Good morning. It’s Monday, February 6, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few of our questions this week is Josh Selig, Founder and President of the 13-year-old Little Airplane Productions (www.littleairplane.com). Selig also creator and executive producer of preschool series including The Wonder Pets!, Oobi!, and Go, Baby!, Small Potatoes and 3rd & Bird, among others including a brand series we discuss below, and has directed countless short films. Selig also toiled as a writer on Sesame Street and the head writer on the animated series Little Bill, as well as serving as the Resident Producer in Jerusalem on the notable Israeli-Palestinian production of Sesame Street. If you happen to be in NYC, or live nearby, you should definitely make a visit to Little Airplane Productions’ home in a more than 200-year-old building located in New York City’s South Street Seaport.
We understand you are creating a new preschool TV series with singer/songwriter Laurie Berkner called Sing It, Laurie! How did you meet Laurie and what will you be doing together?
Laurie and I have been friends for years and we’ve always talked about making a show together. We have a very similar sensibility when it comes to preschoolers. Sing It, Laurie! is an animated preschool series about a little girl who loves to sing and play music. She has a little dog named Jam and they fly around her neighborhood in her super cute vehicle called a Wing Dinger. The show will feature many of Laurie’s biggest hits, as well as great new songs written by Laurie. The whole show is simply adorable.
Are there any TV, or other deals, for Sing It, Laurie! in place here in the US or elsewhere?
Laurie and I will be sharing the series for the first time this month with broadcasters, publishers, toy people and licensing folks at both KidScreen and Toy Fair. We expect that Sing It, Laurie! will appeal to both the domestic and international markets so we’ll be taking the show to MIP TV as well. We see this as a global brand.
Your work has appeared on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, and CBeebies and on other channels around the world, what is the biggest challenge in entertaining preschoolers and what draws you so much to reaching this age group?
I make shows for preschoolers because I honestly believe that human beings peak at age four. At age four, we have our priorities straight: Family, friends, play and artwork. The biggest challenge in entertaining preschoolers is that many of the commissioners aren’t as creative as the children they buy shows for.
Your shows like Wonder Pets, Small Potatoes and 3rd & Bird have remarkable kids’ voices. How do you cast those kids and how do you get them to perform so naturally and with such enthusiasm? And by the way you continually work with kids and animals going against the famous W.C. Fields adage, “Never work with animals or children.”
We typically audition about 100 children for every child that we cast in a lead role. We always audition both professionals and non-professionals. Once we’ve found the right kid for a part, we just let them be themselves. I find that most children are naturally brilliant and funny. They only sound unnatural when they’re told to act like someone else. By the way, I’ve heard that animals and children didn’t like working with W.C. Fields either.
Speaking of Small Potatoes… Little Airplane has just wrapped production on the Small Potatoes animated musical film, Meet the Small Potatoes. Can you tell us about the movie and how it’s the same and/or different from what we know on the TV series? Do you have a movie distribution deal in place?
Meet The Small Potatoes is an animated rock mockumentary in the spirit of This Is Spinal Tap. The film stars Malcolm McDowell as the band’s manager and features new songs by the legendary Broadway composer, the late Jerry Bock (Fiddler on the Roof). Our Facebook page just passed the half million fan mark, and we’ve taken the bold step of casting 1,000 of our Facebook fans’ potato avatars in the film. Meet The Small Potatoes was made for the whole family–not just preschoolers–and we’re currently in talks with one of the larger international distributors.
Is there a licensing program underway for Small Potatoes or specifically the movie?
Absolutely. Aardman Rights is now managing all the rights for Small Potatoes in the UK & EMEA and they expect to announce our master toy partner shortly. In addition to our existing deals with Penguin (publishing), and iTunes (music), Little Airplane will be announcing several new deals at Toy Fair including games, apps and digital books.
Your programs also feature infectious songs by noted composers and lyricists. Are you a would-be Broadway producer?
Never. I hear that Broadway is even harder than kids’ TV. But we do take our music seriously at Little Airplane and we’re proud to have been honored with several Emmys® in this area. For us, the script is the narrative body of a show but the music is its heartbeat.
So for shows like Wonder Pets and 3rd & Bird how much time does the production team spend photographing real baby animals.
We’ve actually photographed many live animals over the years at Little Airplane. We rescued the original Ming-Ming Duckling from a Fois Gras farm in upstate New York and, after we photographed her, we gave her to an animal rescue center who released her into Central Park. We’re told Ming-Ming lives there still. Seriously.
