Good morning. It’s Monday, January 30, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few of our questions today is Martin Baynton, a creator/writer/narrator/executive producer as well as co-founder, with Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop (www.wetanz.com), of Pukeko Pictures, an intellectual property development company. Baynton, who has written and illustrated 30+ kids’ books, most recently co-created, with Taylor, the preschool TV series the WotWots (www.wotwots.com/americas/home), and is the series editor and executive producer, as well as the voice of the show’s narrator SpottyWot. Baynton and Taylor adapted his classic book series Jane And The Dragon (1986) into a TV series that has aired around the world. Baynton has done a myriad of things, including studying painting, yoga and Electrophysiological technology, worked in a biofeedback unit at a hospital, and he has served as a roadie, a scene painter, a relief House Parent to young teens under house arrest for petty crimes, and as a literacy motivator seriously he’s done all this and more. Born and raised in England, Baynton now lives in New Zealand with his family.
As co-creator, series editor and executive producer of The WotWots, can you tell us something about the planet SpottyWot and DottyWot come from? Does the planet have anything in common with life in New Zealand?
All WotWots explore life around the universe to seek out attributes they want to embrace. So when the return to their world they ‘grow up’ into Chimera, which depict their unique points of difference. The WotWots encourage diversity and they respect and embrace differences. So on their home planet no two WotWots look alike, they have different colours, furs, tails, horns etc and they fill every niche of ecological life on their planet. There are no other life forms there, every living creature is a WotWot and they are all sentient. Hence they only eat vegetables and fruit, no farming fishing or hunting like in New Zealand.
How did watching the behavior of your own kids lead to the creation of the WotWots? What did you hope to capture?
My wife Diane homeschooled them for a few years. She never did formal lessons with them, she just used their thirst of knowledge and their desire to have adventures as platforms for learning. So everyday was an expedition into the unknown. The kids loved it, and I hope the WotWots display that same thirst for learning.
You are the writer and illustrator of more than 30 kid’s books, including the beloved Jane and The Dragon. She’s in training to become a knight–in 9th century England–and her friend is a 300-year-old fire-breather who happens to talk. Why was it so important for you to create this courageous 12-year-old girl?
Back in the 1986 when I wrote Jane there were still attitudes and expectations about what girls should do. So Jane was a modern fable that turned old fairy tales on their heads. Girls were rewarded for good behavior, for cleaning up after stepmothers and dwarfs, and they were rewarded by meeting a handsome prince who would marry them, as if that was a good thing. So setting a defiant girl into that medieval male dominated setting was a way of throwing those attitudes into high relief.
Why does Jane utter the word “Maggots!” now and then?
I hate kids using swear words, it’s ugly and demeaning to them. So I encouraged my own kids to create their own fruity and unique oaths that would def’ express their feelings but were more earthy than rude. So I did the same for Jane, I created a lexicon of colloquial expressions that felt like swearwords but were perfectly literary and respectable. So her favorites were ‘Maggots’ and ‘Puss and Pestilence!’ Full of attitude but perfectly safe to broadcast.
When one of your books becomes an animated character, what concerns you the most? Are you protective of the original concept, or do you just let your characters grow in a different medium?
It’s a matter of trust, of building a great team around a show and evolving ownership from myself to the group in a slow and practical way so that every member of the team knows the DNA of the characters as if they were family. Having said that I have always been the exec producer and lead creative so all the final creative decisions sit with me.
You worked as an auxiliary nurse, caring for terminally ill patients. Are there lessons from that experience that inform your books for young people?
Only that life should be lived as a celebration of all things wonderful. I don’t have time to engage with the negative, I don’t enjoy creative arts that press easy buttons of despair or anger, I only write books that seek to harness the uplifting aspects of life.
You once spent six weekends walking a dog with actress Ava Gardner, in preparation for a book. Was that your “Week with Marilyn” experience?
Yes, it was the late 70s and I was in my twenties, unpublished. She was wonderful, full of stories about her amazing life. I would meet her in her apartment in Kensington and we would walk her corgi dog ‘Morgan’ round Hyde Park. I was hired to ghost write her story idea and to illustrate it. In the end the publisher passed on her book but hired me as an illustrator on other books.
Would you reveal the next character you are about to give birth to?
Yes. Right now I’m writing a children’s book that is an allegory for walking away from bullying and other forms of violence, be it domestic or playground. I can’t tell you more or I would have to kill you, which would be a poor start to the marketing campaign for this book.
HIT Entertainment appoints CPLG as the exclusive licensing agent in Germany for preschool brand Fireman Sam. Under the deal CPLG will work closely with HIT on licensing opportunities across all categories in Germany. The Fireman Sam can be seen in Germany on KiKa, where the Fireman Sam DVDs are also available. Tomy is set to distribute Fireman Sam toy lines, featuring figures, playsets and vehicles in 2012.
