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Kids’ TV in Germany / Preschool Trends / Hank Zipzer ’s Henry Winkler / Peppa Pig’s Phil Davies & Neville Astley CBeebies’ Kay Benbow / Saban Brands’ Elie Dekel / ACTF’s Jenny Buckland / Disney’s Eric Coleman
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Keeping Up with Kids
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
28 German Buzz Massive changes are under way in the German market.
38 TV for Tots Digital media is having a significant impact on the world of preschool programming.
Not long ago my teenage daughter and I were on a flight from London to Milan, seated in the economy section, experiencing the now commonplace feeling of being a sardine tightly packed in a can.
64 Top Honors
Fortunately the flight was short, just two hours, but it seemed to last an eternity for the toddler and her mother seated in the row in front of us. The little girl was adorable, with a crown of curly blond hair and big blue eyes with a hint of mischievousness in them. The mother was doing her best to keep the little one occupied, but as 18-month-olds tend to do, she squirmed out of her mother’s lap and ran down the center aisle of the airplane.When she came back, she saw my daughter Alessia, who smiled and waved at her. The little one came over. Alessia had her iPad on her lap and the girl pointed a chubby index finger at it. She proceeded to press the home button, swipe the unlock arrow and tap the video icon. She did all these movements with such ease; she had obviously done them before. She flipped through Alessia’s video selections and was puzzled when she found 30 Rock and Family Guy, clearly not the shows she expected to find. What was also clear was that this little girl had complete familiarity with the iPad. I was pretty amazed. I shouldn’t have been. A recent study commissioned by Common Sense Media shows that 38 percent of children under the age of 2 are using tablets or smartphones before they can speak in complete sentences—and that’s up from 10 percent in 2011. Furthermore, according to this study, which tracks the media habits of children up to the age of 8, the average time a child spends with a portable smart device has tripled since 2011. Producers and distributors of children’s programming are well aware of this trend and are making content available on a variety of devices. The goal has always been to connect with kids wherever they are; now that is possible in many more ways than it used to be, when there was only the linear channel and a VHS recorder, or later a DVR. In this issue we look at the preschool business and what shows are being made for today’s media-savvy, littlest viewers. We also examine the changing dynamics of the highly competitive German children’s television market. We have interviews with a number of executives and creatives, including Henry Winkler. Known as the super-cool Fonz from Happy Days, he is now spreading a special message through books and TV to learning-challenged kids. —Anna Carugati
72 Cartoon Network: Always On
Children’s programming was celebrated at the 2014 International Emmy Kids Awards.
69 Cyber Group Earns Its Stripes Profiling the French producer and distributor.
A look at what’s ahead for Cartoon Network.
28 INTERVIEWS 46 Hank Zipzer’s Henry Winkler
48 Peppa Pig ’s Neville Astley & Phil Davies
52 CBeebies’ Kay Benbow
56 Saban Brands’ Elie Dekel
60 Disney TV Animation’s Eric Coleman
67 ACTF’s Jenny Buckland
GET DAILY NEWS ON KIDS’ PROGRAMMING SUBSCRIBE HERE: WWW.WORLDSCREEN.COM/PAGES/NEWSLETTER
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4K Media • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL • Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic A wholly owned subsidiary of Konami Digital Entertainment, 4K Media is promoting the various installments of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise at this year’s market in Cannes.Titles include Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL and Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V.The animated shows, which contain hundreds of episodes, have been translated and aired on leading networks in more than 90 countries around the world. Outside of Asia,Yu-GiOh! is managed by 4K Media, which handles the brand management, licensing and marketing, as well as the production and distribution of the television series. Earlier this year, the company launched an official Yu-Gi-Oh! fan website, which provides an extensive amount of information about the franchise and allows viewers in the U.S. to stream full-length episodes.
9 Story Entertainment • Monkey See Monkey Do • Peg + Cat • Get Ace
9 Story Entertainment heads to MIPTV with the preschool series Monkey See Monkey Do and Peg + Cat. It is also promoting Get Ace, a new acquisition from Galaxy Pop that is meant for viewers between the ages of 6 and 11. The company is additionally showcasing new episodes of the animated comedies Nerds and Monsters and Numb Chucks, along with the tween-targeted Extreme Babysitting and Cache Craze. “MIPTV is one market where you can reach almost every territory and as a result, our team’s focus there is worldwide,” says Natalie Osborne, the managing director of 9 Story. “We have seen an increase in activity from Africa recently, which has been a welcome surprise and we see it as an emerging market to watch.”
“Animated comedy is still tremendously popular and in demand.” —Natalie Osborne Get Ace
Australian Children’s Television Foundation • My:24 • Bushwhacked! • Worst Year of My Life, Again! Striving to fulfill the passion for adventure that is prevalent among young viewers, Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) is attending this year’s market with a variety of fun-filled programs, including Bushwhacked! and Worst Year of My Life, Again! The company is also highlighting My:24, a new factual show. “Whether it’s riding a bucking bull or mustering camels in the Australian outback in the second series of our documentary adventure program Bushwhacked!, laughs galore in the live-action comedy series WorstYear of My Life,Again!, or the personal and moving stories of 26 kids in our new series My:24, broadcasters from around the globe will find content here that offers their audience a fabulous viewing experience,” says Tim Hegarty, an international sales manager for ACTF.
“No matter where they’re from, kids love adventure, laughter and real-life stories.” —Tim Hegarty Worst Year of My Life, Again! 202 World Screen 4/14
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Breakthrough Entertainment • Zerby Derby • The Adventures of Napkin Man • Rocket Monkeys Remote-controlled cars take center stage in Zerby Derby, one of Breakthrough Entertainment’s kids’ offerings.The company is also presenting buyers with The Adventures of Napkin Man, a preschool program produced for Kids’ CBC, and Rocket Monkeys, Breakthrough’s most popular show for boys 6 to 11. “Rocket Monkeys is filled with slapstick and physical humor that translates easily internationally,” says Nat Abraham, Breakthrough’s president of distribution. “Zerby Derby is quite a unique series as the characters are actual radio-controlled cars and every episode is filled with challenging adventures! The Adventures of Napkin Man is a combination of live action and animation used effectively to help preschoolers address everyday challenges and concerns through nurturing main characters, age-appropriate comedy and catchy, original music.”
“With VOD, OTT and IPTV platforms opening up globally, kids’ programming has become even more accessible.” Zerby Derby
CAKE • Ella Bella Bingo • Poppy Cat • Wanda and the Alien
Following the adventures of an imaginative little girl is Ella Bella Bingo, a MIPTV highlight from CAKE. “The show explores finding fun in everyday life; it’s about solving problems and inspiring kids to think in new ways,” says Edward Galton, the company’s CCO and managing director. CAKE is also promoting the new season of Poppy Cat, as well as Wanda and the Alien, which is adapted from Sue Hendra’s books. “Our newest preschool offerings, along with every property we distribute here at CAKE, are chosen for their universal appeal,” says Galton. “We are drawn to stories that all kids can relate to, understand and enjoy. Strong characters, exciting adventures, fun and learning are themes that you can find in all our programming—themes that translate into any language.”
“The market is becoming more and more digitally focused.” —Edward Galton Poppy Cat
Cyber Group Studios • Mini Ninjas • Zorro the Chronicles • Zou Co-produced by Cyber Group Studios, TF1 Production and Enanimation, Mini Ninjas is an animated series based on a popular video game and app. The show, meant for 6- to 10-yearold viewers, is one of the properties that Cyber Group Studios is taking to this year’s MIPTV. “[It] is the perfect mix of action and comedy and is actually that kind of rare concept that appeals to both public and commercial broadcasters,” says Carole Brin, the company’s VP of international sales and acquisitions. Other highlights include Zorro the Chronicles, produced in association with Blue Spirit Studios, and the second season of Zou, which will still be “based on the same character, Zou, the completely lovable 5-year-old zebra, his extended family and his friends,” says Brin.
“We have high hopes for Zorro the Chronicles as a great new entertainment production for kids and families.” Zorro the Chronicles 204 World Screen 4/14
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DHX Media • Dr. Dimensionpants • Hank Zipzer • Grandpa in My Pocket The animated comedy Dr. Dimensionpants is targeted at youngsters between the ages of 6 and 11.According to Josh Scherba, the senior VP of distribution at DHX Media, when it comes to international appeal, “Dr. Dimensionpants ticks all the boxes with its riotous humor, plus our hero has super glowing pants and a distinctive moustache!” This title is being showcased by the company in Cannes, as is Hank Zipzer, which drew inspiration from Henry Winkler’s books about growing up with a learning disability. “Hank Zipzer is intuitively developed and superbly acted,” says Scherba. “The series about ‘the World’s Greatest Underachiever’ has already received positive feedback from broadcasters.”Another title on offer from DHX Media is Grandpa in My Pocket, which “shows no signs of slowing down,” according to Scherba.
“What continues to grow is the presence and proliferation of digital platforms.” —Josh Scherba Dr. Dimensionpants
DreamWorks Animation • King Julien • Puss in Boots • Turbo F.A.S.T.
The royal lemur from the hit animated film Madagascar has been given his own show, King Julien, which DreamWorks Animation is bringing to this year’s event. Also in the company’s MIPTV catalogue is Puss in Boots, another series based on a movie character, and Turbo F.A.S.T., which has already debuted successfully around the world. “We are in the enviable position to be able to bring to the market some of the world’s best-known and beloved characters, which every child, parent and grandparent knows,” says Chloe van den Berg, the executive VP of international for DreamWorks Classics.There is also VeggieTales in the House. “VeggieTales in the House is very well known in the U.S. and we look forward to bringing this to international audiences,” says van den Berg.
“There are more and more ways for us to reach our audiences globally.” —Chloe van den Berg Turbo F.A.S.T.
The Funny Shorts Company • The Stunt Comedy Show In an effort to bring non-verbal comedy programming back into the spotlight,The Funny Shorts Company has created The Stunt Comedy Show. “There were a lot of attempts to renew the genre in the early ’90s,” says Mads Dirckinck-Holmfeld, the company’s CEO. “Now is the time again to come up with new original comedy content that distances itself from the rest.” The Stunt Comedy Show features humorous cartoon-style sketches led by stuntmen and stuntwomen. It is produced on location in such cities as Los Angeles, Paris, Munich, Prague, Bangkok and Copenhagen, among others. “All sketches are short setups followed by a surprising and always funny ending,” says DirckinckHolmfeld. “The show is good for both filler purposes and on any digital platform that needs short segments.”
“By keeping focused on what’s globally funny we have succeeded in revitalizing the [nonverbal comedy] genre.” The Stunt Comedy Show 206 World Screen 4/14
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Hasbro Studios • Transformers • My Little Pony • Littlest Pet Shop Hasbro Studios will launch its latest series from the Transformers franchise at MIPTV. The show has a new look, with a lighter, more comedic feel, and new characters. Other highlights include returning series, notably My Little Pony, set in the magical land of Equestria, and Littlest Pet Shop, a comedic adventure series about tween Blythe and the pets she cares for. “Our ongoing returning series offer broadcasters the opportunity to build a strong following from their audience, providing a brand that continues to perform well year on year,” says Finn Arnesen, the studio’s senior VP of international distribution and development. This year, the company says it hopes to continue seeing strong results for these titles in Latin America, as well as in emerging markets in Asia.
