05/04/16: Maker Studios’ unveils Upfront news; Snoopy in the Boomerang doghouse; PBS Kids plays games




Disney’s Maker Studios will focus on the kids and family, gaming, lifestyle and entertainment genres, the company said at its Upfront presentation yesterday. Downplaying collaborations with sister companies such as Marvel and ESPN, Maker chief Courtney Holt revealed four concepts from Maker’s Spark incubator program that are in development, including Spin For Ink, a game show in which contestants compete to win their dream tattoo, and inspirational series Worthy.

The 43rd Daytime Emmy Awards were handed out this past weekend with winners including Hasbro Studios for outstanding performer in an animated program for Jeff Bennet as Mayor Luskey in Transformers Rescue Bots (Discovery Family). Additionally, Litton Entertainment picked up five awards, for The Inspectors, its first original scripted drama to be part of The CBS Dream Team: It’s Epic!, plus Innovation Nation, Lucky Dog, Litton’s Weekend Adventure: Ocean Mysteries and Sea Rescue.

DreamWorks Animation took home five Creative Arts Daytime Emmys, for All Hail King Julien (2), The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Dragons: Race to the Edge; and for Chad Weatherford, for his character design for Dinotrux.

Along with stepping up its theatrical play, NBCUniversal’s $3.8 billion acquisition of DreamWorks Animation would give the parent company a solid footing in the shortform multichannel content space, a competitive hotbed for the millennial audience with the likes of Disney, which owns Maker Studios. The studio will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group through the deal, which is expected to close by end of 2016, subject to regulatory approvals. At completion of the transaction, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will become chairman of DreamWorks New Media, which will comprise Awesomeness TV and NOVA. Katzenberg will also serve as a consultant to NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said, “The prospects for our future together are tremendous.”


Back in the doghouse: New animated series Peanuts heads to Boomerang on Monday, May 9. For the first time, the individual Peanuts print comic strips come to life in vignettes, with new eps premiere daily at 11:30a ET/8:30a PT. The series features the antics of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and company in watercolor art style, textured backgrounds and framing. Sister net Cartoon Network is also offering a Peanuts peek the week of May 9 at 10:30a, and shorts on the Cartoon Network app. Peanuts is produced by Normaal Animation under license from Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

Discovery Family Channel will celebrate National Pet Month every Saturday in May with “Pawesome Saturdays,” featuring network premieres of Too Cute! Pint-Sized, Treetop Cat Rescue and The Diamond Collar. Additionally, the network will air a marathon of classic While You Were Out episodes on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, featuring stories that celebrate amazing moms around the country.


The competition for best kids’ programming and marketing initiatives

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Disney is reportedly in the mix of companies that will provide programming for an in-development Hulu subscription service that will stream select cable and broadcast content. Disney co-owns Hulu with 21st Century Fox and NBCU/Comcast. Programming from the company’s Disney Channel, along with ABC and ESPN, would appear on the service, which is being eyed for launch during Q1 2017.

PBS Kids launched the new, free PBS Kids Games App, host of all the HTML5 gaming content currently offered exclusively through PBSKIDS.org. The app includes curriculum-based games from PBS Kids shows; new games focused on math, science, reading and spelling will be added weekly. The app also offers parental controls and support for other PBS Kids initiatives. It’s available for free on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Android mobile and tablet devices in the Google Play store.
Sesame Workshop is collaborating with IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology to develop educational platforms and products designed to adapt to the learning preferences and aptitude levels of individual preschoolers. Research shows that a significant extent of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life, making this window critical for learning and development. The three-year alliance will draw from Sesame Workshop’s educational content expertise and Watson’s natural language processing, pattern recognition and other cognitive computing technologies to create highly personalized learning experiences.

RainbowMe (www.rainbowmekids.com), a digital entertainment platform for kids that celebrates diversity, launched Saturday, April 30 with content focused on Latino/a, Indian, Asian and African-American kids ages 2-12. RainbowMe’s initial phase is a free streaming video service; phase two will roll out a patented gaming platform that personalizes games based on the user’s interests, personality traits, community and culture, plus books, music and other activities. Founded by Kya Johnson, RainbowMe’s team includes a former executive at Discovery Channel, HGTV and TV One, as well as a former IBM exec.