Kid-targeted music label Putumayo Kids is set to launch its first new products outside of its CD series, around the world this August 2012. The new Putumayo Kids’ World Culture Collection includes Africa, Europe and Latin America coloring books and sticker collections, featuring the artwork of longtime Putumayo CD illustrator, Nicola Heindl. Her folkloric styled work combines art and culture and appears on all of Putumayo’s 150+ CDs. Putumayo’s websites, www.putumayo.com and www.putumayokids.com, will each include sections dedicated to the World Culture products. Putumayo Kids’ Coloring Books include 20 oversized (11.5×14) coloring pages where kids can discover the people, animals and musical instruments of each featured region, and a glossary. Titles include The Africa Coloring Book, The Latin America Coloring Book (bilingual) and The Europe Coloring Book. The Africa Sticker Collection, Latin America Sticker Collection and Europe Sticker Collection (9×9) are hardcover packages, each filled with 120+ reusable, color stickers. Kids can build sticker stories on fold-out landscapes, explore countries on the map and check the glossary to get the scoop behind the sticker images. Putumayo continues its eco-friendly initiative with its new product effort. Each of the coloring books and sticker collections is printed with soy ink, and the printer is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Putumayo has taken a “100% replanted” approach, providing funds to Trees, Water, People to support global reforestation efforts.
The Hub celebrates Super Bowl weekend with two family-targeted programming marathons this weekend: Saturday, February 4 (12n-5p), The Hub will air ten back-to-back episodes of super hero series – Batman: The Animated Series, The Super Hero Squad Show, G.I. Joe Renegades and Transformers Prime; Sunday, February 5 (1-3p), the network will feature a special Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bowl marathon of four back-to-back episodes of Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures.
Scholastic Media‘s animated series celebrate Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, February 14, 2012. Two love and gift-filled episodes of Clifford the Big Red Dog will air on PBS Kids (check local listings), while two Valentine’s Day themed episodes of WordGirl will air as part of PBS Kids Go! (check local listings).
Lee & Low Books (www.leeandlow.com), a 21-year-old independent publisher of diversity-centric kid/young adult books, acquires Children’s Book Press, a 36-year-old publisher of multicultural kid’s books, in a cash agreement. Under the deal, Lee & Low Books acquires the tangible assets including books in inventory and intangible assets such as copyrights and trademarks, including the Children’s Book Press name. Lee & Low will assume Children’s Book Press contracts with authors, illustrators, customers and suppliers. The specific terms of price was not disclosed. Lee & Low’s other imprints include Bebop Books, an educational imprint launched in 2000, and Tu Books, a young adult targeted sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery imprint established last year.
Kappa Books Publishers inks a deal to acquire the business, intellectual property and other assets of 40-year-old Modern Publishing, a division of Unisystems, Inc., a NY-based mass market publisher of kid’s coloring and activity books. Kappa Books plans to retain the Modern name and will offer the Modern line through a newly formed division of Kappa Books. Andrew Steinberg, President and Founder of Modern, will join Kappa Books as President of its new Modern Publishing Division.
Australia-based M5859 Studios releases the new interactive digital app Inside the World of Dinosaurs narrated by Stephen Fry for the iPad. Targeted to users of all ages, Inside the World of Dinosaurs app features the A to Z of dinosaurs (310 3D models), including a library of 60 fully animated and interactive dinosaurs. Each dinosaur or object in the app can be spun around in 3D motion, allowing users to more closely study the details such as skin texture and color. Dinosaur fight sequences can be viewed from any angle. Additionally, some dinosaurs can be moved backwards and forwards, so their walking can be analyzed in detail. Other content includes: 60 modeled, photo-realistic dinosaurs; 200 pages of original text; 84 videos and historical pictures; 60 original dinosaur sounds; 5 interactive 3D walking dinosaurs; and 15 pages of famous dinosaur hunters.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; January 27-29, 2012:
One For The Money (Lionsgate) PG-13 Opening Weekend $11.8m
Red Tails (Fox) PG-13 $10.4m-2 wk total $33.8m
Man On A Ledge (Summit) PG-13 Opening Weekend $8.3m
Extremely Loud & Incredible Close (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $7.1m-6 wk total $21.1m
Beauty and The Beast 3D (Disney) G $5.3m-3 wk total $41.1m
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (Paramount) PG-13 $3.6m-7 wk total $202.6m
The Artist (Weinstein) PG-13 $3.3m-10 wk total $16.7m
Joyful Noise (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $3.2m-3 wk total $26.7m
The Iron Lady (Weinstein) PG-13 $3.2m-5 wk total 17.5m
Sherlock Holmes: A game of Shadows (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $2.6m-6 wk total $182.3m
Source: Rentrak (www.rentrak.com)
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday, January 26, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 873; K6-11 504; TWEENS 9-14 416
NICKELODEON: K2-11 870; K6-11 338; TWEENS 9-14 220
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 395; K6-11 249; TWEENS 9-14 218
DISNEY XD: K2-11 133; K6-11 111; TWEENS 9-14 100
NICKTOONS: K2-11 103; K6-11 70; TWEENS 9-14 64
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data
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Answer to Friday’s Trivia Question: On Batman: The Animated Series, who voices the character of Simon Trent? Adam West. Kudos to: Tom Potter-Radio Disney AM 1560/New York; Marc Morrell-ToonBarn.com/Quakertown, PA; Pat Brady-CESD/LA; Henricka Barbour-Hub/Burbank; Brett Ashy-The Ashy Agency/LA; Anand Roy-The Walt Disney Company/India.
Today’s Trivia Question: What cartoon character works for U.N.I.Q.U.E.? (Email John@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and time zone. Unofficial rules: Only the second four correct answers from each time zone will be mentioned; and once you’ve been mentioned in any of the Cynopsis editions, you can’t be mentioned again that calendar week.)
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