Do you have any plans to create content for older kids, tweens and teens?
Last year I helped launch Toronto’s Little Tugboat Productions with my dear friend Brenda Nietupski. Brenda knows the older kids’ TV space better than I do, so we’ve decided to include both a preschool show and a tween show on our upcoming Tugboat development slate for 2012.
You were on Sesame Street as a child. Did you ever get in trouble on the set?
Hmm. I do seem to recall a shoplifting incident at Hooper’s Store involving a Rubber Ducky.
CBBC (UK) unveils plans for a new kid-targeted fantasy drama series, Wolfblood (13×30), which will begin filming in the North East of England in the next few months and is set to debut later this year. The show will be filmed at The Charles Thorp comprehensive school, Hookergate Campus at Rowlands Gill. The series revolves around Maddy Smith, a seemingly ordinary teen but she has a secret that she hasn’t even told her friends. Maddy can hear ultrasound, pick up a scent from a mile away and see in the dark… she is a wolfblood. If being a teenager wasn’t hard enough, try being a wolfblood teenager! Wolfblood was created by Debbie Moon and is a co-production between CBBC and ZDF/ZDFE. The series is executive produced by Gina Cronk and produced by Foz Allan. The line producer is Alan Fairholm.
CCTV Animation, a subsidiary of China Central Television, along with production partners China’s Dalian Tsanghao Digital Technology, US-based Foxfield Entertainment, and China’s Studio CHOPS, have begun production on the new preschool series Mr. Dragon’s Park (26×11) that will deliver in early 2013. Developed by CCTV Animation and Foxfield Entertainment, Mr. Dragon’s Park fuses elements of Chinese culture, along with American, Latin American and European cultures and encourages creative play and imagination. In each episode the friendly, musical and unpredictable Mr. Dragon guides five kids and viewers on adventures.
The Jim Henson Company inks licensing deals for its preschool brand Pajanimals. The consumer products campaign will support the Pajanimals TV series, which is currently airing exclusively in the US on Sprout. Produced in Northern Ireland Pajanimals is a co-production between The Jim Henson Company, Sprout and Northern Ireland’s Sixteen South Television. The series has obtained funding assistance from Northern Ireland Screen. The Jim Henson Company extends its home entertainment licensing agreement for the US and Canada with NCircle Entertainment to include new full episodes of the Pajanimals series. The first Pajanimals DVD title to be released under the new deal is slated for May 2012. NCircle previously distributed the original Pajanimals’ short form series. Henson’s new licensing agreements for the property include: SaraMax Apparel Group will create sleepwear featuring Pajanimals characters, which will be available in fall; Star Bound Entertainment is creating parade balloons featuring the Pajanimals’ characters; California Costumes will develop toddler Halloween costumes, which will be available at retail in Halloween 2012; and Light Headed Beds is developing illuminated graphic kid’s headboards that will be available spring 2012 via website www.lightheadedbeds.com.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) signs two toy deals with French toy manufacturer Lansay. Under the deals, the family-owned Lansay acquires the rights to produce and distribute toys based on the new animated series The Looney Tunes Show and popular Scooby-Doo brand in France and Benelux. This month, February 2012, Lansay will launch a line of seven plush (6-inch and 12-inch) toys based on the animated The Looney Tunes Show, which is now rolling out across EMEA, including plush versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety and Taz. Lansay product line also includes the new Scooby-Doo Flashcar RC.
Australia’s Moose Toys (www.mooseworld.com.au) appoints Canada’s The Licensing Shop as the exclusive merchandising and licensing partner for its new product line The Trash Pack for the US and Canada. The Trash Pack are a group of squishy, collectible mini figures based on icky things you’d likely find in the trash, such as characters named Mouldy, Milk, Rancid Roach and Putrid Pizza. Launched in 2011, Moose Toys sold 4+ million The Trash Pack units in less than 4 months, and is projected to sell 100+ units in 2012.
MORE KIDS STUFF
PBS Kids (www.pbskids.org) will celebrate Dr. Seuss‘ 108th birthday on-air, online, and on mobile devices on March 2, 2012. First, on-air PBS stations nationwide will air The Cat-In-The-Hat-A-Thon, a two-hour marathon of The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That! (check local listings). The marathon will include two all new episodes of the series. Kids will also be able to play with the Cat and friends via games and video content online and on mobile. Video clips from all four episodes from The Cat-In-The-Hat-A-Thon will also be available for free online at PBSKids.org/video (www.pbskids.org/video) and on the PBS Kids Video App for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Additionally, PBSKidsShop.com (www.pbskidsshop.com) will launch a new Birthday Party Builder Tool for parents. Designed to help young kids learn core science skills, The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That! is part of PBS Kids’ multiplatform initiative to educate kids in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to prepare them for school.