“We have developed an ‘all-screen’ strategy, ensuring our content is delivered across all platforms [and] that kids and their families are consuming it.” —Finn Arnesen Transformers
Hoho Rights • Cloudbabies • Abadas • Everybody Loves a Moose
Everybody Loves a Moose is a traditional buddy comedy full of slapstick humor. The animation, geared at 6- to 10-year-olds, follows Jack and his friend Moose, pals who always end up sticking together even through the most ridiculous situations. Cloudbabies is a CG-animated series for preschoolers. It follows the Cloudbabies, who look after the sky and help kids to learn the lessons of friendship and fun, teaching them how to interact in social situations.Also aimed at preschoolers is the word-learning program Abadas, which mixes animation with live action. “The series can be localized or run as an English-language learning tool, both of which help kids whilst having some fun,” says Danielle Davies, the head of sales and acquisitions at Hoho Rights, which is presenting these titles in Cannes.
“SVOD platforms are helping us move into the bigger territories, such as the U.S., earlier than we might expect and this is very positive for us.” Cloudbabies
Imira Entertainment • Lucky Fred • Larva • Cleo Nickelodeon, Disney, TF1 and Televisa are just a few of the networks that have picked up the rights for Lucky Fred, a comedic adventure series that has sold into 165 territories around the globe. Imira Entertainment is promoting the animated show’s second season this year in Cannes, along with Larva, which is “a globally recognized product with strong consumer product orientation,” according to Sergi Reitg, the company’s CEO. Also on Imira’s MIPTV slate is Cleo, a brand-new program that follows the adventures of an endearing and playful young dog. “All of the series Imira produces and represents have a strong universal appeal and editorial line that easily crosses borders, and the elements of comedy in our series are global,” says Reitg.
“The rise in VOD platforms and new media channels is creating a wealth of opportunities for content providers.” Lucky Fred 208 World Screen 4/14
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IMPS • The Smurfs • The Smurfs and the Magic Flute • From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf Distributor IMPS says it wants to bring its Smurfs property into the modern age, just as the VOD market is allowing everyone to access content anytime. “We want the Smurfs to be part of this new digital era for a new generation of kids,” says Nele De Wilde, IMPS’ business affairs manager for audiovisual. Some titles the company will offer at MIPTV include episodes of the classic TV show The Smurfs, the animated film The Smurfs and the Magic Flute and the documentary From the World of Peyo to Planet Smurf, which traces how Pierre Culliford became the artist and Smurf-creator known as Peyo. “The values that [the Smurfs] represent, such as honesty, friendship, solidarity and the protection of nature, are worldwide values that appeal to everyone,” says De Wilde.
“The Smurfs are loved by millions of fans all over the world.” The Smurfs
—Nele De Wilde
m4e-Telescreen • Mia and me • Tip the Mouse • Atchoo!
The first season of Mia and me has aired in more than 80 territories; the second season will debut by the end of the year. This is one of the titles that m4e-Telescreen is showcasing at MIPTV, along with Tip the Mouse, a new preschool program, and Atchoo!, another new series, which is being developed with Cartobaleno and Studio Campedelli.“Tip the Mouse has already received interest from major territories and has been presold to Italy, Germany, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel and Poland,” says Hans Ulrich Stoef, the CEO of m4e. “Atchoo! gained strong attention when it was presented at Cartoon Forum. Since then, the development has proceeded and the property is soon going into production with commitments from some leading international broadcasters.”
“Mia and me is a proven international success story.” —Hans Ulrich Stoef Mia and me
Mediatoon Distribution • Linkers • Garfield • Kinky & Cosy Five heroes saving a friend who is trapped in a video game is the premise of Linkers, which Mediatoon Distribution has lined up for MIPTV. The company is also bringing to the market Garfield, a global hit that is “making waves for itself in Greece, where the airing of the show is a massive success,” says Jérôme Alby, Mediatoon’s deputy general manager. Then there is Kinky & Cosy, about two wacky twin sisters. “The difference between good and evil, being brave, sharing knowledge, the importance of friendship—all of these themes feature strongly in our series,” says Alby. “Humor is a key element. Isn’t laughter able to cross any boundary? I have to [also] mention the quality of animation and the innumerable talent used in the production of our shows.”
“The strength of these programs lies in their strong values, which are universally shared.” —Jérôme Alby Linkers 210 World Screen 4/14
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Mondo TV S.p.A. • The Drakers • Treasure Island • Cat Leopold Mondo TV S.p.A. has been building strong relationships with buyers and broadcasters around the world, including in Russia, the CIS and the Middle East, according to Matteo Corradi, the company’s CEO. During this year’s MIPTV, Mondo will be offering up programs that target both boys and girls. Treasure Island is based on the classic story of the same name. The comedic production Cat Leopold is a 2D series based on an existing Russian property. A third animated highlight is The Drakers, a car-racing adventure co-produced with Ferrari. The series features two young drivers who compete in a championship. “Each one of the above-mentioned programs is totally different and unique with its style of storytelling and content,” says Corradi.
“The net and smartphones are opening an enormous number of opportunities, which we are still watching closely.” —Matteo Corradi The Drakers
Nerd Corps Entertainment • Endangered Species • Intergalactic Funk Knights • Slugterra Nerd Corps Entertainment’s Slugterra franchise returns with three TV movies. The company says the longer-form adventures will deepen the story and the world it has created. “The property already has a substantial fanbase worldwide, a full toy line that’s rolling out globally and many licensees signed on for diverse products,” says Ken Faier, Nerd Corps’ president. Endangered Species is an original comedy with a slapstick sense of humor about three mismatched best friends. Intergalactic Funk Knights is also heavy on the comedy, following a trio of characters who get their hands on vintage tracksuits that grant them dance skills. “The combination of comedy and action has universal appeal for kids,” says Faier. “Comedy travels and resonates with kids wherever they are in the world.”
“We are looking at emerging markets and digital opportunities on a global basis.” —Ken Faier Endangered Species
Planeta Junior • Bubble Bip • Egyxos • Sendokai Champions Production on season one of the upper-preschool comedy Bubble Bip is already wrapped and a second season is in the works. Planeta Junior is promoting the title at MIPTV, along with two boys’ action programs, Egyxos and Sendokai Champions. “All of them are packed with exciting, modern values and great content, and are produced with high-quality writing and animation,” says Diego Ibañez Belaustegui, the international commercial director of Planeta Junior. “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. For all these reasons, we have on board some of the most important players as partners all along from the production phase.”
“We know that kids will be enjoying our brands on many devices aside from the TV and that’s the main reason our new properties have been designed from scratch with a strong transmedia strategy.” Bubble Bip 212 World Screen 4/14
—Diego Ibañez Belaustegui
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Rainbow • Winx Club • Mia and me • Royal Academy This year marks the tenth anniversary of Winx Club, the seventh season of which is scheduled for delivery in 2015. Rainbow is promoting this property at MIPTV, along with the second season of Mia and me.Then there is Royal Academy, an animated series with a story that “is really fresh but familiar so kids can easily relate to it,” says Iginio Straffi, Rainbow’s president and CEO. “Broadcasters will be attracted by the great stories that convey safe emotions and self-assurance to the young viewers and their families.” Straffi mentions that the company is also working on a live-action show, for which it is seeking international partners. Another upcoming project, which he describes as “dark and funny,” will involve gags and slapstick comedy.
“We are dedicated to producing magical content designed to enrich the lives of kids and make parents comfortable to know their children are interested in shows that are both wholesome and fun.” Winx Club
Sesame Workshop • The Furchester Hotel • Cookie’s Crumby Pictures • Elmo the Musical
Sesame Workshop has partnered with CBeebies to produce The Furchester Hotel, a new series about a close-knit family of Muppets who own and operate an “almost” world-class hotel.“The series promotes creative problem-solving skills and persistence,” says Renee Mascara, Sesame Workshop’s VP of international media distribution. Another highlight is Cookie’s Crumby Pictures.The series showcases parodies of film previews starring Cookie Monster, who attempts to master such skills as self-control, delayed gratification and flexible thinking. And in Elmo the Musical, Sesame Street’s popular Elmo character shares inventive and interactive musical adventures with viewers.“If there’s anything Sesame Street is known for, it’s the fun furry characters, witty parodies and unforgettable music,” says Mascara.
Elmo the Musical
“For MIPTV, we are highlighting three programs that embody just what kids love about Sesame Street.” —Renee Mascara
Splash Entertainment • It’s Archie • Chloe’s Closet • Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch Moonscoop LLC in the U.S. has rebranded as Splash Entertainment, and is back under the ownership of Mike and Liz Young. It’s Archie is one of Splash’s key titles at MIPTV. The series follows comics character Archie and his friends when they’re attending Riverdale Junior High. “When you consider that these characters are as famous in India and Southeast Asia as they are in the U.S., it is a testimony to this iconic brand,” says Mike Young, the company’s co-CEO. Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch is also part of the Archie Comics brand. It airs in the U.S. on Hub Network and Kabillion, and on 17 Disney Channels around the world. The animated show Chloe’s Closet returns for a second season; the property now has more than 100 episodes and a Christmas special.
“We are delighted to be attending MIPTV under our new banner of Splash Entertainment.” —Mike Young Chloe’s Closet 214 World Screen 4/14
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Studio 100 Media • Tashi • Heidi • K3 Tashi, a CGI series with 2D elements that’s based on the bestselling Australian children’s books, is one of Studio 100 Media’s offerings at this year’s MIPTV.The action-packed show explores an exotic world filled with creatures such as giants, ghosts, demons and dragons.The 3D/CGI animation Heidi introduces elements of emotion and themes such as coping with separation.The company is also presenting K3, an animated program based on the popular girl band of the same name that has already spawned liveaction TV series and movies. “With extraordinary encounters, monsters, ghosts, aliens and crazy creatures, [K3] will appeal not just to girls but boys too,” says Patrick Elmendorff, Studio 100’s managing director. Another highlight is Knietzsche, about a boy who ponders all of the important topics that intrigue children.
“We offer programs which can be matched to any territory.” —Patrick Elmendorff Tashi
Technicolor Digital Productions • Chamelia • The Deep • Atomic Puppet
The series Chamelia tells the story of a female chameleon who can’t help but stand out. She leads with her heart, and her world is colored by her emotions.Technicolor Digital Productions also presents The Deep, a show that the company believes fulfills broadcasters’ requirements for a unique and compelling story with fun characters.“There’s peril, excitement and humor in every adventure-filled episode,” says Alison Warner,Technicolor’sVP of IP sales, acquisitions and co-productions.Warner says that Atomic Puppet continues to receive good responses from international broadcasters. Disney XD is set to air the animated series in various markets worldwide, with TELETOON broadcasting in Canada.“The series showcases the kind of comedy that broadcasters seem to be looking for right now—a sharp-witted and hilarious buddy comedy,” she says.
“We will continue to focus our efforts on broadcasters in key territories, [seeking] presales on shows that are still in development.” Chamelia
The Jim Henson Company • Doozers • Driftwood Bay • Elias: Rescue Team Adventures The Jim Henson Company says it looks forward to meeting potential broadcast partners at MIPTV for Doozers, a DHX Media co-production. The show, inspired by the classic Henson series Fraggle Rock, focuses on a team of friends who love to design, create and innovate. Driftwood Bay is about a girl who creates an imaginary world from washed-up treasures.Also available is Elias: Rescue Team Adventures, featuring a little rescue boat that gained popularity in a children’s picture book in Norway.The company is also producing series for toddlers aged 18 months to 2 years old. “This is an audience that television networks are now largely ignoring, providing an opportunity to launch this younger-skewing content on video-on-demand outlets,” says Richard Goldsmith, the company’s executive VP of global distribution.
