we have is evergreen and very high quality, and it continues to attract an audience.
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their iPads, online or on their television. That’s why we’ve created the Nick app and we’ve redesigned Nick.com to be completely in tune with this generation. TV KIDS: What are some of the key elements to developing successful comedy for your target demo? HICKS: Contrary to what people may think, comedy is very difficult to write for any age, and even more so for kids. Fortunately, we have a talented group of show creators and writers who understand our key 6-to-11 demo, some of whom grew up watching Nick, so they really connect with our audience. The way to do it is to make sure you have a talented, creative team who really understand kids at their core, combined with great writing and physical comedy. This is the key to making a kid laugh. TV KIDS: You’ve had strong ratings gains over the last year or so. How are you structuring your development slate to build on those increases? HICKS: We’re constantly looking for new talent. Our whole development philosophy is to find new voices, and people who really want to tell their stories to kids. There are a lot of people entering the workforce who grew up on Nick, who know us at our core and now want to create for us. Some of them may need some guidance and nurturing, so we created a mentorship program where new talent is paired up with some of our proven hit-makers. We have various training programs like our writer and artist fellowship, and create a lot of short-form content for our app, so they have a place to play
NICKELODEON’S RUSSELL HICKS By Mansha Daswani
Nickelodeon has been experiencing a ratings resurgence in the last year or so, regularly topping the charts in the U.S. in all-day ratings among kids 2 to 11. Leading those gains have been new series like Sanjay and Craig, Rabbids Invasion and the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, alongside the perennial favorite SpongeBob SquarePants. Russell Hicks, the president of content development and production at Nickelodeon Group, shares with TV Kids his approach to having a strong development slate, a portfolio of returning hits and a variety of pathways to discovering new talent.
TV KIDS: What do kids expect from Nickelodeon today? HICKS: The Millennials are now out of our age range, and there’s a whole new generation, the post-Millennials, coming to Nickelodeon. We’ve done a lot of research to find out exactly what they expect from us, and we’ve learned that they come to Nickelodeon to laugh and see funny and exciting shows with great characters and great stories. That’s what we aim to deliver to them. In this digital age, kids can access content everywhere. They want to see it on their time, whether it’s on
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and hone their craft before we place them on a show. It’s a creative playground in which they can create for us, and we have multiple outlets for their work to be shown.
TV KIDS: Have you seen a good response to your global animated shorts-development program? HICKS: We’ve had an incredible response. We have three shorts that we’re very interested in that come from the U.K. and South Africa. It’s a really exciting time. I just went to China to talk about the shorts program, and it’s great that there are creative people everywhere. There are a lot of people who work in animation and have stories they want to tell themselves, and the global shorts program gives them a place to do that. TV KIDS: Once you have a short that you like, what’s the process for extending it into a brand that can live on one of your platforms? HICKS: Our content is designed to engage kids on every platform they use, and the decision to extend is based on the
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The new live-action slate at Nickelodeon includes Henry Danger, about a crime-fighting superhero and his young sidekick.
characters and stories that are told. We have content we put on our app and on Nick.com, such as our new series Welcome to the Wayne, which started out as a short and has become a short-form series. Or the short can go into full development for a long-form series. The Loud House, which was a great short, was just fast-forwarded into a series because of its relatable concept and ability to tell continuing stories. It’s about a boy who lives in a large family of 12 sisters. TV KIDS: Nickelodeon has a long history of top-rating liveaction series. What are the challenges of making these kinds of shows, as compared with animation? HICKS: You have to find the right cast and relevant stories to tell the audience. For us, we tap into research and ask kids what they’re doing and what they’re interested in, and we try and have our live-action shows reflect their lives. We have a few new live-action shows that we’re really excited about. One is Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, about a set of quadruplets who are navigating a life of always sharing the same birthday and parents, and having three of your siblings in class with you at all times. Then we have Henry Danger, which follows a 13-year-old boy who lands a part-time job as the sidekick-in-training to a superhero. And Bella and the Bulldogs, about a girl who ends up on the high-school football team. TV KIDS: How important are acquisitions? HICKS: We love acquisitions! There’s a lot of content out there, and we look for the best of the best. We’ve had great success with Rabbids Invasion from Ubisoft and have another series coming up called Get Blake! from Marathon Media. We’ve also had a lot of success with H2O, which came from Australia. It’s important to keep your eye on everything being created around the world. TV KIDS: How do you work with your programming colleagues across the globe? HICKS: We have a strong partnership with our international teams that continues to grow. That’s where the global shorts program originated, which has brought a lot of new talent in-house. They also introduced us to new serial-style formats such as House of Anubis, and most recently our Nick Latin American team brought us Every Witch Way, a telenovela we just greenlit for a third season. TV KIDS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a huge box-office hit this summer. How do you coordinate across divisions at Viacom to build these megabrands? HICKS: When we acquired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we knew it would fit perfectly. That’s our type of superhero show, and it’s been a terrific acquisition for us. We concentrate on making the best show possible with strong characters and great story arcs, so the audience is entertained. Our consumer-products groups and everyone else can get creative with the toys and the experiences. Toys, books, video games—it’s all content that drives deeper engagement with our properties and characters. We don’t shy away from it. But we want to make sure that it’s infused with the same quality and creativity that we bring to television and/or the movie or anything else we’re working on.