DHX Television launched the Family Channel App, which delivers programming from Family Channel, Family CHRGD, Family Jr. and F2N to audiences on mobile devices, tablets and via an extended desktop experience. App is free to Family subscribers and offers more than 900 episodes across 40 series. The series premiere of Raising Expectations, Family’s new sitcom starring Molly Ringwald and Jason Priestley, is available now for on-demand viewing via the App ahead of its May 8 network debut.

Skydance Media acquired game developer The Workshop Entertainment and will launch Skydance Interactive to create original video games and virtual reality experiences for VR hardware platforms including PlayStation and Oculus.

A new report from Common Sense Media finds 50 percent of teens “feel addicted” to mobile devices, and 59 percent of their parents agree that their kids are addicted. The Common Sense poll surveyed 1,240 parents and kids from the same households – 620 parents, 620 kids. “Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about day-to-day lives, be it doing homework, driving or having dinner together,” said James Steyer, founder/CEO of Common Sense. Other key findings include:
 – Seventy-two percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications; sixty-nine percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.
– Seventy-seven percent of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together at least a few times per week.
– One-third of parents and teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) say they argue with each other on a daily basis about device use.
– Fifty-six percent of parents admit they check their mobile devices while driving; fifty-one percent of teens see their parents checking/using their mobile devices when driving.

EdTech company Peppy Pals’ latest children app, Reggy’s Play Date, enables children to interact with a fun-loving dog on open-ended play and learn about emotions. The app is designed for kids 2-8.


Last week we reported on the spinning off of StoryArc, under the direction of Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, and Jen MacLean. Here’s more detail from MacLean about the company’s plans to expand existing digital properties including Funbrain and Poptropica, and launch new immersive experiences for kids.

Changes for Funbrain and Poptropica
There are big changes in store for both. Funbrain, which was the birthplace of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, launched a new design and is now also responsive so you can play games on mobile phones and tablets. For Poptropica, later this year we’ll be adding some really great customization features that allow kids to feel even more they are at the center of the stories. We’re asking ourselves, how do we empower kids to make meaningful decisions and create experiences that feel unique? So you’ll see us adding features that allow kids to customize their avatars in much more detail than they can today, create an individual home experience and tweak the story experiences they have so it’s not like their friends’.

Other evolutions:
We are all about enriching the story-telling experience. With Mystery of the Map, kids can play a version of the game on Poptropica, and they can also have an experience on Funbrain. The same goes with Galactic Hotdog. Kids want more opportunities to consume media and entertainment. Being able to have a related story experience across platforms is really where 21st century kids are.

When Pigs fly
We have another app launching later this spring, Adventure Pig, that’s designed to give more short burst play. On Poptropica most of the play sessions are a half-hour or longer, but kids may not always have a half-hour. This is our first foray into shorter experiences. It’s a single story broken into many chapters and levels that can be completed in less than a minute though the overall story is much longer.


The Weinstein Company is storing broad global rights to animated sequel The Nut Job 2. The company’s new deal includes all global territories outside the US  where Open Road will distribute  to the sequel to the sleeper hit that notched $121 million worldwide in 2014. Weinstein’s domain includes China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias and Jeff Dunham are back for the new film, joined by newcomers including SNL’s Bobby Moynihan, and Bobby Cannavale.

Children are more likely to learn from educational TV programming if they believe the character on the program is knowledgeable, and they are reminded to think about what they’ve seen on television for ideas of how to solve a problem. This according to the new study U.S. Preschoolers’ Trust of and Learning from Media Characters by researchers including Rebekah Richert, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. The study was just published in the Journal of Children and Media. The purpose of this study was to examine how certain perceptions of media characters may impact learning; researchers examined 37 children, ranging in age from 2 to 6 years old.

Sony reached an approximately $13 million settlement in an ongoing potential class action suit filed by plaintiffs Robert Nitsch Jr., a former DreamWorks Animation visual effect artist, David Wentworth and Georgia Cano that has broad-reaching implications across the animation industry. Also named in the case, which alleges wage-fixing and anti-poaching, are DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, LucasFilm, Disney and the now-unoperational Imagemovers Digital. Fox’s Blue Sky Studios (The Peanuts Movie) was the first defendant to settle.

Bento Box Entertainment (Bob’s Burgers) is creating primetime animated comedy The Blues Brothers, in conjunction with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s widow Judy Belushi. The series will chronicle the adventures of Jake and Elwood Blues, along with the characters within their master blues band. “The show will be the Blues Brothers living in America and utilizing all new technology to make and promote their own records, seek out and record new artists and avoid law enforcement  and all while fighting for truth, justice and a better breakfast sandwich,” Aykroyd said.


