Good morning. It’s Monday, June 11, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few of our questions today is Suzanne Ryan, CEO and Executive Producer SLR Productions, an Australian-based company she founded in 2003, and which she co-owns with New Zealand-based South Pacific Pictures. Ryan has developed and/or produced a number properties for the international kid’s market, including the TV adaptation of the popular picture book Guess How Much I Love You The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare, the animation series The DaVincibles, Gasp!, which is based on the comic book series, I Got A Rocket, and the action/adventure series Dex Hamilton: Alien Entomologist, Deadly!, and the animated series Captain Flinn & The Pirate Dinosaurs, also based on a picture book. Before jumping into the world of animation, Ryan was a journalist for Prime Television in Australia and she also worked as a nanny. Ryan grew up in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, where she had Disney characters pasted to the walls of her bedroom. Her dog Sammy is featured in on the end credits of all SLR’s shows and has his own Facebook page.
Early in your career you were in the US, living and studying in Lincoln, Nebraska. Coming from Australia, how did you wind up in Nebraska and how did you get involved with working with and reporting on the Native American community?
I applied for a student exchange program with my University in Australia and was accepted to a number of North American Universities. My father actually chose Nebraska for me. He looked at all the schools available and said that you can always live on the east or west coast of America but you never get the opportunity to live in the Midwest. So I chose Nebraska as it had both passions of mine in Film School and Native American studies.
When I arrived in Lincoln – yes it was minus 40 degrees – there was a major mix up with my enrollment. They did not have me enrolled in Film School and there was a 6-month waiting list. I was completely lost as to what to do until a really lovely gentleman from the exchange student program came up with the suggestion that I consider broadcast instead of film school and this led to me combining an internship with AIROS (American Indian Radio on Satellite). It was there that I was introduced to the local Native American community.
I became a regular at the Indian community center and was introduced to so many fabulous people from significant areas of the community. One thing led to another and I ended doing my own Saturday morning radio show called the Pow Wow Power Half Hour Program playing music I loved from different Native American Artists I had met or had heard about. It was fantastic and such a great time in my life. I used to look forward to my radio show every week. I finally did get to attend Film School in the last semester but it was nowhere near as fun.
How did you make the shift to the kids entertainment business? Was it always an interest of yours?
My first job in kids’ entertainment was working for Energee Entertainment on the Magic Pudding, which was an animated Feature Film, based on an Australian classic book by Norman Lindsay. It was a time in the Australian industry that a lot of studios were booming in animation and being a part of that felt unique and energized like you belonged to something really important.
I’ve always felt people who make cartoons are just big kids at heart, we create these really amazing characters, discuss at length the logic behind why perhaps a fish can order a pizza from the home telephone, or a boy can ride his pet rocket to school, or how many farts and wedgies you can have in an episode before it’s deemed too much – well actually there is never enough. But to me the spirit of Kids Entertainment is about purely entertaining children. It is light-hearted and allows you stay in a world that indulges your imagination and inner child. I would say that kids entertainment was always in my DNA having grown up with Saturday morning cartoons and Disney movies and just about every well-known Disney character on my bedroom wall.
What was your first job in animation and how did it come about?
My first job in animation was working for a company called Aboriginal Nations. It was a company that was dedicated to telling stories about Indigenous Australians through documentary and animation. Community elders would tell their story of their land, their people, their Dreamtime and through this one of their Dreamtime stories would be animated into a 5-minute story.
It was one of the best jobs I ever had and not only inspiring but also an amazing contribution by Indigenous communities in telling their history. I was the production assistant and I was just really lucky to get the job. Having a background in Indigenous studies at university combined with arts and communication was good grounding for the role. The company’s mandate was to employ Aboriginal youths and train them to become artists and learn how to be a part of a production and to animate. Some people had experience and some had never held a pencil before. The company had an animation-training program and it was an enormous opportunity for everyone involved.
You have adapted several books into animated series. Is it more challenging to adapt an existing property for an animated TV series or an original property?
I started my company ten years ago based on having two book properties that I wanted to make into animated series. I love books and I wanted to have a boutique company that focused on adapting books so that I had a point of difference to other companies at the time.
I always feel it is easier to adapt a book property. When you pick up a book you immediately know the world, the characters and the story. Books are a stepping-stone to a bigger world beyond the page. They are full of potential. So for me adapting books seems really natural and something I immediately understand.
Original properties I’ve not ruled out and we have co-developed and co-produced several original property ideas that have come to us. The key is having great characters and a fantastic world to explore.
As far as adapting a book for a TV series, how much do you involve the creator in the series creative process? (Just in development or ongoing throughout the series?)