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In the 1960s, viewers seemingly couldn’t get enough of marionette puppets combined with scale-model settings and special effects. The Supermarionation technique created by Gerry Anderson resulted in many popular series, none more so than Thunderbirds. Only 32 hourlong episodes were produced in the U.K., but thanks to repeat broadcasts the show has accumulated fans worldwide (and spawned a radio series, feature films, an anime reboot and an array of merchandise). ITV Studios has teamed with Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop for a new half-hour series, Thunderbirds Are Go, for broadcast on CITV. Nine Network in Australia is also on board as a broadcast partner, and Vivid has been tapped for the global toy program. Giles Ridge is executive producing the new series, which returns to Tracy Island to follow a family-run international rescue organization. He tells TV Kids about bringing back this much-loved property, which will be screened on the opening day of MIP Junior. TV KIDS: How did the Thunderbirds reboot come about? RIDGE: ITV is fortunate enough to own a number of iconic TV and film libraries. [Contained] in the ITC library—from Lew Grade’s original company, ITC Entertainment—is much of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s work from the ’60s and ’70s. That includes all the wonderful Supermarionation series through the ’60s that started with Supercar and Fireball XL5—which were both black-and-white—and then moved to color with Stingray and Captain Scarlet and Joe 90. In the middle of that set of shows came Thunderbirds in 1965. Thunderbirds is very much the jewel in the crown of those properties. Given that the brand celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, it felt right that we return to the wonderful collection of work and give Thunderbirds a go in the market. We were very mindful of not wanting to mess too much with the original. It’s lasted 50 years because it is very special.
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO’S
GILES RIDGE TV KIDS: Tell us about the look that’s been created for the new series. RIDGE: When we started looking for a partner, we were very clear about not wanting to repeat the same visual look and feel that is contained in so much action adventure today. We wanted to move away from that very clean, digital CGI look and create a visual aesthetic for the new series that broke new ground for kids, and offered them something different and exciting and tangible. That’s what made us think about this mixed-media approach that we’ve gone with. The craft and characters are in wonderful contemporary CGI. We have set them against a background of live-action miniatures and models. We wanted a co-producer who shared our passion and love for the series, and who had a track record and reputation in building wonderful models. That’s why we
ended up in New Zealand with Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop, the company founded by Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson that has been responsible for the wonderful effects in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and King Kong.
TV KIDS: Are you targeting a family audience, given parents’ familiarity with the brand? RIDGE: The sweet spot for the show is roughly kids aged 6 to 8, albeit I’d hope the demographic extends wider than that—5 to 11 or 5 to 12. We’ve retained the Barry Gray theme music of the original. We’re hoping that Mum or Dad in the kitchen will hear the music and the iconic [countdown] “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” and watch it with their kids. Nothing would please me more [than] if the show was watched and appreciated in that way.
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By Mansha Daswani
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A collaboration between ITV Studios, Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop, Thunderbirds Are Go features CGI craft for the show’s intrepid heroes.