PorchLight Entertainment acquires the worldwide distribution rights to two animated feature length films, both of which are currently in production, from Mumbai and LA based animation and film production studio Media Factory. The first movie, Bingo, is slated to be available by early fall 2012. The second title, Something Fishy, a 3D CG animated movie set for worldwide release in 2013.
KidsCook Productions has launched its new tween-targeted musical comedy series KickinKitchen.TV on New York City’s TV network NYC life (Saturdays at 7:30a and 3:30p, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11a, and Thursdays at 10a), and can also be seen in NYC taxis. Designed to educate as well as entertain K-12, KickinKitchen.TV revolves around a four teens that develop and star in a musical cooking series, which becomes a hit, and features guest appearances by Chef Daniel Boulud and Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Greg Jennings, among others. KidsCook has also launched www.kickinkitchen.tv, where kids are encouraged to interact, learn about making healthy living choices, and watch webisodes and other video content, as well as upload videos and photos, exchange recipes, and play games. Natasha Lance Rogoff, formerly Executive Producer of Sesame Street International and documentary producer, created KickinKitchen.TV.
The Kidscreen Summit (www.summit.kidscreen.com/index.php) gets kicks off tomorrow, February 7-10, 2012, in NYC at the Hilton NY, hope to see you there. Four projects were recently named to compete in Kidscreen Summit’s annual Pitch It! Getting Past the Gatekeepers competition, the live session will be held Wednesday afternoon, and they are: Chugga Chugga Wow (marblemedia – Canada); Full Proof (NTR – The Netherlands); Calamity Island (Famous Flying Films – UK); and NightBreeds (Sweatbox – Spain). Additionally, today, just ahead of the annual market, Kidscreen magazine will also host two daylong events, iKids which looks at the intersection of kid-targeted mobile content, video games and web entertainment, and Leadership Training Day, a hands on executive coaching master class presented in partnership with The Nebo Company.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; February 3-5, 2012:
Chronicle (2012) (Fox) PG-13 Opening Weekend $22.0m
The Woman in Black (CBS) PG-13 Opening Weekend $21.0m
Big Miracle (Universal) PG Opening Weekend $8.5m
One For The Money (Lionsgate) PG-13 $5.3m-2 wk total $19.7m
Red Tails (Fox) PG-13 $5.0m-3 wk total $41.3m
Man On A Ledge (Summit) PG-13 $4.5m-2 wk total $14.7m
Extremely Loud & Incredible Close (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $3.9m-7 wk total $26.8m
The Artist (Weinstein) PG-13 $2.6m-11 wk total $20.6m
Beauty and The Beast 3D (Disney) G $2.5m-4 wk total $44.8m
Hugo (Paramount) PG $2.3m-11 wk total $61.9m
Source: Rentrak (www.rentrak.com)
UK-based Abbey Home Media (www.abbeyhomemedia.co.uk) appoints Dan Harriss as GM, effective immediately. With a background in home entertainment, Harriss joins Abbey Home Media after selling his retail company. He previous held positions at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Total Home Entertainment and Blockbuster.
With Cartoon Network’s Second Annual Hall of Game Awards still two weeks away, airing February 20 at 7p, the network reports that viewers have been casting their votes at online, at Facebook and CartoonNetwork.com, in droves for ten categories. Some 67+ million votes have been cast so far, which is just about twice the total votes from the show’s inaugural year. CartoonNetwork.com maintains its place at the top kid online domain, which it has held since August 2011 according to Nielsen. Hosted this year by basketball icon and TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal, Cartoon Network Hall of Game is produced by IMG Media, the production arm of sports/entertainment/media company, IMG.
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday, February 2, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 859; K6-11 483; TWEENS 9-14 364
NICKELODEON: K2-11 847; K6-11 320; TWEENS 9-14 220
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 372; K6-11 236; TWEENS 9-14 221
DISNEY XD: K2-11 148; K6-11 109; TWEENS 9-14 98
NICKTOONS: K2-11 96; K6-11 66; TWEENS 9-14 65
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data
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