Monday, June 18th, 2012

Cynopsis: Kids!
06/18/12

Good morning. It’s Monday, June 18, 2012, and this your first early morning briefing.

Answering a few of our questions today is Andy Heyward, Founder and Co-President of A2E2. The company creates, produces, acquires and distributes digital kids’ entertainment in all formats across all channels. Headquartered in LA, A2E2 is managed by Co-Presidents Andy Heyward and Amy Moynihan Heyward. In addition to producing projects such as Secret Millionaires Club with Warren Buffet, Gisele & the Green Team with Gisele Bundchen, Martha & Friends with Martha Stewart, and Stan Lee’s Mighty Seven, A2E2 handles brand management and licensing for Build-A-Bear Workshop. Heyward is the former CEO of DIC Entertainment. During his long career Heyward has over 5,000+ episodes of kid’s entertainment. Some of his past work includes Inspector Gadget, Real Ghostbusters, Madeline, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sonic the Hegdehog, Super Mario Brothers, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego, and GI Joe, among others. Heyward sits on industry and community boards including the Paley Center for Media, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

You were part of the team at DIC that created the still-popular animated series Inspector Gadget in the early 1980s. The series is fondly remembered and continues to air around the world to new kid audiences. How did Inspector Gadget come about? 

I was working in Paris for a small commercial animation company that was seeking to enter the half hour series market. I had this idea of a bionic police inspector. It was inspired by $6 Million Dollar Man, and Inspector Clouseau, and Get Smart.

However, unlike the $6 Million Dollar Man, everything that inspector gadget did was wrong. He bumbled and fumbled, yet, in spite of his ineptitude, he would still get the case solved. I asked one of the local artists, Bruno Bianchi, to try some designs of this. He did a brilliant job and captured him perfectly. The only thing we decided was to lose the mustache from the original design because it was too reminiscent of inspector Clouseau.

We tried many great voices including Gary Owens, and Jesse White before settling in on Don Adams.

Why do you think the Inspector Gadget characters and series have had such longevity?

Great storytelling, great characters great voicing, and a great theme song written by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy.

You and A2E2 have an ongoing relationship with Warren Buffett, having created the animated series the Secret Millionaire’s Club with him. What is going on with the project now?

There are 26 webisodes and an active online community. We also developed 26 half hours for The Hub TV Network. Additionally, we ran a national promotion this year tied to the property. Classroom curriculum was created from the show’s scripts (adhering to all in-school standards and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and shipped to more than 100,000 classrooms and youth organizations (free of charge, thanks to a sponsorship by Experian).

Kids were encouraged to view the episodes, and then “Grow their Own Business.” There were more than 3,000 entries to the SMC Grow Your Own Business Challenge and the finalists were flown to Omaha to pitch their ideas to Warren Buffett himself. It has been very rewarding to see the enthusiasm for teaching kids basic business skills from an early age.

You founded A Squared Entertainment (A2) in 2009, which then became A Squared Elxsi Entertainment (A2E2) in 2011, when A2 entered into a joint venture with India’s Tata Elxsi. What is the team at A2E2 working on that you are most excited about right now?

We are excited about everything we do, or at this stage in life, we wouldn’t do it. We have a preschool property we love that was just announced at The Licensing Expo called Rainbow Valley Heroes. It’s a great CGI animated series of emergency rescue vehicles that go on adventures and teach kids important lessons about character, safety and life lessons- it’s perfectly aligned with our content with purpose mission.

Additionally we’re very excited about some new developments we have in the hopper for our super hero property Stan Lee’s Mighty 7.

You have operated as an independent US-based production entity for many years now. How has how you do business changed from your different stints heading DIC to today at A2E2 in this multiplatform digital world?

Technology, and new distribution systems have changed so much. So has regulatory stuff. There are so many more broadcasters, and more ways for kids to consume content. But in the end, good characters still prevail and drive good story telling.

How is A2E2 working to bring together different facets for the kids entertainment industry to create strong multi-platform properties? What do you think are the key elements to a kid-targeted digital property?

The same, the same, the same. Characters and story. It was the same with the Greek playwrights, the same for Shakespeare, the same for radio, same for silent movies and billion dollar blockbusters. Will always be the same. Characters and story. Regardless of where kids are consuming content, the drivers are the same: character, conflict, comedy, design and voice.

In addition to your actual work in the kid/family entertainment industry, you are well know for your myriad of eyeglasses, not to mention coordinating colored socks. How did your love for eyeglasses start?

Great creators always bring a unique vision and focus to their work. Since I was not gifted with any of those attributes, colorful glasses provide the right metaphor for cartoon schlepping.

Nickelodeon debuts a trailer for its first full-length stop-motion animated special with It’s A SpongeBob Christmas! slated for the 2012 holiday season. The trailer shows the film’s nod to the Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in style, but also has a modern feel. Nickelodeon said the show was inspired by the song that SpongeBob released in 2009, “Don’t Be a Jerk, It’s Christmas.” The song is written by Tom Kenny, who voices the titular character, and by Andy Paley.The 30-minute special is the story of how Plankton vows to nab the Krabby Patty formula as his Christmas wish by feeding “jerktonium-laced fruitcake” to all of Bikini Bottom, thereby turning them into jerks. John Goodman voices Santa Claus.

PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Production of the animated film Ninja Turtles slated to reboot the franchise in December 2013 has been shut down, according to published reports Friday, with the Hollywood Reporter breaking the story. The Paramount Pictures movie was in pre-production, and has now been pushed back to May 2014 due to script issues, reports say. The move follows other Paramount film pushbacks. Ninja Turtles had been planned for a holiday 2013 release. Michael Bay is producing and Jonathan Liebesman is the director. According to IMDB, the movie tells the story of “aliens who invade Earth and inadvertently spawn a quartet of mutated reptile warriors, the Ninja Turtles, who rise up against them to defend the world.” Published reports say Paramount had been hoping the movie might boost sister company Nickelodeon.

Baby- and toddler-centric TV network BabyFirst Americas licenses Mili y Molo, a bilingual educational series consisting of 26 short-form episodes. The series is set to debut in February 2013 on the network, which is carried on Comcast systems. The show is produced by Bilingual Children’s Enterprises and is designed to help prepare preschoolers and younger children for kindergarten as the show takes them through age-appropriate activities that can prep them for the first year of school. The Latino-oriented animated series will be produced in both Spanish and English. The program is based on a book series with more than 460,000 copies sold in Puerto Rico, Mexico, California and Canada, BabyFirst said. Bilingual Children’s Enterprises produces educational television programming and other products to help with bilingual language skills. BabyFirst Americas launched last month with Comcast rollouts in markets including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Twin Cities, Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs, portions of South Jersey and New York along with areas in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.


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LICENSING

Rubicon Group Holding lands worldwide licensing, merchandising and digital media rights for MEG’s Monster in My Pocket line of collectible monsters.  RGH said it will devise a global brand strategy to include developing programming for TV and theatrical distribution, as well as DVDs, gaming, apps and online. The content rollout will include a licensing and retail development program, the companies said.

Toy maker MGA Entertainment teams with tween apparel and lifestyle products brand Justice on Novi Stars, a new girls property from the company behind the Bratz franchise. The toys will be available at both Justice stores and other major retailers starting in August. MGA said Novi Stars will combine humorous storylines with galactic missions. As an example, one of the characters is named “Una Verse” and boasts a body filled with glitter and water, while “Mae Tallick” speaks in a robot-like voice from inside her metallic body. To support the product launch, MGA is introducing the NoviStars.com Web site in June with interactive features for girls including a video blog that will run from June through December. Justice stores will carry the dolls, accessories and an exclusive line of Novi Stars-branded apparel and will run the video blog on the in-store TV network.

Lawless Entertainment and Suzy’s Zoo signs new licensing agents at Licensing Expo. They include PGS Entertainment, which will focus on expanding the Suzy’s Zoo brand in Europe, and BN Licensing to handle the Benelux region. In addition, Angelotti Licensing and Entertainment Business will handle Brazil.

Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment won the Best Licensed Program of the Year award at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. The game has been a worldwide phenomenon with numerous spin-off goods as well as an animated show coming this fall. Entertainment One’s preschool show Peppa Pig won in the film and TV category.

MORE KIDS STUFF

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment brings a new Sesame Street game to its line of console and handheld games with the launch of Sesame Street: Elmo’s Musical Monsterpiece. The game plays on Wii and Nintendo DS and marks the newest entrant in Warner Bros. line of Sesame Street games. Sesame Street: Elmo’s Musical Monsterpiece is geared to encourage kids to make music. Kids will also learn about instruments as well as some of the academic aspects of music, such as patterns and counting. The game is rated EC for Early Childhood and should be available in most retail stores selling games as well as online for $19.99.

STONE SOUP

In TV industry news, broadcast networks were set to wrap up most of their upfront negotiations last week, with volume on par with last year and pricing up by high single digits, said Brian Wieser, Senior Research Analyst at Pivotal Research Group in his Friday research note. “Per our updated advertising forecast, we expect network TV to grow slightly ahead of where the upfront played out, growing by 1-2% year over year during the 2012-2013 broadcast season. If we add in online video revenues associated with first-run network TV content  which were included in negotiations for most advertisers  the true state of growth for this sector will more likely be 3-4%.” Wieser adds that the expectations are based on assuming the country stays on course fiscally.

RATINGS

Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday June 14, 2012, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 1177; K6-11 763; TWEENS 9-14 612
NICKELODEON: K2-11 978; K6-11 518; TWEENS 9-14 427
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 740; K6-11 508; TWEENS 9-14 471
DISNEY XD: K2-11 266; K6-11 198; TWEENS 9-14 186
NICKTOONS: K2-11 95; K6-11 66; TWEENS 9-14 61
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data


Answer to Our Last Trivia Question: What show did Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett create? Sesame Street. Kudos to: Jerry A. Kapner-Kapner Group/Montclair, NJ; Meredith Wayne- CoxReps/NY; Barry Solomon-Retailability Inc/NY; Bob Eisenstaedt-Granite Springs Productions/Tampa; Ron Grant-Big Balloon Animation/LA; Sierra Filucci-Common Sense Media/San Francisco; William “Chip” Beaman-Soundelux Design Music Group/Hollywood.

Today’s Trivia Question:What series first episode was named, “Conan’s Big Fun”? (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.)

Later — Gwen
Gwen Billings for Cynopsis Kids!
06.18.12

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