05/10/17: Behind the Poptropica reboot; a new game for King Julien

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CynopsisKIDS
Good morning. It’s Wednesday May 10, 2017, and this is your your first early morning Kids briefing!

NEWS OF THE WEEK
 
TV veteran Jordan Levin will take the reins as CEO of Awesomeness, the digital joint venture run by NBCU, Hearst and Verizon. Levin replaces Brian Robbins, AwesomenessTV co-founder, who in February exited after a five-year run. AwesomenessTV, Awesomeness Films, DreamWorksTV and Awestruck fall under the Awesomeness umbrella.
 
Disney reported a mixed bag of results for its first quarter, notably with weaker than expected results at its Media Networks division. Net income, which reached $2.29 billion, up 11.4 percent vs. Q1 2016 on revenue of $13.34, fell short of Wall Street projections of $13.45 billion. At $1.50 a share, company earnings beat expectations of $1.41/share. Media Networks operating income fell 3 percent to $2.22 billion; cable networks, especially ESPN, pulled down the bottom line. The Studio Entertainment operation saw a 21 percent improvement in the bottom line to reach $656 million.
 
Get ready to head back to big-screen Bikini Bottom. “There will definitely be another SpongeBob movie,” was the word from Nickelodeon chief Cyma Zarghami, who spoke last week during parent Viacom’s quarterly earnings call. Zarghami also noted Nick will boost its programming to close to 700 episodes of new and returning series that require “only modest increases in production budgets” and will play “across platforms and geographies.”
 
Girl Meets World has ended its run at Disney Channel after three seasons, and its creators were not able to land the show at another home. A series of tweets, believed to be from co-creator Michael Jacobs, thanked fans, gave a teaser of what would’ve been coming in a season 4, and concluded with a lofty sendoff: “… as you all meet this world, we wish you friendship, respect and love. All of us at BMW and GMW have loved bringing you these stories. We hope we have taught you to dream, try and do good. Class dismissed.”

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POP GOES THE REBOOT
 
Poptropica , the digital story-based learning environment created by Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney that targets K6-12 and has 2 million monthly active users, is getting a remake as to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The new incarnation, Poptropica Worlds, provides the StoryArc Media division with a more seamless experience between web and mobile along with enhanced games mechanics, greater customizability and new graphics. Abhi Arya, president, FEN Learning and StoryArc Media, and co-founder of Sandbox & Co, gives CynKids the low-down.
 
What are the key elements you’ve learned about the Poptropica audience thus far?
Poptropica recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and is still very popular among its key, and strongest, age demographic of 8-12 year olds. The Poptropica player’s journey of story-based islands combined with a customizable avatar is appealing to this audience and longstanding players now in their teens. Poptropica’s session time–one of our key engagement metrics–has maintained consistently high over years.
 
A more robust mobile app is part of Poptropica Worlds. Can you provide details about the mobile experience?
We’ve noticed a big shift to mobile over the years. We wanted to ensure that the Poptropica experience is as seamless on mobile as it is on web. As a result, we are launching a Poptropica refresh that provides seamless cross-platform experience on mobile and web. Also, we are slightly moving Poptropica toward learning so that our audience can learn newer skills thereby making the game a win-win for parents, teachers and our audience. Poptropica Worlds is built in Unity. This allows us to make a perfectly seamless experience across mobile and web: kids can begin playing Poptropica at school on a computer and pick up exactly where they left off when they get home to their tablet.
 
How does Poptropica fit into the overall Sandbox offering for kids?
Sandbox is a millennial education company; our goal is to help millennial children acquire the knowledge and skills they’ll need for today and tomorrow. We have an overarching learning framework that is embedded in every product in our portfolio. As we look at the journey of a child, we wanted to build an ecosystem that spans from birth (FamilyEducation for parenting advice) to preschool (Hopster) to early school years (Tinybop) to K-5 (Funbrain) to grade 3-8+ (Poptropica) and 8-12+(Factmonster & Infoplease). This way, we can cater to a specific learning and fun needs for each age segment.
 