“The Jim Henson Company is renowned across the globe for its preschool programming that is entertaining, engaging and educational.” Doozers 216 World Screen 4/14
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Turner Broadcasting Systems Europe FremantleMedia International • Adventure Time • Ben 10• Bellator • The Amazing World of Gumball • XOX, Betsey Johnson A trio of Cartoon Network programs lead the children’s slate that Turner Broadcasting Systems Europe brings to this year’s MIPTV. First up is Adventure Time, an animated comedy that has been enjoying success around the globe. “The key being its humor and imagination, this is a show that surprises and stands out from anything out there,” says Patricia Hidalgo, the senior VP and chief content and creative officer for Turner Broadcasting System EMEA. “The characters are very relatable to kids, thanks to the strong theme of friendship between its two unlikely heroes, Finn and Jake.” She adds, “The comedy elements have shown to have mass appeal and the series is genuinely funny for all ages, from kids to adults alike.” Then there is the animated actionadventure program Ben 10, the upcoming installation of which is titled Ben 10 Omniverse: Galactic Monsters. “This latest series offers more of what kids have been asking for: Ben the alien-morphing superhero and his friend and partner Rook embarking on saving the world from a whole host of new monsters and baddies,” says Hidalgo. There is also The Amazing World of Gumball, a Cartoon Network Development Studio Europe production that combines live action and animation. “It is extremely well written and hugely Adventure Time funny for kids and their families,” adds Hidalgo.
“[Comedy] seems to be more important than ever and is something that Cartoon Network has always excelled at.” —Patricia Hidalgo
Veria Living Worldwide • Yogapalooza Veria Living Worldwide made a name for itself in the wellness space by providing content aimed at adults who are interested in leading healthier lifestyles. Now, with Yogapalooza, the company is expanding its reach into the kids’ programming arena. “Yogapalooza is an interactive show focused on yoga, which should be an easy sell for many networks as yoga’s popularity is absolutely huge around the globe,” says Raymond Donahue, the head of worldwide sales at Veria Living Worldwide. “The show packs a ton of energy and good vibes thanks to host Bari Koral. A performer, songwriter and yoga teacher, Bari actually inspires the gradeschool set to get moving through simple and playful yoga moves.” Donahue points out that in many countries the 52x30-minute series will qualify as educational content. “As a lifestyle channel we are looking to expand our activities to bring shows to morning time slots that engage and entertain kids about being fit and well,” he adds. “In addition to individual shows such as Yogapalooza, we’re looking to produce more morning programming blocks that appeal to both parents and kids and encourage them to watch together and have fun while learning about health and wellness. Clearly, we’re aiming to increase the diversity of our overall programming palate.”
“For Veria Living, Yogapalooza represents an important new step in our evolution as a content provider.” —Raymond Donahue Yogapalooza 218 World Screen 4/14
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GERMAN Massive changes are under way in the German kids’market. BY ANDY FRY ermany is the fourth biggest economy in the world and has a population of more than 80 million. So it stands to reason that the country has a dynamic and diverse kids’ television market. But if you think Germany’s kids’ sector resembles other leading Western markets, you’re mistaken. “Historically, Germany has had a very strong free-to-air TV market, with the result that pay TV in this country is still quite an under-developed sector,” says Claude Schmit, the CEO of the leading kids’ commercial channel, SUPER RTL. “For this reason, all of the major kids’ broadcasters in Germany have a free-to-air presence, whereas they would be on pay TV in France, the U.K. or the U.S.” Schmit’s point is underlined by the fact that Disney launched a new free-to-air channel in Germany in January. In
Studio 100’s Maya the Bee. 220 World Screen 4/14
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doing so, it adds to a lineup of free services that already includes SUPER RTL, public channel KiKA, Nickelodeon and RiC, which is a part of the Your Family Entertainment group. “Free and pay TV are not comparable where kids’ TV is concerned,” says Schmit, “and with Disney joining the free market there is even less of an incentive for families to subscribe to pay-TV services.” (NEW) KID ON THE BLOCK
The arrival of a new Disney service is the biggest shakeup in the German kids’ market in almost a decade. This is especially true for SUPER RTL, which was heavily reliant on Disney content until the start of 2014. “As of January 2014, we have no Disney children’s shows,” Schmit says. “The only Disney content we have now are the dramas that we acquire for our family-targeted prime-time schedule.” Schmit admits, “We were a bit depressed when we first heard we were losing Disney’s content. But once we got used to the idea we realized there were also opportunities. We’ve started to think of the Disney launch as our liberation day.” SUPER RTL has used the end of its Disney content deal as an opportunity to refresh its schedule. Schmit notes,“30 percent of daytime used to be occupied by Disney shows. One of the first things we did was sign a five-year output deal with DreamWorks Animation, which gave us access to shows like
Alaaarm is one of several local originals on Nickelodeon Germany.
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Dragons and Turbo F.A.S.T. The DreamWorks programming now accounts for about 10 percent of our new-look schedule and is working very well for us.” ACCESSING ORIGINALS
Another 10 percent of the schedule is now made up of original programming in access prime time. “Parents in Germany are becoming more concerned about the quality of education, so we have created knowledge-based magazine programs like Woozle Goozle, WOW Die Entdeckerzone and Vollgas zurück. It’s a new direction for us and it is not cheap because of the high production values, but it is adding depth to our schedule.” The final 10 percent of replacement content comes from what Schmit calls cherry-picking. “We had a good relationship with Disney, but not everything was perfect and not everything was cheap. So after the mourning period, we realized we could get some great product at very competitive prices. Examples include Scooby-Doo from Warner Bros. and Calimero, an animation series from Gaumont Animation, Calidra and Studio Campedelli.” This new lineup has been doing pretty well, says Schmit. “We expected our audience share and revenues would drop after Disney launched. But so far we’ve only seen our share slip from 23 percent of the kids’ market to about 21, 22 percent. It’s early, but we’ve been encouraged by our performance since the Disney launch.”
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SUPER RTL has an output deal with DreamWorks Animation covering such titles as Turbo F.A.S.T.
Another upside, Schmit says, is on the licensing and merchandising front. “SUPER RTL has a well-established licensing division, but Disney always handled its own properties. Now, though, we are able to take responsibility for more properties; for example, the DreamWorks output. That makes us a strong number two to Disney in consumer products.” Public channel KiKA, a joint venture between ZDF and ARD, continues to run almost neck and neck with SUPER RTL in the ratings.The reason, says Sebastian Debertin, head of fiction, acquisitions and co-production, is its broad range of shows. “We are leaders in preschool, and are happy that JoNaLu from ZDF is working so well. Also getting good ratings are Die Sendung mit dem Elefanten, Chloe’s Closet, Fireman Sam and Abby’s Flying Fairy School.” As for live action, Debertin says the crime series KRIMI.DE does well with older kids, and so does Schloss Einstein, a daily soap about a boarding school. KiKA plays a particularly important role in supporting the local production community, adds Debertin. “The majority of KiKA programs come from or are co-produced by German producers. It is difficult to get the concrete figures together but I would say over 75 percent of our programming is more or less produced with local German producers involved.” HOLDING STRONG
Debertin says KiKA has held up well in the face of competition from Disney, with an audience share of about 20 percent. In terms of combatting the new arrival, he says, “We are connecting even more strongly with our audience via the KiKA.de website, KiKANiNCHEN.de for toddlers and KiKA+, our free VOD platform. We have more innovative plans and concepts in the pipeline! One thing we did that worked well was the ARDKiKA-Yakari weekend at the end of January. It was a huge success and showed one way we can succeed over the competition.” Disney has also declared itself happy with the way things are working out so far. Disney Channel in its first two weeks on air scored an average share of 7.3 percent among kids ages 3 to 13 during daytime (in prime time the schedule is aimed at a broader audience, namely adults and women, echoing the situation at SUPER RTL and Nickelodeon). “The Disney brand has an immense level of attraction on free TV,” Lars Wagner,VP and general manager of Disney Channels Germany, Switzerland and Austria, says. “However, what is more 224 World Screen 4/14
important than individual ratings is expansion in reach and brand recognition.We have a long-term commitment; we’re not thinking in terms of weeks or months.” As for why Disney launched the channel when it was already a fifty-fifty partner in the number one free-to-air player in German kids’ TV, Wagner explains: “The new free-to-air Disney Channel is the gateway to all things Disney and will enable us to grow affinity for the Disney brand and characters. It is a key driver for our business and will also deliver a positive impetus to our other company divisions.” ROOM TO GROW?
Some observers question whether Germany is big enough for so many free-to-air kids’ channels. With many of them dependent on advertising as a core revenue stream, there’s concern over whether there’s enough audience to go around. In response, Wagner says, “We think there is enough space for more players and that the kids’ TV market on the whole will profit. Our view is that the big general TV channels will lose ratings and the smaller ones will benefit due to a clear profile.” Disney has not turned its back on pay TV in Germany, Wagner stresses. “We offer Disney Junior, Disney XD and Disney Cinemagic on pay TV. These are international brands but the channels are tailor-made for the local market. Dubbing, local productions, third-party acquisitions, on-air promotion stunts and market-specific schedules are used to supplement globally and regionally produced Disney shows.” Disney’s two-tier channel strategy is pretty similar to the approach at Nickelodeon, which launched its own free-to-air channel in 2005. Two years later it added a pay-TV channel, which was later rebranded as Nicktoons. Subsequently, it added the preschool service Nick Jr. to the mix. At Nick’s free-to-air channel, about 80 percent of the content comes from the U.S. portfolio, says Milagros Aleman, the senior VP and general manager of Nickelodeon Northern Europe. Nick supports these hit shows with content that has a local flavor. “One top show is Hotel 13, a children’s soap produced in Belgium with a German-speaking cast,” says Aleman. “And we add localized elements to our broadcast of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. In addition, we recently introduced daytime segment Alaaarm. Ratings in this time slot since we introduced Alaaarm are up 16 percent.”
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m4e’s new preschool series Tip the Mouse is an Italian-German co-production.