[We have] a wonderful head writer in the U.S., Rob Hoegee, who made his mark as head writer and story editor on the original Teen Titans series at Cartoon Network. He was the head writer on the Generator Rex series and on Slugterra on Disney XD. David Graham, who played Parker in the original series, is playing Parker again. That’s a lovely connection with the old series. And Rosamund Pike is in the role of Lady Penelope. And we’ve got some wonderful young actors playing the Tracy brothers as well. TV KIDS: What’s been the approach to scripting the show? How much are you drawing from the original? RIDGE: One of the editorial aspects that made the original series so special was the fact that it was about a group of young, brave, heroic experts who were brilliant at what they did. There are shows in the action genre where the foundation of the series is based on conflict or violence. And there are shows where the characters are superheroes and the stories are based in fantasy or mythology. Thunderbirds is neither of those. This is a series with its feet firmly on the ground. In each episode, there’s a ticking clock, and if the Thunderbirds don’t get to [the disaster scenario] by the time the clock ticks to zero, [those needing rescue] won’t be saved. There’s no magic button that they press. They only get there through their physical heroism and their bravery and their ingenuity. That is absolutely a quality we’ve taken from the original series. It didn’t need messing with. The original series [consisted of] one-hour episodes, believe it or not. Lew Grade had watched [a half-hour] pilot, took one look at it and said, “Gerry, this isn’t a television series, it’s a feature film!” Gerry was already six or seven episodes into the series. Lew promptly sent him off to turn all of them from half-hour into one-hour shows. Gerry had to go back and get all the film off the cuttingroom floor and put it back in. In some of those early episodes, in the launch sequences, it takes about a minute for the rocket to take off! Our new series [of half-hour episodes] is much, much pacier than the original. That is what our audience is used to and what they expect.
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TV KIDS: You released one image of Tracy Island, and there was a huge response from fans online. How do you decide how much to give out in the run-up to the premiere? RIDGE: There’s no magic answer to that! We’ve been very measured with what we release, and when. Animation takes a long time to do, and the marketing lead-up on this is very lengthy. We don’t want to share everything too soon. It’s part of our strategy to welcome our audience step by step to aspects of the show. We also want to leave some surprises for the show itself. It needs to feel as fresh when you watch it in April next year as it does when you see imagery now. Needless to say, people are very curious, and not a day goes by when we don’t get tons of enquiries [from people] wanting to see more material, so we feel it’s right to share some of the key iconic elements every now and again. TV KIDS: How was the process of making the new Tracy Island? RIDGE: We talked to Weta about how ambitious we could be in terms of size of set. Tracy Island is probably the most iconic location in the entire series. We were all very, very clear that we would have no CGI water in our series at all. Any water would be completely real. So we put a lot of the emphasis into building this huge tank in the studio in Wellington that we filled with water. Then we kept our fingers firmly crossed it wouldn’t leak! We built a 100th-scale Tracy Island with polystyrene. We had to order 3,000 model trees from somewhere! TV KIDS: How long did it take to perfect the mixed-media technique you’re using on the show? RIDGE: The challenge for us was that we wanted to move the camera in a 3D world within those models. The complexity of doing that, combined with CGI [vehicles] that also move in a 3D world, requires a lot of work and machinery and sophisticated technology. Rather than do the traditional storyboard and animatic process, which is common to television animation, we’ve adopted a process called pre-visualization, which is more common in feature-film animation. The director is able to make camera decisions and see how well those moves work before we get into the heavy labor of hundreds of animators doing all the expensive stuff.
