Good morning. It’s Monday, November 21, 2011, and this your first early morning briefing.
Cynopsis: Kids! presents a new A Few Questions For…
Answering a few of our questions this week is Dick Rothkopf, a founding partner and Chairman of Ludorum, a creator and producer of kid-targeted franchises, including the preschool TV series, Chuggington. Dick has toiled in the toy and kid’s entertainment for many years, and was also the co-founder of the toy company, Learning Curve Brands, where he served as Executive Chairman from 1993 until its acquisition by RC2 Corporation in 2003. In addition to early childhood education toys and programs, Dick currently sits on the Board of the Colorado-based Youth Foundation; an organization that provides programs that serves economically disadvantaged kids from preschool through college. He is also past chairman, and continues as an active board member, of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that aims to help close the kindergarten achievement gap.
For many years you were in the toy business. What lessons from that business did you carry into Ludorum, which produces and distributes shows for kids?
I’d have to say the biggest lesson learned from my years in toys was that we must serve both sides of a dual market: children of course, who have to love the playing, and moms and dads who have to love what they perceive the property is doing for their child.
You have a long history of interest and involvement in education. What caused you to become interested in childhood education? Were you a good student?
I was a very bad student. The best you could say would be “a late bloomer.” But, I had parents who expected a lot of me, and eventually, I came around and decided to try to make a success of myself. I realized while our company was trying to help teen kids from our fairly rough office neighborhood that children especially those not lucky to be born to educated, middle class parents, simply did not expect to succeed. Nor did their parents expect them to. I am convinced and committed that a key to improving education in our country is to work with low-income families during the first five years of a child’s life. If our children can get a quality preschool education then, their self-expectation soars, as does the expectations their parents have of them. From there, the road to success is still not easy, but it is at least navigable.
By the way, what does Ludorum mean?
No idea. I’m told by my partners it means “to play” in some form of Greek, and maybe it does.
Chuggington is now seen in 175 countries (in 26 languages), why do you think that kids (boys and girls) are so attracted to talking trains?
Whether a child is a boy or a girl or speaks French, Spanish or Chinese, we know that they probably love trains. Kids just do and have since steam engines. With Chuggington, we use high quality CGI-animation, fast-paced stories and strong male and female leads to appeal to all of our preschool viewers. Now, we have a strong global market with ratings at or near the top of the scale, and girls make up nearly half of our viewers.
When creating an episode of Chuggington, how does your team determine the balance between education and entertainment?
For parents, the episodes are nonviolent, non-threatening and each one contains a little life lesson they can talk to their children about. But, entertainment is at the heart of Chuggington, and we try to strike a happy balance between learning and adventure, keeping it, above all, fun for both parent and child. For example, in Snowstruck Wilson (which premieres in December on Disney Junior), Wilson gets stuck in a blizzard because he gets distracted and ends up trapped in a tunnel. In the end, Wilson escapes with the help of Action Chugger and Harrison (so exciting!) and our little fans learn how important it is to pay attention.
What is next new project for Ludorum that you are most excited about?
I guess you could say the “next” project has already begun. In September of this year, Ludorum partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to launch a new traffic safety campaign “Think Safe, Ride Safe, Be Safe!” Using Chuggington’s colorful and engaging characters, the campaign provides important child transportation safety information to families with young children, including bike, pedestrian, car seat and school bus safety guidance. One cornerstone of the campaign is the traffic safety pledge, which more than 120,000 children have taken since September. You can learn more (and take the traffic safety pledge!) at www.chuggington.com/safety. We, together with our friends at Disney Junior and NHTSA, plan to reach millions of parents and children, and to save lives with this long-term campaign.
What was your favorite toy as a kid? Do you still have that toy?
I was a model rocketry nerd. Nearly blew the roof of the school when I was in the fifth grade. No kidding. They didn’t like me much there after that.
Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), Chris Melendandri’s animation studio that is owned by Universal, is working on an animated big screen adaptation of Woody Woodpecker, per THR. Negotiations are reportedly underway with the writing team of John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky (Blades of Glory) to develop a modernized story for the project. Woody Woodpecker was co-created by cartoonist Walter Lantz and “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” Mel Blanc. The character made his first appearance in a 1940 short.
Majesco Entertainment Company, Fox Consumer Products and Bagdasarian Productions release the new video game Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, based on the upcoming third Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, for Kinect for Xbox 360, Wii and Nintendo DS. Fox is set to release the Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked! feature film on December 16, 2011. Targeted to all ages, the Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked video game continues the story with an around-the-world journey that has the “Munks” visiting six tropical locations inspired by the movie. While dancing as the playable Chipmunks or The Chipettes, players perform more than 50 different dance moves to 30 of the greatest Chipmunk tunes. Developed by Behaviour Interactive, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked game is rated E10+.
Classic Media and Red Wagon Games, publisher of family friendly interactive entertainment, release a video game based on the classic holiday TV special, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town for the Wii and Nintendo DS ($19.99). Developed by 1st Playable Productions, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town on Wii, players experience the holiday special in a new way, by joining Kris Kringle and his friends on an adventure to defeat the evil Burgermeister Meisterburger’s efforts to keep toys from the kids of Sombertown. The family-targeted game also features a co-op mode that allows Kris’ penguin sidekick, Topper, to join the adventure. The game for Nintendo DS was developed by Glyphic Entertainment, and includes three interactive adventures and dozens of games and activities. Additionally, the animated special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is now available on DVD ($14.99) and is part of The Original Christmas Classics gift set (Blu-ray $44.95 and DVD $29.98) also featuring, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frost the Snowman.