The introduction of Alaaarm was one of a number of channel initiatives designed to prepare Nickelodeon for the arrival of Disney. “We introduced some creative changes to the on-air look of the channel,” says Aleman, “making it more colorful and playful.We also have a higher refresh rate on shows now, so new programming is coming through more often. And we’ve been running a new brand campaign entitled Mach Mal Nickelodeon (Let’s Go Nickelodeon), which shows the audience the wide range of programs that are aired by the channel.” The result of these efforts is that Nickelodeon’s free-TV channel has managed to hold its own in the post-Disney period, Aleman says. “Our share of 3 to 13 in January was 11.2 percent, which is up 17 percent year on year.” INDEPENDENT SPIRIT
With SUPER RTL, Disney, Nickelodeon and KiKA in the market, you might assume that German kids are pretty well served. But there are other broadcasters that merit attention. Your Family Entertainment (YFE) operates two channels, one pay, yourfamily, and one free, RiC. According to Laurence Robinet, chief broadcast officer, the thing that sets YFE’s portfolio apart is the character of its content: “Our programs are high-quality, educational, European in origin and non-violent. This gives us a competitive advantage over our rivals because children identify with our characters and parents/caregivers are happy to recommend our channel. Another added advantage is that we don’t show many advertisements, and when we do we are careful about the kind of brands that we work with.” While the majority of programming on the channels comes from YFE’s library of 3,500 half-hours, there is room for carefully selected acquisitions, says Robinet. “For us, it is important that the pacing is not too quick. Fast-cut shows can be dangerous for kids because they overload them. We’re looking for shows that help children concentrate and raise their ability to be creative.” While yourfamily has been embedded in the German market since 2007, RiC has only been on air since 2012. “We’re very pleased with the progress the channel has made,” says Robinet, “and we will put a lot of effort into promoting RiC during 2014. A big priority for us will be increasing our technical coverage, which currently stands at around 23 million households.” 226 World Screen 4/14
Germany has around 40 million TV households. The other free-to-air kids’ channels have technical coverage of 95 to 100 percent of this market, while the pay-TV sector currently stands at around 6.5 million homes. The other upstart in the German kids’ space is YEP!, a fiftyfifty joint venture between m4e AG and Mainstream Media that has a long-term deal to run as a branded block on the free-TV channel ProSieben MAXX. It targets boys aged 6 to 13 with shows like Pokémon, One Piece and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. SPEAKING GERMAN
With so many dynamic kids’ broadcasters, you might suppose there is an equally vibrant production sector. But the reality is that German kids’ production is under pressure. Hans Ulrich Stoef, the CEO of m4e, runs one of the few successful kids’ outfits in the country. He says:“The problem we have here is lack of public support in the shape of subsidies, tax breaks or local content quotas.The public broadcasters (ARD and ZDF) try to support local talent but that doesn’t match what is available to French, Canadian or U.K. producers. As things stand, there’s little incentive for German studios to produce outstanding creative shows. By the time they’ve raised the financing for their show they’ve had to give up 80 to 90 percent of the rights to the idea.” This wasn’t the case for m4e, which has had a breakout hit in the shape of girl-oriented TV property Mia and me. But Stoef admits m4e got lucky. “We took a huge risk when we gap financed Mia and me using money raised from an initial public offering. Fortunately for us Mia has become a big international hit, but if it didn’t I’m not sure we’d still be in business.” Mia and me was a co-production with Rainbow that airs on ZDF in Germany and Rai Gulp in Italy. A girl-oriented show, the first season sold to 70-plus countries and quickly established itself as a licensing and merchandising success (with help from master toy licensee Mattel). “We are now in production on series two and have announced plans for a feature film and series three,” says Stoef. For m4e, the job now is to use Mia and me as a platform for further growth. “We are expanding our slate into other areas,” says Stoef. “In preschool, we are making a series called Tip the Mouse, which is based on a successful book series called Leo
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the company’s global strategy. This includes producing live shows, finding licensing partners, launching merchandising and setting up and branding theme-park attractions, as well as stage shows and home entertainment.” GLOBAL APPROACH
Disney Channel in Germany launched this January with a slate that included ABC Family’s Switched at Birth.
Lausemaus. It has been presold to SUPER RTL and RAI and has Simba Toys, Panini and Universum aboard as partners. We are also working with Studio Campedelli on Atchoo!, a series for 6- to 10-year-olds about a boy who changes into a different animal every time he sneezes.That will go into production later this year and will also be a great property for digital media and applications.” While Mia is m4e’s flagship property, it’s important to note that the company has not pinned its entire future on production and development. “We set out to create a 360-degree studio,” says Stoef. “So we have a strong presence in licensing and merchandising and distribution. In the case of distribution, we acquired the TV-Loonland catalogue in 2011.That gave us 1,600 episodes, which meant we were able to develop cash flow.” Interestingly, m4e will not be handling the German licensing program on Tip the Mouse. Instead, it will be managed by SUPER RTL, a situation that Stoef is comfortable with. “We have a strong licensing division but we have to do what is best for the brand. If giving up the licensing rights to a show in our home territory means we get on-air continuity, that’s a price worth paying.” IN THE STUDIO
The success of m4e and YFE suggests that the model that works for independent kids’ studios in Germany is to become a multifaceted operation.This view is endorsed by Patrick Elmendorff, the managing director of German-based Studio 100 Media. “What is special about Studio 100 is that it offers a 360degree approach to family entertainment with a mix of global and local brands, from live-action and animation series to movies and stage shows,” Elmendorff says. “Once audiences have been established who love a particular series or brand, Studio 100 expands and markets its licensing rights in line with 228 World Screen 4/14
If you’re wondering how Studio 100 Media has established itself in the face of the business challenges outlined above, then it’s important to realize it is owned by a Belgium-based firm (Studio 100 Group) that bought into Germany using cash generated in the theme-park sector. Since launching in 2007, however, Studio 100 Media has never looked back. On the production front, says Elmendorff, “We work with the group’s animation studios, Flying Bark Productions in Australia and Studio 100 Animation based in Paris. Both studios focus on international productions such as Maya the Bee, Vic the Viking and Heidi.” In addition, the company is active in theatrical production and distribution, says Elmendorff. “We have animation feature films such as The Woodlies and Blinky Bill and the teen mystery movie House of Anubis, as well as German co-production activities for the feature film Maya the Bee Movie, for example. We also distribute and market our library of 10,000 commercial half-hours as well as new productions such as Maya the Bee, Vic the Viking, Heidi and the 2D animation series K3, based on the girl band K3. We also distribute third-party programs—at MIPTV, we will offer Knietzsche for the first time.” On top of all this, “We also run our own national TV channel, Junior TV. Junior airs between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day, offering children’s classics, cartoons, live action and films to 3to 13-year-olds.” Like m4e’s Stoef, Elmendorff admits there are not many funding possibilities for kids’ production in Germany. But it’s not all bad news. “Investments from German broadcasters are substantial when it comes to German content,” he says, “and distribution of our series on DVD is strong. In Germany, the physical home entertainment market is solid compared to most markets.” Having said this, the most important decision that Studio 100 Media made was to position itself as an international company, “evaluating every project from a global point of view,” says Elmendorff. “For example, for the new Maya the Bee CGI series, we were not only able to have ZDF on board but also TF1, so we are open to collaborating with other broadcasters.” Going forward, it seems clear that a big challenge for German kids’ players will be getting the right balance between international content (which offers creativity, cost efficiencies and great ROI opportunities) and local content (which provides editorial distinctiveness in a crowded market). But there’s one other thing that’s on everyone’s agenda for 2014: “VOD, Internet, tablets and mobile are going to be increasingly important,” says SUPER RTL’s Schmit, a theme touched on by all the main players. “Making sure our content is where the audience is will be a big strategic priority in the coming year.”
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ZDF Enterprises’ Q Pootle 5.
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TV FOR TOTS Digital media is having a significant impact on the world of preschool programming. By David Wood ne of the biggest talking points among preschool producers and distributors at this year’s MIPTV will be the impact of the new generation of over-the-top platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. A survey of some of the genre’s specialists reveals that most are either in conversation, development or production with one or more of the new Internet TV platforms, which seem determined to quickly establish a reputation for preschool content and have money to spend. Of course, this is all good news for preschool producers, because it means a bunch of eager new customers to sell to. Better still, the OTT platforms all want to offer their customers something exclusive—ideally the hottest new preschool show—to help stimulate demand.
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“The fact that the OTT platforms are all looking to establish themselves in kids’ programming adds up to a really good opportunity for kids’ producers,” confirms Ira Levy, executive producer and partner at Breakthrough Entertainment. This increased competition is driving up the quality of kids’ production, he says. “The simple truth is that audiences gravitate toward great content. Having shows such as House of Cards on Netflix pushes the cable channels and the networks in turn because they are all competing for eyeballs. It’s just as true for kids as it is for drama.” Vince Commisso, president and CEO of 9 Story Entertainment, adds: “Strategically, digital players such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are a lot more focused on providing a broad offering right now. They are realizing that a lot of viewing decisions in the home are made by preschoolers.”
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Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood, distributed by 9 Story and broadcast in the U.S. on PBS KIDS, is accompanied by apps and several other digital extensions.
Netflix’s exclusive deal with DreamWorks Animation is probably the clearest illustration of the strategic importance of original kids’ content. Netflix has said that the 30 exclusive kids’ series it has streamed to date have each been watched by more than 2 million viewers. “Netflix and Amazon are openly looking for original preschool content, but that content has to work across all territories,” advises Commisso. And because these Internet-based services are not constrained by broadcast schedules, their appetite for kids’ shows is elastic. “They are not limited by the same shelf space issues as the broadcast networks,” says Levy, whose company has licensed My Big Big Friend to Netflix. BUILDING BLOCKS
PBS KIDS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood is a good example of an animated series in which kids feel a strong one-toone connection to the central Daniel Tiger character. In addition to high quality of the storytelling and characterization, a fresh perspective will often make commissioners and preschool viewers sit up and take notice. CAKE’s van Waveren draws a cinematic parallel: “It was film director Stanley Kubrick who said, ‘All shots have already been done—the challenge is to do them better.’ It’s the same with preschool in that people really respond to familiar ideas with an original twist.” For instance, many preschool shows have familiar moral messages, such as accepting our differences. But CAKE’s latest project from Komixx Entertainment, Wanda and the Alien, suggests that it’s what is different that’s interesting, says van Waveren. “In the show, Wanda meets an alien and goes to the alien’s world and thinks it is fantastic. My advice is, take a moral message you’ve heard a hundred times and try to present it a bit differently to produce a fresh, clear voice that’s warm and attractive.” Freshness can also be communicated by the look of a show, advises 9 Story’s Commisso. Peg + Cat, a preschool math show from The Fred Rogers Company, has been animated using the VFX software package After Effects, rather than Harmony or Flash, to give it a more unique style, he points out. “The feeling is that more and more preschool shows have to have a special appeal [in order to] to stand out for a preschool audience,” Commisso says. If the show stands out while appealing to preschool hot buttons, it will likely work in every market, says Commisso. Another advantage of shows that stand out visually is their increased chance of cutting through the crowded preschool market, adds Arne Lohmann, the VP of ZDFE.junior at ZDF Enterprises. “When trying to make a program stand out, as we did with Q Pootle 5, Mofy and Laura’s Star, obviously superior quality is a must, but you can also marshal innovative styles and techniques to good effect.” Visually strong programming works particularly well in preschool because it holds the attention of an audience that is
Regardless of whether it’s a new Internet-based kids’ platform or an established preschool broadcaster, the rules as to what makes a successful preschool show remain pretty constant, argues Levy. Tom van Waveren, CEO and creative director of CAKE, agrees. “The more we look for what’s new, the more we realize that successful shows are fundamentally about things that don’t change,” he insists. “It seems incredibly obvious, but it’s about story and it’s about character. There has been a return to that of late.” Van Waveren continues, “A lot of successful preschool franchises are stories with warm characters and simple story lines in which preschoolers can recognize themselves. At the core there needs to be a compelling group of characters which audiences can identify with.” For CAKE, that includes shows such as Poppy Cat, a classic storybook property now in its second season, and Ella Bella Bingo. Both are simple ideas focusing on the interaction of a group of friends. 9 Story’s Commisso agrees that successful shows need “ambassadorship....There needs to be a star kids can identify with and say, CAKE’s Ella Bella Bingo is entertaining preschoolers outside of the linear TV show with an That’s me!” For Commisso, the app delivering games and other activities. 232 World Screen 4/14
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One of the new preschool series from Breakthrough is The Adventures of Napkin Man, produced by Little Airplane Productions.