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ELIE DEKEL AND FREDERIC SOULIE By Mansha Daswani
In 2010, Haim Saban regained control of the property that had first put him on the kids’ programming map in the 1990s: Power Rangers. Saban Brands was established to manage that title and others, under the leadership of Elie Dekel as president. Since then the group has amassed a portfolio of additional properties and with that scale has elected to establish a new global content distribution unit. Dekel and Frederic Soulie, the senior VP of global distribution at Saban Brands, tell TV Kids about the plans for the new division. TV KIDS: Tell me about the creation of the new global content distribution unit. DEKEL: Saban Brands was formed four and a half years ago with the purpose of assembling a portfolio of consumer properties and growing them through marketing and content and ultimately consumer products. This has been a fastgrowing business with the support of Haim Saban and Saban Capital Group. We’ve been fortunate to assemble a great portfolio of brands. As we have been very active over the past few years in bringing Power Rangers, the television show, back to a prominent position in the kids’ landscape, we have seen the opportunity to bring content to multiple new platforms, and we have seen that the business model we applied is very effective in supporting those properties. So we have been aggressively increasing our pipeline of content—that’s content in development as well as content that we are in various stages of acquiring. Commensurate with the increasing pipeline, we see the importance of having first-party relationships with broadcasters, with content providers and platforms of all types. Up until now we have been partnered with MarVista Entertainment as a distributor on Power Rangers and Digimon and Julius Jr. [MarVista] has played an integral role in helping us deliver our content to viewers worldwide. As we are growing our pipeline, and we are
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growing our company, we feel it’s the right time to establish a new global distribution unit. TV KIDS: What structural changes needed to be made to create the new unit? SOULIE: We’ve looked at distribution by territory. We’ve already opened an office in London to handle consumer products licensing. We’ve added one more person to that office, Leila Ouledcheikh, and she is leading the broadcast distribution across EMEA. This will be followed by additional head count and support for Eastern Europe and for Asia. TV KIDS: What are some of the program highlights for MIPCOM? SOULIE: First, let’s focus on our existing brands. With its 21-year legacy, Power Rangers has been a very strong brand for us. We will be showcasing the new season, Power Rangers Dino Charge [at MIPCOM]. This is really the first time that buyers and partners will get to see what is new and exciting for the new season. We also have Julius Jr., which launched a year ago and has been a huge success in the U.S. and internationally as well. We are now prepping for the launch of season two. And Digimon Fusion has a similar story with a season two announcement coming just in time for MIP Junior. We also have two new brands that we’ll launch at MIP Junior. The first is [with] Cirque du Soleil Média; we plan on introducing this show at the market and share our vision for this upcoming preschool series with our partners. The second one is Emojiville. DEKEL: Emojiville was created here as original IP. Almost overnight it feels iconic in the sense that it is really bringing the world of emoticons and emojis to life in a way that is very resonant with how people are engaging with them in this new age. It’s a universal communications tool, and we feel that translates really well into content that will travel globally.
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TV KIDS: You mentioned acquisitions earlier. What kinds of third-party product are you looking to take on? DEKEL: We are looking at opportunities that continue to diversify our offering, and that have a sense of branding and presence. We’re thinking about content that delivers on the screen, but also has the ability to live offscreen—to be interactive, to be merchandised, to be experienced in a live context. Those attributes are important to us as we think about where we go and how to compete in the marketplace. Our model is very much about multiple platforms, multiple screens, multiple touch points for the fans. We look for properties that not only support that strategy but can flourish in that strategy. TV KIDS: What are your goals as you head into MIPCOM? SOULIE: With our current brands—Power Rangers, Julius Jr. and Digimon—we have robust partnerships around the world with first-class broadcasters. As we focus on the future, we plan on introducing the new seasons to our existing partners and will be looking to grow these series’ presence in additional territories as well. For our two new properties, we are excited to share content for both of these series, which have a lot of potential. With Emojiville, we’re looking forward to showing where our focus will be for the upcoming web series followed by the television series. For the Cirque du Soleil Média property, we’re excited to share a new content venture for a company that already has a 30-year history of existing equity. DEKEL: That’s our approach at the company: we are about branded content. Sometimes that content comes with a preexisting brand, sometimes we’re creating content that supports a brand strategy. That’s an important differentiator for us in the marketplace. It’s fair to say that for us, this is a bit of a return to one of our favorite playgrounds. In the late ’80s and through the ’90s, Haim Saban’s Saban Entertainment was one of the more prolific, productive and successful kids’ producers and distributors of that era. Saban had a very successful run as a distribution company through the ’90s and ultimately sold that business to Disney in 2001. So for us now, 13 years later, this is very much a return to form. We’re re-energized by this business. Not only are we fortunate to have great content, but we’re reentering the space at a time when there are entirely new paradigms, new distribution opportunities and new engagement opportunities with viewers. There are probably more buyers in the market than ever before, by virtue of this revolution. We feel extremely energized by this opportunity and by the ability to take a leadership role in this space. TV KIDS: What else can you tell us about the new unit? DEKEL: Our relationship with Fernando Szew and his team at MarVista Entertainment has been very productive, very collaborative, and we’ve become great friends through the process. We will continue to work together, as MarVista will continue to manage distribution for our properties in Latin America. Frederic is going to be managing that as well as our first-party business in the rest of the world. We are here in this business with a great heritage, a great legacy of success in the kids’ programming space. It’s coupled with a tremendous passion for this new frontier that we’re all experiencing in terms of content and content distribution. We intend to be a very dynamic player and leader and welcome the opportunity to partner with our clients to reinvent the future of the kids’ content universe.