In Canada, broadcaster Bell Media launches Juicebox, a new kid/tween targeted 24-hour, commercial free, music video channel that is offering kid-friendly, parent-approved music content. Juicebox, which was previously an all-request music video channel titled PunchMuch, is available on 30+ carriers across Canada, including Bell TV and Rogers. The same music videos that can be seen on Juicebox can now also be viewed online at www.juiceboxtv.ca . In addition to the Juicebox channel, viewers can also get a taste of the music channel on Saturday mornings can tune into CTV from 6-8a for a two-hour block of Juicebox, beginning this Saturday November 26, 2011. Juicebox has set up a committee of parents that vets the music programming for the channel.
Which Russo kid will get to keep their wizardly powers? Find out in a special one-hour episode of Wizards of Waverly Place that will premiere a Friday, January 6, 2012 at 8p on Disney Channel. In addition to the series stars, Selena Gomez, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin, among others, the episode will feature guest stars Bridgit Mendler (Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas!) and Gregg Sulkin (As The Bell Rings, Avalon High) return as Justin’s vampire girlfriend Juliet Van Heusen and Alex’s werewolf boyfriend Mason. Leading up to the episode – and the competition for wizardly powers, viewers can log onto DisneyChannel.com to create personalized greetings to support their favorite Russo sibling. A message ticker will be seen on Disney Channel throughout the week of January 2. Wizards of Waverly Place is a production of It’s a Laugh Productions for Disney Channel.
Nickelodeon launches a new math-based app, Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom into Numbers, for mobile devices including the iPad. Based on Nickelodeon’s preschool math-centric TV series Team Umizoomi, the app is developed by curriculum consultants, the app features five touchable, multi-level games (23 levels in all), an interactive map of Umi City and a reward system where kids can earn badges and trophies throughout the game(s) while uncovering hidden surprises along the way. The curriculum in each level includes: counting; number recognition; advanced number recognition; number line; and simple addition and subtraction.
P2 Games launches the first interactive app based on CBeebies‘ preschool series, Tinga Tinga Tales for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch in the UK. The new Tinga Tinga Tales app allows kids to interactive with the animal characters in the safari world of the series in nine min-games with three difficulty settings so players can learn at their own pace. The nine mini-games include: Monkey’s Mangoes (help the monkey avoid the green mangoes and catch the ripe ones before they hit the ground); Yummy Flies! (tap on the flowers to help Chameleon catch as many flies as possible to eat); Clever Chameleon (help Chameleon disappear by tapping on the right patter that matches his surroundings); Snappy Croc (help stop Crocodile from spoiling Hippo’s swim); Find Lizard (play hide and seek with Lizard, who likes to hide under rocks); Greedy Tortoise! (guide him to a feast); I’m Not A Rock! (help tortoise tries to cross land, while other characters mistake him for a rock); Animal Mismatch (the animals are mixed up, help put them together); Bath Time! (help Elephant wash the dusty animals). The Tinga Tinga Tales TV series is produced in association with Homeboyz Entertainment in Kenya, Tiger Aspect Productions worked with local talent and Tingatinga artistes from Tanzania to create Tinga Tinga Tales. Classic Media manages the property.
Head over to the Cynopsis Kids !magination Awards to enter your preschool, kid and tween targeted TV series, TV movies, and websites, apps and games, and the marketing, public relations and advertising campaigns, which support that content, for our first annual awards program. To enter the Cynopsis: Kids !magination Awards your kid-targeted content or support campaign must have taken place (in part or in full) between October 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011. We look forward to seeing your entry and honoring the winners at the June 2012 Awards ceremony in New York City.
The new preschool-aimed DVD title, Timmy Time: Timmy Needs A Bath, is set to release on January 24, 2012 from Lionsgate and HIT Entertainment. Created by Aardman Studios (Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep), Timmy Time currently airs as part of the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel in the US. The new DVD features five episodes of Timmy Time, as well as bonus content including Timmy’s Tune #2 music video and Shaun the Sheep Bonus Episode: Supersize Timmy
It’s a race to the South Pole in the new SpongeBob DVD, SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob’s Frozen Face-Off, set to release on January 3, 2012. As the residents of Bikini Bottom race to the South Pole, it can only mean one thing watch out for Plankton who makes yet another play to get his hands on the secret formula and end the Krusty Krab fast-food reign. From Nickelodeon and Paramount Home Video, the DVD also contains six other episodes from the eighth season of SpongeBob SquarePants. Bonus content includes episodes of Nickelodeon’s series T.U.F.F. Puppy and Fanboy and Chum Chum.
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; November 18-20, 2011:
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) PG-13 Opening Weekend $139.5m
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Bros.) PG Opening Weekend $22.0m
Jack and Jill (Sony) PG $12.0m-2 wk total 41.0m
Puss In Boots (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) PG $10.7m-4 wk total $122.3m
Tower Heist (Universal) PG-13 $6.9m-3 wk total $53.4m
In Time (Fox) PG-13 $1.7m-4 wk total $33.4m
Footloose (Paramount) PG-13 $835,000-6 wk total $50.1m
Real Steel (Disney) PG-13 $543,000-7 wk total $82.5m
Like Crazy (Paramount Vantage) PG-13 $525,000-4 wk total $1.8m
Moneyball (Sony) PG-13 $500,00-9 wk total $72.6m
Source: Rentrak ( www.rentrak.com )
Answer to Yesterday’s Trivia Question: Who supplied the voice for Mabel in Shrek the Third? Regis Philbin. Kudos to: The hundreds (!) of people who answered correctly.
Today’s Trivia Question: What cartoon character’s famous catch phrase is, “Wowsers!” (Email [email protected] 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!
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