famously easily distracted. Encouraging writers to create stories that appeal not just to preschoolers but their parents and caregivers as well is another canny tip. Pierre Sissmann, CEO and president of Cyber Group Studios, agrees: “The ideal is to find a subject area which cuts through for preschoolers—it might be their relationships with their parents, their siblings or their nursery mates. Then write it in a way that appeals to both kids and their parents without being too culturally specific.” Most preschool commissions will have to tick some curriculum boxes, but when it comes to fulfilling educational needs it’s important to remember that preschoolers’ primary motivation is to have fun. That’s why shows need to be fun and engaging first and foremost, explains Annika Bluhm, the VP of creative at DreamWorks Classics, home of preschool brands like Noddy and Postman Pat. “Kids want to play and learn about the world around them, and it’s our job both to entertain them and help them discover. I think the best preschool shows have an early-years learning backbone woven into the warp and weft of the show. In the last few years there have been a lot of very specific curriculum-led shows, so there’s definitely a need to bring more than the social and emotional learning aspect to preschool programming.” Another reason to carefully consider a show’s educational content is that parents look for healthy educational TV content in the same way that they look for healthy snacks for their kids, says Tone Thyne, the supervising producer at Little Airplane Productions. “That’s why we work with educational researchers to look at curriculum goals throughout the writing process. Our job as creators is to take these educational ideas and make them invisible, so that the end result is not too didactic and therefore [remains] fun.” Little Airplane’s The Adventures of Napkin Man, sold by Breakthrough, for instance, is a visually appealing mix of live action and 2D animation that teaches preschoolers how to deal with difficult emotions. SMALL WORLD
Cyber Group’s Sissmann says that finding the right blend of education and entertainment is particularly challenging when making global preschool brands—an area in which his company has had some success. “It’s challenging because educational values differ from country to country.The trick it to locate and touch on core values that appeal universally.” Cyber Group certainly got the formula right on its biggest hit to date, Zou, which now has 104 episodes and has sold to more than 150 countries in more than 20 languages, with a 3D CGI feature in the works. Sissmann explains why he thinks it has become such a hit: “If you put aside all the writing and animation, which is, of course, very high quality, the show is ultimately about family. In preschool programming there have not been that many big series about families and I think we hit on something. At a time of economic crisis, when people around the world are facing a tougher life and there is more uncertainty, people focus inwards
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Cyber Group has a number of broadcasters on board its new preschool series Mia, including TiJi in France.
on family values. I’m sure that’s a huge part of Zou’s success. When we discussed it in Italy, they said family values are so important. As they did in China, the Middle East, France and the U.K.” One development that is affecting how broadcasters commission for preschool is the growing trend for kids to get mature earlier, says DreamWorks Classics’ Bluhm. “Significant numbers of children are bouncing out of preschool programming into older age shows much earlier than they used to. Where a show used to appeal to 3- to 5-year-olds, we now often know that we’ve got a significant number of younger children watching, and an equally significant number moving on at around 4 years of age into ‘bigger kid’ TV. Broadcasters are starting to address this by creating more ‘bridge’-type shows to appeal to the 4-to-6 demographic as a way of keeping the audience longer.” BRIDGING THE GAP
CAKE’s van Waveren has also noted the growing appetite for the older end of preschool. “There is a recognition that if you focus your concept too young then you miss out on the 5- to 7-year-olds, the intermediate stage between 2-to-4 and 6-to-11. Certainly in North America we find more broadcasters saying there are slots for 6- to 9year-olds, so by focusing a show on the older end of preschool you don’t miss out on those opportunities.” Everyone tries to anticipate what broadcasters will want, but it is a dangerous game, states van Waveren. Experienced producers warn against trying to second-guess the market. “It’s a risky strategy because the timelines are so long that by the time you have developed a show, the broadcaster might not be looking for it any more,” observes van Waveren. Little Airplane’s Thyne agrees. “You can spend months developing a math-show pitch only to find they have moved on to literacy. Just understand the curriculum and make a show on that basis,” he advises. Van Waveren adds:“Make something that really touches you, because the chances are if it does then it will also touch somebody else. It’s a better way to spend your time than trying to cynically second-guess the market.” For Bluhm, the best shows of all come from the creator’s “vision and passion…. On top of that passion you need a great idea, a great writer and a great production team to bring it to the screen. If you haven’t got those vital components in place then the show probably won’t survive in a very crowded arena.” A passion for preschool is ultimately what has persuaded Breakthrough Entertainment back to the genre after a long absence. Breakthrough is distributing The Adventures of Napkin Man and developing Margaret Atwood’s Wandering Wenda & Friends (working title). “Why have we returned to preschool programs? Not because it’s easy,” Levy says. “It’s easier to do a successful prime-time comedy than it is to connect with an audience of kids. But when you get kids connecting with a TV show you’ve been involved in, it’s a very satisfying feeling. Seeing these little people engaging with the world partly because of these shows—what a rush!”
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HENRY By Anna Carugati
We know him as The Fonz, or Fonzie, from the series Happy Days, but Henry Winkler has done much more than create one of the most iconic characters in American sitcoms. He has continued acting on stage and in television, most recently in Arrested Development and Royal Pains, and has executive produced prime-time series. But the project closest to his heart has been writing a series of books for children, Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever, with Lin Oliver. The character Hank Zipzer was inspired by Winkler’s childhood, when he had dyslexia but no one knew what it was—people just thought he was stupid and lazy. The books have been adapted into a live-action comedy series, produced by Walker Productions and Kindle Entertainment and distributed internationally by DHX Media, which began airing on CBBC in January. Winkler shares with TV Kids the remarkable story behind the series.
TV KIDS: When did you first get involved in children’s
programming? WINKLER: Ten years ago Hank Zipzer was born. We have now written 26 novels. Four of them are part of the Ghost Buddy strand from Scholastic. Those are different; they are about bullying. But Hank Zipzer came about because I am learning-challenged, so we thought we would make a comedy about a kid who just couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t figure things out, no matter what they were. I couldn’t find a publisher in England. Penguin said no, they would not publish it in England because they thought it was too American. I was in England doing Peter Pan as a pantomime (which has been a Christmas tradition since 1607). I was in the small town of Woking. A fabulous young lady was one of the lost boys, because they couldn’t find enough boys to be the lost boys, and she said she wanted to interview me for her mother’s newspaper. Her mother’s newspaper turned out to be First News, which is the mostread newspaper for young people in all of the United Kingdom. They have over a million readers. The editor, this young lady’s mother, Nicky Cox, said, “Oh, leave it to me!” [when she learned I couldn’t find a U.K. publisher for the Hank Zipzer books] and she introduced me to Walker Books. Walker Books said yes, we’ll publish your novels. For seven years I have toured throughout the United Kingdom and I have visited now maybe 250 schools. I had never been able to sell Hank Zipzer in America as a TV show even though it was so cinematic. My partner Lin and I both came from television. Hank was a funny television show to us. We couldn’t sell it, went everywhere. And then Walker Books said,“We’re going to start a television-production division and our very first production is going to be Hank Zipzer.” So last September, I flew to England. I got to play one of the characters, Mr. Rock, and [the producers] put together this incredible cast of young people and adults. We made 13 episodes that started airing on the BBC in January. 238 World Screen 4/14
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Y WINKLER TV KIDS: The show is made in the U.K. and set in London,
but the books are set in New York. Was it difficult to make that adjustment? WINKLER: What is amazing is that because human beings are human beings, because one-fifth of the population— 20 percent—no matter where you are in the world, has some sort of learning challenge, it doesn’t matter where [the show is] set. The nature, the heart, the emotion, the frustration, is understood by everybody. When you watch the show, Hank is true to the book. Miss Adolf, the worst teacher on the planet—her skin is gray, her breath is gray, her bun is gray—is as terrible a villainess as she would be if she were in America. Felicity Montagu plays Miss Adolf the way I dreamt her when we wrote her. TV KIDS: It must have been so difficult for you as a boy, especially at a time when dyslexia and other learning disabilities either weren’t talked about or weren’t recognized. WINKLER: That is exactly correct. I was merely told I was stupid. I was lazy. I was not living up to my potential. If I heard that once, I heard it every 30 seconds of every day of my life. TV KIDS: Given what you went through, the pain and the humiliation, what message do you want to give children through the books and the TV series? WINKLER: Here it is, what Hank knows: his glass is half full, he just spills it everywhere. And the fact of the matter is that, yes, attending school is required by law, but every child is so powerful that they will find a niche. They will find their greatness, whatever it is, and that is what they need to give to the world.We don’t all have to be the greatest students on the planet in order to be functioning, fabulous human beings.
heard laughter and he was reading a book, which has never happened before.”
TV KIDS: Because of the power of reruns, do children know you were Fonzie or are they too young? WINKLER: It doesn’t matter. They don’t need to know me from before. Some kids only know me from reading the books. A 10-year-old stopped me in New York the last time I was there and said, “Oh I’m a big fan!” And I said, “Oh, you like Hank Zipzer? Thanks!” And he said, “No, I like Royal Pains!” I don’t care who knows me from anything as long as they read the books and watch the show and laugh—as long as we make them laugh. TV KIDS: Don’t kids learn better through laughter anyway? WINKLER: Absolutely, it’s the way in. I learned that from
my guru Garry Marshall [the creator and executive producer of Happy Days]. That’s one of the reasons he set Happy Days in the ’50s. He could tell a moral story and it never seemed like he was hitting you on the head. It seemed like, Oh that’s interesting, that was happening then but it happened to me yesterday. TV KIDS: If I may ask, because of your dyslexia, did you need help learning your scripts by heart? WINKLER: I read them out loud over and over again so that I would learn through my eyes and my mouth and my ears. I am a person who learns through his ears. Reading is extraordinarily difficult for me, so I listen and watch as much as I can. TV KIDS: What other projects do you have in the works? WINKLER: Childrens Hospital, which won the Emmy for
TV KIDS: Tell me about your teacher, Mr. Rock. What did he do for you? WINKLER: Mr. Rock said one sentence to me, “Winkler, when you get out of here, you’re going to be OK.” And I took that one sentence and I held on to it. I tied that sentence around my waist. It was my buoy because everybody else said, “Sorry, you’ve got a lot of personality, but you aren’t going to amount to much.” And I kept thinking, I want to amount to something, I know what I want to do and I don’t want to be off in a corner. And I did pretty well. I did pretty well because of will. I lived by two words: will and tenacity. Will [let me] get where I wanted to go, and tenacity didn’t allow me to be angry from all this stuff that was happening around me when I was dismissed.
best short-format live-entertainment show these last two years, is coming back and I’m part of that ensemble. I heard that in some form Arrested Development will come back, we’re just not sure how. So that’s very exciting. And I’m going on a book tour for the newest Hank books. We wrote him at the genesis. He’s in the second grade. He’s not been diagnosed. The books are called Here’s Hank and they are very funny for beginning readers. One of the first books to come out is A Short Tale About a Long Dog about Hank finding his dachshund in the pound.
TV KIDS: Is this a show that both kids and parents can enjoy? WINKLER: That’s the way we made it. There is stuff for
TV KIDS: How old were you when you were cast in Happy Days? WINKLER: I was the oldest teenager in captivity, at 27 years old. I thank the Lord I was 27. With what was about to happen in my life, if I had been younger, I don’t know if I would have been able to survive it, because, Wow! that was a journey!
the parents. We do not talk down to the children. It’s pretty smartly written. The books are written in a way that makes parents laugh, too. We get a lot of letters saying, “My child and I laughed together.” And we get a lot of letters saying, “My kid is a reluctant reader; I walked by his room and I
TV KIDS: Do you enjoy episodic television? WINKLER: It is a phenomenal way to live, do your work
and earn a living.
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PHIL DAVIES & NEVILLE ASTLEY By Mansha Daswani
It’s been a long, arduous journey for a little pig named Peppa and her family from story board to global fame. First conceived of in 1999, the Peppa Pig series didn’t premiere on Channel 5 in the U.K. until 2004. Produced by Astley Baker Davies, the show has gone on to air in some 180 territories and is backed by a massive consumer-products campaign across a slew of key preschool categories. Astley Baker Davies now have another hit on their hands with Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, which recently picked up the International Emmy Kids Award for best preschool series. TV Kids recently caught up with two of Astley Baker Davies’ founders, Phil Davies and Neville Astley, to talk about Peppa’s tenth birthday and the art of making hit preschool programming in the U.K. today.