I have always been open to the creator being involved in the development and production of a TV series. What I find is most authors feel it is not their specialty and would rather keep to doing what they love which is books and allow our creative team to do what we are good at ñ making TV.
One of my favorite creative processes however, is learning from the author how they came up with the book. Who are the characters and what is the world about? Our authors always have some great stories to tell and especially getting the back-story I find is crucial to fully understanding what the world is about.
Working with Terry Denton the author of Gasp was so much fun. Whilst Terry didn’t get involved in the nitty gritty of the TV series he always would respond with such positive feedback after reading a script or seeing an animatic. And that was encouraging for our directors, writers and artists to know he loved what we were doing.
What are you and SLR working on right now? Can you share anything about any new projects in development or new deals?
We are currently producing an IPAD App for our brand, Guess How Much I Love You. We developed the App last year and are now producing two games, which we will release on the Apple site shortly. We are also in production on an animated series called Teenage Fairytale Dropouts, which we are co producing with Anima, Telegael, Homeplate and CCI are the distributors. We also have three shows we will kick-start for Q4 2012 and Q1 2013. It is an exciting year ahead.
How has your dog adapted to a life in show business?
Sammy D is a super star! He is adjusting to being a pampered pooch, with his new king size bed, weekly grooming and the obscene amount of toys he has at the studio and home. Sammy is the company mascot and has pretty much taken over the run of the office. His day to day activities are based around belly scratches, pats and as many walks to the park he can get from everyone at the office. He also likes pats from clients, the courier, FedEx and the postman, which he waits in anticipation for the office buzzer to alert him to someone at the door. We kind of think of him at SLR as a real life Muppet.
The Jim Henson Company acquires rights to the classic kid’s books Frog and Toad and is developing an animated feature film and also becomes the licensing agent for the property in the US and Canada. Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, the four Frog and Toad books each feature five short stories revolving around the adventures of a frog and his friend toad. Lisa Henson will produce for The Jim Henson Company. Adam Lobel and Adrianne Lobel will executive produce. Penning the Frog and Toad screenplay is Craig Bartlett (Dinosaur Train and Hey Arnold!) and Cory Edwards (Hoodwinked) has signed on to direct. Henson has also signed a deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books to develop and execute the first-ever multi-category licensing and merchandising program in the US and Canada for the iconic literary property. Henson plans to launch the kid and adult aimed Frog and Toad licensing program, including products in key categories such as apparel, accessories, gifts, toys, home furnishings and room decor, in department and specialty stores in 2013.
Discovery Kids Latin America and Canada’s Portfolio Entertainment enter into a deal to produce and a new animated series based on Discovery Kids’ spokes-character Doki. Portfolio Entertainment will produce the new Doki (26×30) series for Discovery Kids, with JBMW Media serving as one of the executive producers on their first original series. The series will feature Doki, as always asking question after question, along with his pals Oto, Mundi, Fico, Anabella and Gabi as they seek answers to their questions about science, nature and the world.
US-based Home Plate Entertainment and Canada’s Guru Studio partner on the new CG animated preschool series Wish Come True (52×11), an original property from Friends With You (FWY), an art collective and creative studio. Exploring the magical world of wishes, the series revolves around a 9-year-old girl named True and her adventures in the land of the Rainbow King. True is a hero and she’s brave, athletic, inquisitive, and extremely clever and fun too. In addition, True has something unique on her side, the Wishes! Wishes are True’s friends and they have special powers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books awards Established Brands, a licensing, marketing and retail development agency, the licensing rights to the popular kid’s book series Fancy Nancy for the US and Canada. Under its new multi-year agreement with HarperCollins, Established Brands will further develop the world of Fancy Nancy across multiple product categories, including toys, apparel and accessories, bedding, stationery, paper party goods and many others. Written by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, more than 20 million Fancy Nancy books have been sold to date. The Fancy Nancy series follows the adventures of an high-spirited and extravagant young girl, Nancy, who adores all things fancy – and anything French! The 50th book was published in February 2012. Established Brands will showcase Fancy Nancy this week at Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas.
Zodiak Kids appoints Canada’s Studio Licensing to represent its new CGI animated preschool series, Tickety Toc (52×11), for licensing and merchandising across Canada. Produced by The Foundation, a unit of Zodiak Kids, and Korea-based FunnyFlux Entertainment, Tickety Toc premiered on Disney Junior Canada in April 2012. Tickety Toc is a slapstick series that that focuses on the humorous adventures of twins, Tommy and Tallulah, and their friends as they learn about teamwork, responsibility and problem solving. Studio Licensing plans to introduce a consumer products program to Canada in 2013.