Saban’s new distribution unit is showcasing Power Rangers Dino Charge, Digimon Fusion and Julius Jr., plus several new properties.
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GENIUS BRANDS’ to be consumed across all of the digital channels that kids are on. Kids are accustomed to getting things that they want when they want them; they’re extremely fluent in all of the new-media platforms. As age compression continues and kids get older [at a younger age], the importance of having our dance card filled out with a preschool and toddler component increases. We were very aware of the brand equity and the recognition of Baby Genius. In the U.S. it’s been widely distributed, ranging from the SVOD platform on Comcast to YouTube to all of the various retail outlets where the DVDs and the CDs continue to sell very well.
TV KIDS: Has there been a lot of international exposure for Baby Genius? HEYWARD: There has not been a lot of international exposure. With Andy Berman joining us and overseeing our international sales and building out our international consumerproducts capacity as well, we think that’s just another area of opportunity for the company. TV KIDS: What are some of the opportunities you’re finding with digital platforms? HEYWARD: We just licensed Baby Genius to Netflix. We’re working closely with Comcast’s SVOD platform, where the Baby Genius product has had over 50 million downloads. We recently did a deal with LeapFrog, which is one of the very successful game platforms for kids, and a number of our programs are going to be distributed there as well. Plus, we’re developing our own opportunities. We’ve launched a digital video jukebox where we have all of the songs from Baby Genius. We’ve got about 500 well-known kids’ songs and 125 music videos. There’ll be other products that we’ll be rolling out.
By Mansha Daswani
Andy Heyward has seen many shifts in the kids’ programming business since getting his start as a writer at Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s. After running DIC Entertainment for more than two decades, Heyward founded A Squared Entertainment with his wife Amy, with an eye toward creating content with a purpose. That remit has continued through A Squared’s merger with Genius Brands International (GBI), a company best known for the Baby Genius line of preschool products. As chairman and CEO of GBI, Heyward is leading the company as it navigates new-media platforms, age compression and the complexities, and rewards, of catering to kids in a multiplatform media world. TV KIDS: What were the benefits of merging with Genius Brands last year? HEYWARD: What appealed to us was that they were in the toddler space, and it complemented our business, which had historically been geared to 6- to 11-year-olds. Our mission is “content with a purpose,” and that means being able to deliver a product that is enriching and more than just entertaining. It’s product that is designed
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TV KIDS: How do you manage the size of your portfolio? HEYWARD: By and large we’re sticking with our brand message: content with a purpose. Everything has to have some enrichment value to it. Now, there will be exceptions. Sometimes there’ll be extraordinary commercial opportunities that will come along—we’ll put them under a different umbrella than Genius Brands. We still have the A Squared umbrella. But, we will essentially try and stay focused on the brand message; it’s a way of distinguishing our content from a lot of content that’s out there. If you pick up any one of the various [magazines at MIPCOM], it’s like walking into a chandelier store—there’s just so much product, you don’t know which way to turn, and much of it is pretty good! We feel that the way we will distinguish ourselves and make our product valuable and relevant is through the brand. Being faithful to the brand has to be paramount, especially today when parents are so concerned about the proliferation of media everywhere. There are so many opportunities for kids to get their eyes on things that are inappropriate for them, so we think it’s important [to provide] shows that can enrich kids. Secret Millionaires Club, with Warren Buffett, is all about helping
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ANDY HEYWARD kids learn about “the business of life,” including life lessons that are valuable to them—like the importance of partnerships, of honesty, about the nature of credit. And we were able to bring on board such amazing guest-starring talent as Bill Gates, Jay Z, Giselle Bündchen, Shaquille O’Neal and more, who offer words of wisdom from their own lives. Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab is about showing kids how fun science can be, and it’s all completely drenched in humor, hijinks, strong character development and good storytelling. Even the work that we’re doing with Stan Lee. The superhero stuff today, so much of it is very dark, filled with a lot of angst, too much violence. We went to Stan and said, “Why don’t we create a new generation of superheroes, but ones that don’t have all kinds of complex anger and angst-laden backstories to them? Where the stories are fun, the good guys always win in the end, the bad guys get their comeuppance, there are no weapons, there’s no imitable violence and humor is front and center.” He loved that idea. That gave rise to Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, which is the first of the trilogy of movies that we’re doing with Stan;
there will be a subsequent series that’ll come. We’ve got great voice talent ranging from Armie Hammer to Jim Belushi to Teri Hatcher to Flea to Mayim Bialik, and Stan does his own voice as well. Whether it’s teaching kids lessons about science or financial literacy, or just providing strong entertainment with positive values, that’s where we’re planting our flag.