TV KIDS: What was the inspiration for Peppa Pig? ASTLEY: When we delivered our first animation series, The Big
Knights, to the BBC way back in 1999, they couldn’t decide where to show it.Was it for kids, or for adults? We had assumed it was for the whole family! That’s when we learned about demographics! So Peppa came about through deciding to make a series for preschool audiences. I’m proud to say we did no research into the preschool market, [we consulted] no child psychologists, and we didn’t even have our own children at that point—we literally based the show on what we remembered about being kids back in the ’60s. And that’s the way we have written and animated it since, mainly making something that we would enjoy. Peppa herself came about through Mark [Baker, the third partner in Astley Baker Davies] and I thinking about a character that would have a distinctive sound. So the “snort” came first, and surprisingly it took another few days before Peppa became a pig! Initially we were thinking of a more unique hog-like character that maybe slept in the bushes. But once we realized she had to be a pig, then the muddy puddles quickly followed. Next came the rest of the family, Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig and George. This was unusual at the time, as most TV characters were not in family units. It’s maybe why children can relate to Peppa—they see the similarities in their own family and may even start calling their fathers Daddy Pig! TV KIDS: Why do you think
Peppa, and her family, have resonated so strongly with children across the globe? DAVIES: I think it’s shown me that families are the same here [in the U.K.] as they are in many parts of the world. TV KIDS: Do all three of you at Astley Baker Davies have clear-cut, defined roles on the show, or do you all do a bit of everything? DAVIES: Mark and Nev write and direct, and I produce. Mark also does most of the original design. We all have a range of skills so we can “muck in” if needed. However, the challenges of producing a couple hundred episodes over the past decade really did mean we tended to stick to our roles.
Neville Astley (left) and Phil Davies (right) with their International Emmy Kids Award.
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Peppa Pig has been licensed by eOne Family to some 180 territories worldwide.
TV KIDS: As an independent, how were you able to come up with the financing for Peppa, and how did it land on Channel 5 and Nick Jr.? DAVIES: I went to see all the U.K. broadcasters in 2001, and at that time I was really keen for us to maintain our independence, so that was a really important part of the decision-making process. We were also lucky that at that time Contender Entertainment (now Entertainment One) was looking to invest in a new project. So all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle just seemed to fit together perfectly at that time.We still had quite a large budget shortfall, which Mark and Nev and I covered. It was a very difficult time, and Neville reminded me last week that there was one day in the early production where it almost all fell to pieces. It was a hand-to-mouth existence for the first year! TV KIDS: How did your relationship with eOne Family
come about? DAVIES: eOne purchased Contender Entertainment, which
we’d originally done the deal with, and we were extremely nervous at first. However, as a business relationship we mostly get on because we have a common interest in Peppa doing well. TV KIDS: How involved are you in the booming L&M
machine surrounding the show? DAVIES: We see everything that is licensed and have a ded-
icated designer to oversee the whole process. No one knows the series as well as we do (we know every frame!), so our designer can often help licensees with their ideas. TV KIDS: Was it easier to pull the financing together for Ben
& Holly, once you had a hit on your hands with Peppa? DAVIES: It was certainly easier! As with Peppa we pitched
the series at Cartoon Forum, and because Peppa was becoming a bit more popular we were very lucky to have a number of early offers to fund the series. TV KIDS: What are some of the new projects you’re working on? DAVIES: I have about a dozen different things all rattling
about in various states of development. The first priority for this year, of course, is new ideas for Peppa and Ben & Holly. 242 World Screen 4/14
TV KIDS: What are the greatest challenges you face as an
independent animation outfit in the U.K.? DAVIES: Everything! Finding good people, studio space,
equipment, finance—the list goes on and on. It’s all difficult and I suppose that’s the fun of it. In the ’90s I had to get together a whole animation studio with crew and equipment in under a week. This was for some animation I was doing for a Paul McCartney film. I did it, and it was exhausting but really exhilarating. So when you face these challenges and overcome them, it’s really satisfying. TV KIDS: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the
British animation business, both since you started the company and just within the last decade since Peppa premiered? DAVIES: For me it’s great to see that many children’s animation productions are thinking more carefully about the voices they use. Since the ’80s I’d been using kids’ voices on various projects, and now it seems that everyone is using “real” children’s voices—which is brilliant! Also in the early ’80s I was lucky enough to work with some of the pioneers of computer animation. In the past 10 or 20 years I feel that the whole business of using computers in a production environment has really come of age. In the early days animators needed computer skills to do even the most basic animation, but now pretty much all of the young animation talent has experience in some sort of computer software. Editing is also another big area that has evolved. Of course film more or less disappeared in the ’90s, and now it seems tape is on its way out as well. It’s very worrying to think about the durability of digital data. Will those digits still be able to be read in a hundred years’ time in the way we can still see film? TV KIDS: Did you ever think that ten years after Peppa made her debut, she would still be beloved by children in so many countries worldwide? DAVIES: I didn’t really think about it too much as we’ve been so busy producing over the entire period (we’ve only just come up for air!), but I suppose, yes, it is absolutely amazing to be part of a phenomenon like this.
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TV KIDS: What are some of the new commissions you’re most excited about? BENBOW: We’ve launched Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures. Andy Day is one of our most popular presenters. He did a series a couple of years ago called Andy’s Wild Adventures. This one uses amazing footage from Walking with Dinosaurs and it was produced by the [BBC’s] Natural History team in Bristol. Andy gets shrunk down and meets all kinds of dinosaurs, including a T-Rex. It looks terrific and it’s done beautifully for our preschool audience. Alongside that we have a show called Dinopaws, which is an animated series that features three dinosaurs and revolves around their relationships with each other. It is rather lovely to have two complementary series. And we’ve got some wonderful offerings on our website. TV KIDS: You also have a partnership with Sesame Workshop for the new series The Furchester Hotel. BENBOW: We’re well under way.We’re making it at our base in Salford. Cookie Monster and Elmo are going to come to the U.K. and get to know The Furchester, a wonderful hotel. It’s a bit like Fawlty Towers meets The Muppets! I read the first five scripts the other day and they made me laugh out loud. It’s a brilliant partnership between the CBeebies in-house production team and Sesame Workshop. It’s going to be really, really positive and, above all, funny, entertaining, and have real heart to it.
KAY BENBOW By Mansha Daswani
In November of last year, CBeebies was honored by the BAFTA Children’s Awards as channel of the year—a category it has won four times. And that wasn’t the only victory for the BBC’s preschool platform that night, as it nabbed wins for the shows Timmy Time and Ugly Duckling. As the controller of the U.K.’s leading preschool service, Kay Benbow is focused on delivering the best content possible for her target demographics, across live action and animation, factual, comedy and drama.
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TV KIDS: How are you catering to your audience on the CBeebies website and other platforms? BENBOW: In the autumn of last year we launched the CBeebies app. It’s free, it encompasses a certain number of brands and as [of the beginning of February] we were at 1.8 million downloads, so we’re probably heading toward 2 million. When you think in terms of the U.K., where there are only around 5 million under-sixes, we’re pretty proud of those stats. It’s been phenomenally popular. It shows how much the brand, and the titles we have within the CBeebies portfolio, are loved. We have plans to launch another app later this year that will be slightly more story-based. We’re working hard to change our website to make it fully responsive, i.e., making sure you can access everything on your iPad or your mobile device of choice.We have CBeebies Radio that you can access through the website.We have a daily podcast, which is bespoke content, it isn’t just taking elements of a TV show and putting it on the radio. TV KIDS: What have you learned from how preschoolers are
accessing content on the iPlayer? BENBOW: What’s incredible is that either people find con-
tent they’ve missed, or they just want to watch things again. People really do go to the iPlayer to find what they want, when they want it. We’ve also found that some of our shortform content does really well on the iPlayer. We have a show called Woolly and Tig, which answers questions for children, and parents find that really useful. There’s this way of accessing content now that perhaps wasn’t there a few years ago—it certainly wasn’t when my children were little—so I hope it’s a great support for people, particularly parents, and it means children can see their favorite content when they want to.
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One of CBeebies’ newest series is Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures.
TV KIDS: CBeebies no longer runs as a regular branded block
on BBC One. Does it still have a presence on the channel? BENBOW: Both CBeebies and CBBC do find that they can have a presence on BBC One and BBC Two if it’s appropriate and the content works.We try to maintain a dialogue with the controllers of those channels. BBC One ran several of our Christmas specials on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We did a wonderful production of A Christmas Carol in a theater in Sheffield. It took things to a new level. It was really beautifully done, totally appropriate for the audience but didn’t lose the heart of the book. It was probably less pantomime and more theatrical and I was incredibly proud of the team that made it. We have a lovely live-action storytelling show [Old Jack’s Boat] with a wonderful actor called Bernard Cribbins, who some people will know from his appearances in Doctor Who. He’s an absolute hero to most people in the U.K. and he just has the most wonderful way of telling stories. [The Christmas special] was a real tearjerker and very emotional, and it did incredibly well [on BBC One]. So when it’s appropriate, it’s wonderful that we still get that support from the wider BBC and long may it continue. I’ve made sure I’ve said thank you! TV KIDS: Tell me about the role drama plays in the
CBeebies schedule. BENBOW: I used to love watching Sunday afternoon
teatime serials on BBC. There were also dubbed shows when I was quite little—the one I remember in particular 246 World Screen 4/14
was Heidi. There was also a wonderful production of The Last of the Mohicans on BBC when I was little. I thought, our audience isn’t getting that experience. So I put it out there that I was looking for drama and [producers] said, Your budgets are quite small, how are we going to do it? And I said, I’m asking for it so let’s talk about it and try to find a way of making it happen. Fortunately, people did come back with ideas and suggestions and they had thought laterally about how it could be funded. So we have Topsy and Tim and Katie Morag. I’m looking to do more. I know it’s not easy, because the budgets are challenging, but there are ways of doing it. It would be nice to go into fantasy and adventure as well. So I’m looking to do some fantasy, adventure, and probably original writing; it doesn’t necessarily have to be based on a book. TV KIDS: Are there other genres you’re looking to do more of? BENBOW: Within CBeebies we have the younger end, the 2-to-
4s, and then we’re trying to make sure the 4-to-6s are well served with slightly more [mature and] challenging content. Each year I have to make sure there’s enough for the younger end of the audience and enough for the older end. I’ve mentioned drama. Comedy remains really important. It’s always about distinctive and stand-out animation, the best we can get, balanced against really strong live-action shows. It’s always lovely to have something come across your desk that makes you think, I hadn’t thought about that! I’m always looking for something to surprise me and something I didn’t know I wanted.
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the past 20 years. They get to draw on their powers and their fancy costumes, and it makes for a really interesting story line throughout the season. Something unique about Power Rangers is that every year, we refresh the show with a new theme and a new cast. Since we rebooted the show three years ago, we are on a biannual cycle. So every two years we make a dramatic shift, but add a bit of an upgrade in that mid-year cycle. We’ve gone from Power Rangers Megaforce to Super Megaforce, and we’re very pleased to announce that next year’s season will be called Power Rangers Dino Charge. Power Rangers Dino Charge draws on the power of dinosaurs, which is always a big hit with kids, and is a similar theme to what Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was all about 21 years ago. Now, we are bringing back some of that DNA of the original Mighty Morphin show, and that will be a very exciting season for 2015. TV KIDS: The Digimon franchise has also evolved over
the years. DEKEL: Digimon Fusion is another show that we have brought back. It’s a series that was very successful in the late ’90s, and which has enjoyed numerous iterations over time, Digimon Fusion being the most current. It is airing on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and has global distribution with strong broadcast partners around the world, including ITV in the U.K. Digimon is a really interesting show because when it first premiered as an animated series back in the late ’90s— Digimon is short for “digital monsters”—kids didn’t know what we were talking about with the whole idea of digital. Today, kids are really leading the curve in how digital impacts our lives, how they engage with properties digitally and how they watch content through digital channels. We feel that Digimon Fusion brings those same aspects of story and character that we enjoyed in the ’90s, but is now much more relevant to kids, who really are embracing all [forms] of digital entertainment in ways that we could not have imagined 15 years ago. Digimon has tremendous potential for extension into all aspects of online engagement, on-demand viewing and certainly games and apps of all types, which are in the pipeline and coming to market now.