 
DEVELOPMENT & PRODUCTION
 
Count Amazon among the OTT services making a play in the family entertainment realm. The service, which already has a stronghold in the kids arena, is developing The Dangerous Book for Boys, an original half-hour series from Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston and Superbad director Greg Mottola. The project, based on the book of the same name, received a straight-to-series six-ep order. Originally housed at NBC during the 2014-15 season, the series centers on brothers whose whimsical father leaves them with a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys upon his death. One of the brothers, Wyatt, uses the book to enter a fantasy world, where he reconnects with his dad. Mottola will direct the series, which begins filming in NY this summer.
 
 
COMING UP
 
Raven-Symone ’s big Disney homecoming now has a date. Spinoff sitcom Raven’s Home will debut Friday, July 21 at 10p on Disney Channel, immediately following the premiere of Descendants 2. New episodes will then air in their regular time slot of Fridays at 8:30p.The new series returns the character of Raven Baxter from That’s So Raven, as well as cast mate Anneliese van der Pol as the free-spirited Chelsea. Leading up to the premiere, every episode from the four seasons of That’s So Raven will be available on the Disney Channel app and VOD beginning Thursday, June 1.
 
Arthur may have been on the air for 20-plus years, but this month marks the first time his witty little sister advances in age. D.W. is turning 5 in the one-hour special D.W. & the Beastly Birthday, airing May 29 on PBS Kids and encoring June 2. Young viewers will learn a valuable lesson about handling disappointment as D.W.’s birthday celebration goes awry. Additional new episodes of Arthur will air throughout the week of May 29 and will be available on streaming platforms in June.
 
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KING JULIEN’S ROYAL TREATMENT
 
All Hail King Julien is getting the royal treatment for its fifth season – all 13 eps will drop this Thursday, May 12 on Netflix – which for the first time is serialized. Executive producer Mitch Watson tells CynKids about the realization of his dream to create a Game of Thrones-style epic saga of a season.
 
Epic storylines…
All 13 episodes are connected; it’s like a five and a half hour-movie. We wanted to do a sendup of Game of Thrones. We set up at the end of season 4 that Julien loses his kingdom, and we set it up that all the main characters have story lines, and the premise of the entire season is how are these three separate factions going to put together armies that are going to be strong enough to defeat Koto. That’s the jumping off point.
 
… But still funny
We had to pitch all 13 episodes at once to show everyone where we were going and at first the animation teams thought it was going to be heavy. Comedy-wise, it’s probably the funniest season we’ve done so far, but we’re playing it very straight the whole time. The majority of the humor comes from the fact that they are on this gigantic quest but what happens within the quest is absolutely ridiculous.
 
Pass the serial
When we started on the show, nobody wanted to do serialized stuff, at least in animation. It was originally pitched as a more serialized Game of Thrones type of show but that was put to the side to make it the stand-alone [eps] show it became. But the whole binge-watching thing has become popular, especially on Netflix, so once we were coming close to season 5 Netflix said they wanted to us to do a serialized show because that’s what their audience really loves.
 
 
AROUND THE INDUSTRY
 
POW! Entertainment , the media company founded by Stan Lee, is in an agreement with China’s Camsing International Holding for the company to purchase the POW! library of film, television, games, VR, animation, live events, tours, comics and publishing IP. Under the new structure, Lee will continue to serve as the company’s chief creative officer. Camsing US VP Shane Duffy will become the CEO of POW! Entertainment; Gill Champion will serve as president.
 
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JOB OPENING: DIRECTOR, MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA/OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK/LA: Develop and lead marketing strategies and campaigns across social and digital platforms. 7 yrs + leadership experience, BA required. Apply HERE: http://careers.own.tv (5/12)  
 
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JOB OPENING: MANAGER, PROGRAM RESEARCH/NBC/LA: Collect, analyze and interpret digital and linear program data from internal and external sources. 3 yrs. exp req.Full info/apply (5/11) HERE  
 
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