Gund, the plush division of Enesco, enters into a licensing deal with Pretty Ugly to create UglyDoll branded plush characters. Gund is set to introduce the new UglyDoll plush products at retailers worldwide beginning this summer 2012. Meanwhile, Pretty Ugly will focus its efforts on expanding its licensing program across multiple categories for the UglyDoll brand. Created by artists David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, the UglyDoll line launched in 2001.
Mind Candy inks four new publishing partnerships for its Moshi Monsters property. New publishing deals include:
- Penguin Young Readers Group (storybook, sticker and activity books, readers, chapter books, handbooks, novelty formats, among others) and DK (a Moshi Monsters character encyclopedia and Ultimate Sticker Collection).
- Prima Games, an imprint of Random House, releases a print strategy guide for use with the Moshling Zoo Nintendo DS game
- Reader’s Digest, kid’s novelty books (by Megan Bell, editor of the Daily Growl blog on the Moshi Monsters website) with perforated collectible playing cards and paperback puzzle books which will all include a redeemable online promo code to purchase “Rox” (virtual currency) for free on the Moshi Monsters website.
- SkyJack Publishing, will make the Moshi Monsters Magazine available in North America via subscription.
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MARKETING NY-based Out of the Blue Enterprises enters into a long-term partnership with Post Foods‘ Alpha-Bits cereal for its reading-centric animated series Super Why!, which airs on PBS Kids. The deal kicks off this August 2012 with all Alpha-Bits cereal boxes featuring either Super Why or his pal Princess Presto on the box, with a range of activities including games and cut-out character masks familiar to viewers of the TV series. Super Why is produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises in conjunction with DHX Media. Post initially introduced Alpha-Bits cereal in 1958.
Teen Titans will return to Cartoon Network in Teen Titans Go!, a new half-hour animated comedy series that will air as part of the network’s Saturday morning DC Nation block (10a-11a) in 2013. Inspired by Warner Bros. Animation‘s original series Teen Titans, the new series features the return of Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Cyborg and explores the life of a group of unsupervised teen heroes and what goes on in-between saving the world there’s drivers education, pranks and somebody’s gotta to the laundry. Teen Titans Go! features the principal voice cast from the original series, and is executive produced by Sam Register (Green Lantern: The Animated Series, The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans), with Michael Jelenic (ThunderCats, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Aaron Horvath (MAD, El Tigre) as producers.
Fox International Channels‘ BabyTV, a commercial free channel, launches in Japan on J:Com, as part of the cable operator’s basic package of channels. The new BabyTV dedicated local feed in Japan offers the channel in both Japanese and English, as well as with subtitles for some programming. Simultaneously Fox International Channels Japan (FICJ) launches its new original production Mama Lab: 8 Ways to Help Children Grow (4×30), which will focus on parenting issues including media use, early education and baby development. Hosted by Nadia Gifford Shimadzu, a host on both Japan’s NHK and Fox’s Backstage Pass, Mama Lab will feature celebrity moms and parenting experts, will debut July 6 on Fox Channel and on J:Com HD. BabyTV is also available in Japan on Hikari TV, as well as a number of local IPTV affiliates, bringing BabyTV’s reach in Japan to 3.2+ million households.
NCircle Entertainment is set to release The Wiggles‘ new DVD, The Wiggles Big Birthday, in the US on July 17, 2012. The DVD features The Wiggles live in concert and lots of birthday surprises, jokes, and songs. The DVD also features the one-hour documentary, Everybody Clap! Everybody Sing!, which covers the group’s first 20 years. The release corresponds with The Wiggles Celebration Tour, which kicks off in the US on July 12.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; June 8-10, 2012:
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Paramount) Opening Weekend $60.4m
Snow White And The Huntsman (Universal) PG-13 $23.0m-2 wk total $98.5m
Men In Black 3 (Sony) PG-13 $13.5m-3 wk total $135.5m
Marvel’s The Avenger (Disney) PG-13 $10.8m-6 wk total $571.9m
What To Expect When Your Expecting (Lionsgate) PG-13 $2.7m-4 wk total $35.7m
Battleship (Universal) PG-13 $2.3m-4 wk total $59.8m
Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features) PG-13 $1,6m-3 wk total $3.7m
Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $1.4m-5 wk total $73.7m
The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) PG-13 $1.1m-12 wk total $400.3m
Bernie (Millennium Entertainment) PG-13 $821,802-7 wk total $4.8m
Source: Rentrak (www.rentrak.com)
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday, June 7, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 983; K6-11 655; TWEENS 9-14 515
NICKELODEON: K2-11 914; K6-11 420; TWEENS 9-14 290
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 692; K6-11 474; TWEENS 9-14 425
DISNEY XD: K2-11 258; K6-11 212; TWEENS 9-14 169
NICKTOONS: K2-11 139; K6-11 87; TWEENS 9-14 62
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data
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