Elie Dekel By Kristin Brzoznowski
One of the longest-running kids’ franchises in TV history, Saban Brands’ Power Rangers is in its 21st season and remains one of the top-rated boys’ live-action series on air today. The company has continued to refresh the brand and now the newest iteration, Power Rangers Dino Charge, is being prepped for 2015. Saban Brands has also reinvigorated its hit Digimon franchise with the new Digimon Fusion series, and is catering to the younger set with the Paul Frank offshoot Julius Jr. Continuing its commitment to delivering high-quality entertainment experiences, Saban Brands has teamed up with the renowned Cirque du Soleil group for a crossplatform kids’ property. Elie Dekel, the president of Saban Brands, talks with TV Kids about the importance of working with brands that create lasting connections with passionate fans.
TV KIDS: How have you continued to refresh the Power
Rangers brand? DEKEL: Power Rangers continues to be a global franchise.We
are now in our 21st season of the show, with continuous broadcast, continuous production. I believe there’s a very short list of kids’ shows that can say that. In the U.S., we’ve launched our newest season, which is Power Rangers Super Megaforce. Super Megaforce is interesting for us because during the course of this season, our Rangers get the ability to morph into any number of Rangers from over 248 World Screen 4/14
TV KIDS: How has the rollout been for Julius Jr.? DEKEL: One of our treasured brands at Saban Brands is
Paul Frank. It’s a fashion and lifestyle brand that emerged out of southern California art and design culture. It is now a global phenomenon in its reach and appeal. Our mascot for the brand, Julius the Monkey, is widely recognized around the world, and particularly across Southeast Asia it has become a phenomenal success. We have taken that non-content brand and have begun to expand on it. Julius Jr. is the first content extension of Paul Frank. With that, we have taken our monkey Julius and aged him backward to his toddler self and have built a whole world around him and his friends.
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expectations of Cirque du Soleil, so we’re working very closely with the team at Cirque du Soleil, who are exceptionally collaborative, to bring that authentic experience into a kids’ format. We could not be more thrilled to work on such an amazing property, and we look forward to revealing more in the coming months. TV KIDS: What are the plans for continuing to expand the global business? DEKEL: The global business has always been a hallmark of Saban, with Saban Entertainment, Saban Capital Group and, more recently, Saban Brands. Haim Saban [the chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group] has always had a global view toward his business, and we have worked diligently to take our activities and extend them globally. As part of that effort with Saban Brands, we recently opened a London office, which is charged with helping us manage various partners across the European continent. It enables us to be much more connected to our partners, whether they be broadcast, manufacturing, retail and sometimes production. [We want] to have a more local presence, more local insights and more information about trends and viewer behavior. We now have four people in London, and we look forward to announcing more international offices in the coming months. TV KIDS: How is Saban Brands’ consumer-products business? DEKEL: The core of our business philosophy is the notion that
The ever-popular Power Rangers franchise airing across the globe includes the current iteration, Power Rangers Super Megaforce.
Julius Jr. is an animated preschool series on the air now globally with the best-in-class partners. We’re very pleased to have Fisher-Price on board as our global toy partner.The series is on Nickelodeon in the U.S. and is performing exceptionally well, and we will be seeing more seasons going forward and a rather robust consumer-products line that will extend throughout the rest of this year and into next. TV KIDS: How did the partnership with Cirque du Soleil come about? DEKEL: At Saban Brands we are always looking to expand our portfolio and thinking about how we can extend brands into content. In the case of Cirque du Soleil, we saw a really unique opportunity to collaborate with a partner who has a brand unlike any other—one of live entertainment, imagination, creativity, incredible human feats that make you drop your jaw and have a truly immersive experience. It is recognized around the world. We saw this as a remarkable opportunity, and [there is] a remarkable amount of creative content to work with. Cirque du Soleil Média and Saban Brands are working together to take the creative DNA of Cirque to build a new kids’ property. This is a series that will bring all the creativity, art, music, design and magic of Cirque du Soleil in a format that is very accessible and engaging for children.We also know that mom and dad recognize the brand and have certain 250 World Screen 4/14
brands matter. They matter more now than ever before in a world of increased competition, and competition not just for airtime or shelf space but for sharing viewers’ and consumers’ minds.When we think about bringing new projects to the market, we think about projects that have the potential to be multidimensional. We refer to it as omni-channel—not just channels in the form of TV channels, but channels in the form of how we reach our consumer. So we consider not just television or home entertainment, but the on-demand space, the interactive space, physical products and live experiences, social media and how we engage in a relationship with our viewers and our fans.We have really built our company around this philosophy of bringing a branded piece of content to a viewer—ideally a passionate fan—and then extending it through all of these various channels. Our consumer-products business in particular is supported by that strategy. We have been very careful with each one of our properties to make sure that the entire ecosystem around the property is integrated and coordinated on a strategy, content and merchandising level.We work very holistically with our partners in every step of that chain to ensure that we are expressing the brand appropriately and that we’re delivering on the promise of what the fan ultimately wants to experience. Consumer products are very much an integrated part of our business.We find that the consumer-products business and all the various extensions are actually additive to the viewing experience, and as such they provide a much richer, deeper opportunity for a viewer to engage with and enjoy the shows that we bring to them. Part of our strategy is working with properties that elicit a very strong, passionate response. It’s so important in this competitive marketplace to have that connection with the audience. We work really hard at identifying and developing properties that support that connection, and then we really invest time, effort and now technology into building those relationships. Those relationships matter.
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families. At Comic-Con or events like that, people will come up to us and say, “Thank you for making a show that I can watch with my kids.” That’s something we really like to hear! Gravity Falls has also been very successful in its ratings, and it has a very passionate fanbase. In this new digital world, it’s great to get this immediate feedback—the rabid fans we see on Tumblr posting every little hidden clue in the show and solving the riddles in record time. Along with ratings, there are also some other measurements of success. The Mickey Mouse shorts we launched in 2013 have been really successful for us as well.They’ve done well in ratings. Also in the first season, they won three Emmys. We’re happy about all of that. TV KIDS: What new animations do you have in the pipeline? COLEMAN: We have one show called Penn Zero: Part-Time
Hero, which we are excited about. We have another called Star and the Forces of Evil, with a young female creator. Penn Zero was created by animation veterans, and then Star is from a young graduate from CalArts. We are very excited to be collaborating with Lucasfilm on Star Wars Rebels.That’s probably about all I can say about that series at this point; that one probably has the highest level of secrecy of anything I have ever seen.
DISNEY’S ERIC COLEMAN By Kristin Brzoznowski
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Disney Television Animation, which has a legacy of creating high-quality, award-winning productions. Eric Coleman, the senior VP of original series for Disney Television Animation, is building on this heritage with a new crop of beloved animated TV hits, including the long-running comedy Phineas and Ferb. There’s also the highly anticipated Star Wars Rebels in partnership with Lucasfilm coming up. Coleman talks with TV Kids about working with animation veterans and rising talents to create shows that feel fresh but also stay true to the core Disney values.
TV KIDS: What has been the strategy behind Disney’s ani-
mated originals? COLEMAN: The strategy has been to focus on great talent. Even
before we talk about concepts, we talk about who we want to be in business with.We’ve really made it a priority to attract the best talent in town, and have worked with a combination of animation veterans like Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, the co-creators of Phineas and Ferb, and Craig McCracken, the creator of Wander Over Yonder—who all have deep résumés—and also with rising new stars like Alex Hirsch, the creator of Gravity Falls. We have found that by doing that, it creates a wonderful blend of different experience levels and different viewpoints. Within the studio, that has helped us build up a nice community, where all of these folks are inspiring each other. TV KIDS: What have been some of the most successful ani-
mated series for Disney? COLEMAN: Phineas and Ferb is a big flag in the ground; it fin-
ished 2013 as the number one animated series for kids 2 to 11, 6 to 11, and 9 to 14. It has really resonated with kids and their 252 World Screen 4/14
TV KIDS: What are the core values you look for in new ani-
mated series? COLEMAN: We look for shows that feel warm, positive and
optimistic, but also that feel fresh and funny and original.That originality can come from the concepts, but it can also come from the execution. It might be a familiar concept, but is produced in a way that feels surprising. Gravity Falls is an excellent example of that.The one-liner of the show in and of itself is not groundbreaking, but in the hands of Alex Hirsch, the creator, he has such a specific voice and point of view and sensibility, the show feels very authentic and fresh. It pops from the crowd.There are so many choices for kids, whether it’s on TV or on the Internet, so we look for things that will break through the noise. A key characteristic in anything that we do is also going to be quality.We want to produce shows that feel worthy of the amazing Disney animation legacy. So, in addition to the concept of the show, we really look for great art direction, great character design and great music, and all of these other components that are not immediately recognizable but that cumulatively make them feel like they are top-level shows coming from top talent. TV KIDS: What are kids relating to most in animation nowadays? COLEMAN: I think what kids are looking for now is what
they’ve always wanted, it’s just not that easy to deliver: they want great characters, they want great stories. Now, though, they want what they want in a way that they’ve never seen before. Even as all the delivery systems have changed, in my view, the appetite of an audience will always be there for great characters and great stories. It is incumbent upon us to figure out how to produce things in a way that really stands apart from all of the content that they have access to on [the Internet] and many other channels.
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Factual winners for Same But Different, Louise Lynch & David Barnes, with the kids featured in the show.
TOP HONORS M
By Kristin Brzoznowki
ore than 300 international executives from the children’s programming business gathered at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers in New York for the second annual International Emmy Kids Awards.The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences again teamed up with presenting partners TV Kids, Shaw Rocket Fund, Hasbro Studios, SVT/DRTV and Ernst & Young for this event, along with new partner WDR mediagroup. The gala kicked off with attendees strolling down the purple carpet to a cocktail hour, where guests were invited to get their picture taken with celebratory confetti. Just as the seated dinner was winding down, the crowd was treated to a musical surprise: a flash mob of dancers flooded through the room performing Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”—they even got a few of the executives in the audience to join in! The Emmy statues were presented on stage by a cast that included the Canadian actor Demetrius Joyette; Swedish and Danish kids’ programming hosts Malin Olsson and Christian Volfing, respectively; German preschool character Die Maus from The Show with the Mouse with co-presenter Armin Maiwald; Sesame Street’s Alison Bartlett; and Broadway actress and singer Lesli Margherita, who is currently starring as Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda. The nominees for this year’s awards spanned 14 countries. In the end, the night’s big winner was the U.K., which nabbed four of the six statues. Brazil also scored a win, as did Canada. In the category for Kids: Series, the winner was Pedro & Bianca, from TV Cultura – Fundação Padre Anchieta and the Secretaria da Educação do Estado de São Paulo. The series features two fraternal twins, Pedro, who is white, and Bianca, who is black. It shows the adolescent world through the twins’ points of view.