Genius Brands International signed multiple new licensing partners for its new music- and fashion-driven brand SpacePOP. Taste Beauty, Bare Tree Media, Canal Toys and Yowie Group are the latest companies that will debut merchandise based on the brand.


K2-11 Top 10 Programs for the week of April 11-17, 2106
4/16/16 Henry Danger/NICK/8-8:30p/1339
4/12/16 Henry and the Monster Machines/NICK/1:30-2p/1075
4/17/16 KC Undercover/DSNY/8-8:30p/1042
4/14/16 Blaze and the Monster Machines/NICK/1:30-2p/1024
4/14/16 Bolt/DSNY/8-9:45p/995
4/11/16 Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks/NICK/4:30-5p/984
4/11/16 Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks/NICK/5:30-6p/971
4/11/16 Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks/NICK/5-5:30p/935
4/16/16 School of Rock/NICK/8:30-9p/929
4/16/16 SpongeBob SquarePants/NICK/10-10:30a/925

K6-11 Top 10 Programs for the week of April 11-17, 2016
4/16/16 Henry Danger/NICK/8-8:30p/1025
4/17/16 KC Undercover/DSNY/8-8:30p/863
4/16/16 School of Rock/NICK/8:30-9p/733
4/14/16 Bolt/DSNY/8-9:45p/652
4/17/16 Best Friends Whenever/DSNY/8:30-9p/652
4/12/16 Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn/NICK/8-8:309p/646
4/12/16 The Thundermans/NICK/7:30-8p/630
4/15/16 The Powerpuff Girls (2016)/TOON/6-6:15p/620
4/11/16 The Thundermans/NICK/7:30-8p/581
4/14/16 The Powerpuff Girls (2016)/TOON/6-6:15p/572
Source: Turner Research based on Total US Television Universe of 116,400,000 homes, Final Live+7.

Top Weekend Domestic Box Office Estimates for the top-grossing movies rated G, PG or PG-13: April 29-May 1, 2016

The Jungle Book (Buena Vista) PG-13 $43.71 million (week 3) cume revenue $253.37 million
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal) PG-13 $9.62 million (week 2) cume revenue $34.22 million
Mother’s Day (ORF) PG-13 $8.37 million opening weekend
Barbershop: The Next Cut (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $6.08 million (week 3) cume revenue $44.66 million
Zootopia (Buena Vista) PG $5.33 million (week 10) cume revenue $323.84 million
Ratchet & Clank (Focus) PG $4.87 million opening weekend
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $3.87 million (week 6) cume revenue $325.19 million
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Universal) PG-13 $1.11 million (week 6) cume revenue $57.29 million
God’s Not Dead 2 (PFR) PG $610,785 (week 5) cume revenue $19.94 million
Miracles From Heaven (TriStar) PG $536,864 (week 7) cume revenue $59.67 million
Source: Rentrak Corporation


Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana appointed Pam Westman to head of Nelvana Enterprises. Westman will oversee brand development and management across the Nelvana portfolio, including retail management, licensing, consumer products, content sales, and digital on a global basis. She most recently was director, integration, for Staples Canada. Prior to that role, she was the EVP of HIT Entertainment.

Disney Media Distribution and Disney & ESPN Media Networks promoted Mia Rondinella to SVP, global distribution and strategy. She will manage Disney & ESPN Media Networks’ domestic affiliate sales and marketing business strategy group and oversee the global distribution business operations and strategy team for Disney Media Distribution. Rondinella most recently was VP, consumer data and analytics, at Disney|ABC Television Group.

Turner Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) promoted Cecilia Persson to VP of programming and content strategy, Kids EMEA, acquisitions and co-production, international. She previously was head of acquisitions and co-production, international, and now will lead programming strategy across EMEA for all Turner’s kids linear and digital platforms.


Last Week’s Trivia: What cast album won a Grammy for best children’s album in 1972? We threw you a curveball with this one, there was no cast album children’s album winner. CynKids apologizes for the confusion. Let’s start fresh this week.

Today’s Trivia Question: Who voiced Mr. Spacely on The Jetsons? Email cathy@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone.)

Cathy Applefeld Olson

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