TV KIDS: What are your goals as you head into MIPCOM? HEYWARD: We’re going to start off with introducing Genius Brands International, under the new structure, and communicating our company and brand messaging: What is our company about? What distinguishes it? Why are the products that we bring to the marketplace important? We’ll be meeting with all the various buyers, many of whom I’ve known for years, and then we will be promoting a number of properties that we have. We’re going to be very active with the Secret Millionaires Club, Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 and with Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab, and then of course with Baby Genius in the toddler space.
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Genius Brands arrives at MIPCOM with a slate that includes Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab.
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HOOPLA DOOPLA! By Joanna Padovano
elinda Wearne, an accomplished Australian producer, was watching her 5-year-old son practicing acrobatics on the family couch when she had an idea for a new show. Wearne’s company, The Content Agency, partnered with Beyond Screen Production to make the 52x12-minute preschool show Hoopla Doopla!, which is being sold internationally by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). In it, Mimi, Ziggy, Jango, Bop, Squiggie and Zap, who all live in the town of Hoopla, each possess a special ability, from expert juggling and magic to super strength and flexibility. “Hoopla Doopla! has warm, lovable, eccentric characters and great stories,” says Wearne, the founder and owner of The Content Agency. “In each episode, our characters are presented with a simple problem that the audience can relate to, and that needs to be solved. Eventually, a solution is always found, but only after our heroes have traveled down the most comical, action- and stunt-packed story paths imaginable.” “The universal nature of the stories told for a preschool audience, combined with great scripts and a talented cast in a magical setting, holds wide appeal,” adds co-creator and producer Ron Saunders, the general manager of Beyond Screen Production. “The series has no dialogue, only the voice of the narrator, so it is easy to dub and it has a multicultural, uniquely talented cast. It would work in any territory.” Hoopla Doopla! was produced for Australia’s ABC and China’s CCTV, which came on board as a co-production partner after a pilot was made in Australia. “With a great tradition of circus skills in China, CCTV’s capacity for large-scale production and ABC TV’s long track record of making successful preschool television and exporting it to the world, it was clear that Hoopla Doopla!
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was the ideal basis for a co-production between the two broadcasters,” says Simon Hopkinson, commissioning editor at ABC. “Developing Hoopla Doopla! as an Australian/Chinese co-production provided an opportunity to create a show that genuinely combined the cultures of both countries.” Earlier this year, Hoopla Doopla! debuted on ABC4Kids, where it has boosted the number of viewers for its time slot by 10 percent. “Hoopla Doopla! has been an immediate hit with our audience and has performed far beyond our expectations,” says Deirdre Brennan, the head of children’s television at ABC. The series is also doing well on CCTV, where “it has increased viewers in the time slot and is fast becoming one of its most popular preschool shows,” says Roberta Di Vito, ACTF’s international sales manager. “We are getting the loveliest feedback ever from parents about Hoopla Doopla!,” says Jenny Buckland, the CEO of ACTF. “Toddlers have split their sides laughing at the antics, tumbles and crazy mistakes of these wonderful characters in their beautiful town.” Hoopla Doopla! is already being featured in a live stage show that kicks off in Australia later this year, and there is a variety of merchandise hitting retail, including a DVD release this October and a series of books in November. ACTF has high hopes for Hoopla Doopla! as it introduces the property at MIP Junior. “We know the launch of this unique series will generate a lot of interest from broadcasters, online and digital services [and] other outlets of preschool programming around the world,” says Di Vito. “The fact that the series has been so successful in both Australia and China, is easy to dub and has an international cast” will be appealing to broadcasters, Di Vito says.
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Hot Topics: Top Commissioners; U.K. Profile; Girls’ Shows. Plus interviews with Turner’s Christina Miller, DHX’s Dana Landry, DreamWorks Ani...
Published on Sep 29, 2014
Hot Topics: Top Commissioners; U.K. Profile; Girls’ Shows. Plus interviews with Turner’s Christina Miller, DHX’s Dana Landry, DreamWorks Ani...