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The winner in the Kids: Non-Scripted Entertainment category was Pet School, from Cineflix Productions. It teaches children what it is really like to look after animals. It follows kids as they work and play alongside a bevy of cool creatures for two weeks. Astley Baker Davies scored the win for Kids: Preschool with Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. The animated series follows Holly, a young fairy princess who is still learning to fly, and her best friend, Ben, an elf who does magic, in a tiny land where flowers and grass soar above the tallest towers. Same But Different, from Libra Television and David & Goliath, won for Kids: Factual. The show features portraits of 7- to 11year-olds from the U.K. who have physical disabilities, learning abilities or medical conditions. The stories are aimed at increasing children’s understanding of and empathy with their peers. Magic Light Pictures’ Room on the Broom was the winner in Kids: Animation. The animated film is based on a children’s picture book, and is a magical tale of friendship and family.The story is about a kind witch who invites a surprising collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat. The award for Kids: TV Movie/Mini-Series went to The Phantoms, from Dream Street Pictures. The program is inspired by real events, telling the story of a high school basketball team that faces a difficult time after a devastating bus crash takes the lives of seven players and the wife of the coach. Against all odds, the players come together as a team, advance to the championship and lift the spirit of their town. “We all know what a great challenge and responsibility it is to produce for children,” said Bruce L. Paisner, the president and CEO of the International Academy. “[These] winning programs demonstrate the high standard of quality programming we expect for kids’ TV, and we are proud to recognize them with the Emmy.”
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Live-action children’s drama is one of the gaps in the kids’ landscape that Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) aims to fill, according to Jenny Buckland, the company’s CEO. ACTF has also recently become more involved in factual series, for which Buckland says there has been a growing demand. Bushwhacked! is one example of an unscripted show within the company’s catalogue. Other highlights include Worst Year of My Life, Again!, a live-action dramedy, and You’re Skitting Me, a sketch comedy. Buckland talks to TV Kids about the company’s unique proposition for the marketplace.
ACTF’S JENNY BUCKLAND By Anna Carugati TV KIDS: How is ACTF positioned in the children’s market? BUCKLAND: We like to offer the market very high-quality
material. The particular void that we like to fill is live-action children’s drama. Obviously it goes in cycles, but there’s a huge amount of animation that gets produced. Animation is readily financed via co-productions between countries. It’s less distinctive to a particular country, and that’s what makes it so easy to finance and why there’s so much of it. But we find—certainly in Australia and we think in other places— that kids have a real passion for drama and for actors onscreen [portraying] characters that they can love. So that’s the real gap in the market that we think we fill really nicely. We’ve also been involved recently in a number of factual series for kids—wildlife, documentaries. At the moment, we’re supporting a production in Australia [My:24] in which kids talk about special experiences that have shaped them. So it’s material that’s a little bit different and perhaps a little bit more challenging than the stuff that is designed to go out there and be sold with a whole lot of merchandise in 160 countries.... I think kids have a passion for factual content and for learning about the world.We’re finding that the factual series are really successful. TV KIDS: What are some of the company’s highlights? BUCKLAND: We have the live-action comedy Worst Year of My
Life, Again! That’s about a boy who is expecting to turn 15, but he wakes up on his 15th birthday and he’s turned 14. He has to live the whole year over again, only this time with the knowledge of everything that went wrong last time. It’s a very funny series; it’s got a lot of slapstick humor and a great cast. We also have a factual series called Bushwhacked! That has a young indigenous boy leading a host from one of ABC3’s children’s programs all around Australia, looking at weird wildlife, indigenous culture and different locations, and challenging themselves to push that little bit further. They jump out of planes, swim with whale sharks—do all sorts of things.
Another interesting show is a sketch comedy called You’re Skitting Me. Not many people are doing sketch comedy for kids. This did very well in Australia and we’re doing a second series as well. So, there is a real variety of programs that we’re concentrating on in an effort to do something that is a little bit different from animation. TV KIDS: Are you finding that traditional broadcasters are reducing their slots for children? BUCKLAND: We still do get on the big networks from time to time, but more and more they are putting their children’s material onto their digital channels. That’s certainly happening in Australia too; there is less on ABC1, but they’re running children’s shows all day on ABC2 and ABC3. And that seems to be a trend in a lot of places around the world. In Germany, they still seem to have shows on KiKA and their main channels, so they’re pretty lucky—there’s a lot of exposure there. But it is certainly becoming the case, we think, that digital channels are specializing. But then it’s less obvious to the viewer now that that’s not the main channel. I think kids really look for destinations where they know they’ll find kids’ programs rather than having their shows sandwiched in between adult shows. The other thing we’re finding is how important the catch-up rights are. We find in Australia with ABC that many children might watch a show on their iview player [ABC’s catch-up service] after it’s aired. It may be that they’re watching it again because they loved it, but it’s often because they didn’t see it whenever it was on air. They just go there and find it and watch it when they want. And that’s clearly the way it’s all moving. I think there may also be a tendency for older children who would say they don’t watch the children’s channel to be quite happy to find a program on the broadcaster’s catch-up service and watch it there, rather than acknowledge that they’re watching kids’ shows [on the live linear channel]. 4/14 World Screen 259
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Created in 2005, Cyber Group Studios has gone about carefully amassing a catalogue of children’s series that now boasts some 1,000 half-hours of programming. The company has achieved strong growth over the last nine years, and has plans on the horizon for further increasing its business. Cyber Group has been focusing on three main areas, explains Pierre Sissmann, the company’s president and CEO. The first is its production pipeline, which currently has five projects going in the preschool and kids’ categories. The second is its representation and distribution of new IP for the marketplace. The third area that Cyber Group is looking to expand in is the interactive space, with strong development ongoing in the area of apps. In terms of its original productions, the company has honed in on broadcasters’ needs for original series in the action-comedy and adventure-comedy genres. For the preschool set, Cyber Group is also working to provide adventure-led comedies as well as edutainment programming. Sissmann says that originals with the potential to have a global footprint are always top of mind, pointing to Zou, Zorro the Chronicles and Mini Ninjas as examples. As for acquisitions, Cyber Group’s strategy for distribution is to acquire titles that are complementary to its existing catalogue. Sissmann would also like third-party shows that have wide international potential,“as we have 162 active clients worldwide and several output deals with broadcasters.” He adds, “We look for great storytelling and groundbreaking visuals. We review a lot of productions and welcome any producers looking for a strong international penetration. We also help finance production gaps on appropriate titles.” For MIPTV, the company is presenting buyers with Zorro the Chronicles, an animated adventure series that reintroduces the famous masked hero. The HD/CGI series is targeted at 6- to 12-year-olds. For the same demo, Cyber Group is offering Mini Ninjas, also an animated adventure. The show presents epic stories about a generation of 12-year-old ninjas, whose mission is to defend the Land Below the Clouds from an evil warlord.The company is also catering to preschoolers, with Zou, which features a loveable 5-year-old zebra and his extended family of his mom, dad, grandpa, grandma and great grandma.The series was nominated this year for an International Emmy Kids Award, and is now in production on its second season. “We are equally thrilled with our development of The Pirates Next Door, based on the best-selling book by Jonny Duddle,” says Sissmann.“Also, we have the upcoming The Adventures of Mirette, which was presented last year at Cartoon Forum in Toulouse.” Further highlights from the Cyber Group catalogue include Mia, featuring a fearless mouse and her friends; Mademoiselle Zazie, a contemporary animation about friendship; and Adam’s Bakery, which sees the protagonist preparing some very special
EARNS ITS STRIPES recipes with the Magic Baking Machine and helping his dinosaur friends get out of trouble. The slate also includes the animated series Pom Pom and Friends, Cloud Bread and My Goldfish is Evil, along with Tales of Tatonka, which features animation and live-action footage to tell the story of four wolf cubs who learn about life outside the family in the plains and the forests of North America. Sissmann points out that Cyber Group has been working to extend its brands in the digital space. “We have been very active with Zou, with the launch of five apps in less than a year, one of them already in close to ten languages.” There are also Zou e-books, available in the Apple App Store and the Android market. Next up, Cyber Group is preparing a major partnership for The Adventures of Mirette to bring it into the digital arena. With decades of experience in the international children’s media business, Sissmann has kept a close eye on the changes in market demands. “As competition is fierce between broadcasters, there is still a strong appetite for big, heritage brands,” he says. “But also, [broadcasters want] outstanding, visual, action-comedy or adventure-comedy shows.” 4/14 World Screen 261
By Kristin Brzoznowski
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mous cat and mouse. The Warner Bros. Animation production debuted on April 9 at 5:30 p.m. Another title for Cartoon Network in the U.S. is We Bare Bears, a comedy from Cartoon Network Studios about a trio of bear siblings who are trying to fit in with humans. There is also Be Cool Scooby-Doo!, a Warner Bros Animation comedy that puts a new spin on the classic cartoon. The carrot-crazy Bugs Bunny takes center stage in Warner Bros. Animation’s Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production. NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu, which came out of a partnership with The LEGO Group, includes six new half-hour animated specials that will air this year, followed by new episodes of the series in 2015. Based on the video game, Sonic Boom is set to premiere on Cartoon Network during the 2014-2015 season. The comedy adventure, a collaboration between SEGA of America and OuiDO! Productions, is the franchise’s first-ever CG animated TV program. Total Drama: Pahkitew Island, the newest installment of the Fresh TV-produced Total Drama animated property, continues to spoof adventure reality series. Also on
Warner Bros. Animation’s Wabbit.
ALWAYS ON By Joanna Padovano
urner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network has been maintaining its position as the top U.S. television network among 6- to 11-year-old boys. The ad-supported cable service—now available in HD—features a wide variety of original, acquired and classic entertainment. The channel, which is enjoyed in 98 million homes around the country, shifted its on-air hours in late March to now run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is currently promoting the slogan “Always On,” which means that viewers hungry for its family-friendly content can be fulfilled whenever and wherever on a number of devices. Cartoon Network recently unveiled its plans for the 20142015 season in the U.S. New platform-specific original programming includes linear and digital content consisting of series, specials, shorts, interstitials, games, apps and more. Marking the channel’s first-ever animated miniseries is Over the Garden Wall, a comedy/fantasy focused on two brothers who are trapped in a mysterious land. The ten-parter boasts a voice cast led by Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings trilogy), Dean Collins (The War at Home) and Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men). It is produced by Cartoon Network Studios. Premiering on April 14 at 7 p.m. is Clarence, a new original animated show about an optimistic boy who likes to do everything. The series resulted from the shorts development program at Cartoon Network Studios. Also a highlight in April is The Tom and Jerry Show, which follows the ongoing war between the infa-
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Cartoon Network’s schedule is Numb Chucks, about a pair of unintelligent woodchuck vigilantes, and BeyRaiderz, a spin-off of the hit series Beyblade. Original “Always On” programming for Cartoon Network’s multiple digital platforms includes a second season of Angelo Rules, which comes from TeamTo and CAKE. The show features a little boy who finds unique ways to take control of his life. Then there is Detentionaire, created by Daniel Bryan Franklin and Charles Johnston.The series tells the story of a high school student who was framed for a major prank and sentenced to a year of detention. Rocket Jo, a Millimages and 2D3D production, is about an inventor-adventurer who is always attempting to get his jetpack to work so he can fly around town. Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball, Ben 10 Omniverse, Grojband and Johnny Test are returning to the Cartoon Network schedule in the 2014-2015 season. Also renewed for further installments are Legends of Chima, Mixels, Pokémon the Series: XY, Regular Show, Steven Universe, Teen Titans Go!, Tenkai Knights and Uncle Grandpa. Later in the year, Cartoon Network is planning to launch Cartoon Network Anything, a micro-network that will allow users to access games, activities, trivia and short clips—averaging between 10 and 15 seconds long—on their mobile devices.This new digital campaign is expected to create additional sponsorship opportunities for the channel’s business partners.
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