Up to date information about children’s entertainment - film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy
Archive for November, 2007
Linda Simensky, Senior Director of Children’s Programming for PBS will be honored along with Missy Halperin, Senior VP Talent Relations for Fox Broadcasting at the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s 7th Annual Discovery Award Dinner on Thursday, November 8, 2007 at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The Discovery Award is presented to extraordinary individuals who are builders, creators and leaders in their fields and communities.
Linda is a highly respected and admired professional in the children’s entertainment industry. She brings a thorough understanding of children’s entertainment stemming from a background at Nickelodeon, where she worked in various positions within the programming and animation departments and Cartoon Network where she served as senior vice president of original animation overseeing the development and production of all new shows such as “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Samurai Jack,” “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” “Johnny Bravo” and “Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.”
In her role at PBS KIDS which she joined in 2003, Simensky collaborates with producers, co-production partners and distributors throughout development, production, post-production and broadcast for existing and new series and has been involved in launching many new shows including “Curious George,” “Super Why,” “FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman” and “WordGirl.”
I spoke with her last week about receiving the Discovery Award and to find out more about this woman whose influence over children’s programming is unsurpassed and who, at age 40 with a great job at Cartoon Network decided to take the plunge into the PBS KIDS pool.
RL: Congratulations on receiving the Discovery Award by the Zimmer Children’s Museum. Obviously, this is a high honor and you are in good company. What does this award mean to you?
LS. Thank you. I’m honored to be acknowledged by the Zimmer Museum. After I learned I was receiving the award and had looked into them a little deeper, I realized how similar their goals are to PBS’s goals. So, if the Zimmer Museum has decided to give me this award then maybe it is a sign that we at PBS are achieving our goals.
RL. You came to PBS KIDS four years ago after a successful career at Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. How did that background influence your approach for program development at PBS KIDS?
LS. I left Cartoon Network the week of my 40th birthday. The thing that got me interested in coming to PBS was watching TV through my son’s eyes. It changed how I looked at programming. I found that I wouldn’t let him watch some of the shows I had created while at Cartoon Network. That was a bit of a crisis for me. I found myself more interested in what was going on at PBS. Then, the job opened up and I volunteered for it. I came in with a desire to make the shows that I wanted my kids to see. I think cartoons that are the most fun to watch, like “Fetch” or “WordGirl,” are designed for a kid but can be enjoyed by an adult as well. It goes back to the model that “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company” created years ago - making shows that are fun, funny, have a cool quality to them and are really innovative. I was inspired by “The Electric Company.” It was my favorite show when I was 8-years-old. I came here challenged to make educational shows at a time of my life when I should have been kicking back a bit. But, I like the idea of challenging myself and I thought, “If I had so many ideas about PBS, then why don’t I go work there!” I feel pretty lucky. I’m getting to experiment here more than I would have anyplace else.
RL: Last year, you spoke at KidScreen about the importance of multi-platform delivery for children’s programming today. There are so many formats and possibilities, how does PBS KIDS select which platforms to pursue and why?
LS. I should point out that PBS in general, as opposed to just me, is assessing and pursuing new platforms as I work strictly on the TV side. The things we consider when we are determining whether or not a show is a good property are: will it work on the web, on a pod-cast, does it translate in an interesting way into games or other challenges? Can you take it outside and play it? That’s the direction that media is going. We’re just really preparing ourselves for where things will go in the future. Visually, we have gone from film to TV to cell phones. I joke about how the screen keeps getting smaller and smaller. I’m a bit of a Luddite on that. On the other hand, when I’m in places like airports, my son wants to play the bowling game on my phone. I think that’s where it comes in handy. I see how my kids react to the computer. They see it as an alternative to TV. My two-year-old daughter doesn’t differentiate between them.
RL: PBS KIDS has been focusing on more math and science content for ages six to eight. Tell me more about what your plans are in this area in the future and how you gauge a program’s success.
LS: What we are really doing is filling gaps. For example, we have a number of literacy shows. The reason we have so many is that we believe that no one show can fill all areas of literacy-skill building or reach all children. Kids develop at different paces and learn in different ways and having a variety of shows allows us to address this.
There are not a lot of science shows for kids on TV right now. Science can be a lot of fun yet science education doesn’t really start until second grade so we’re working to fill that gap for the younger kids. We’re attacking science and math the same way we did with literacy, by creating multiple shows that use different learning styles. With math, we’re trying to show that it can be used to solve everyday problems. “Cyberchase” is great at demonstrating this for ages six and up. My father just started watching “Cyberchase” and he’s in his 70s. He came across it and was impressed that it really taught math. When I first got here, that was the show that I kept pointing to because it infused the math curriculum into the stories so well.
RL: How do you gauge success in public television?
LS: Secretly, if I’m at the playground and a Mom talks about a particular show or PBS KIDS in general, I feel that I’m done. It works. But in-house, we have a more complex way of evaluating success of our programs or initiatives. That’s the good thing about this multi-platform universe. A show can do okay on TV but be a huge success on the Internet. We look at how much media and press a show gets. We listen to our member stations to assess how much they like it, if it achieves their mission, if it meets what their viewers want and what the station wants. We’re not just looking at ratings and making a quick decision. As time goes on, we look at all the different points of impact. A lot of our shows are also great in the outreach area, like “Between the Lions,” which has proven successes as learning workshops that include kids, parents and educators.
RL: What advice would you give to producers who are yearning to pitch a show to PBS KIDS? What elements are most important to you and your team?
LS: I would tell them first and foremost, to look at the things we’ve been talking about: being educational, entertaining and fun, and having strong characters and storylines. Make a show that you would want to watch yourself. Many people come in and pitch a show that they would never be able to watch themselves. And look at how you can move the medium forward. Don’t just copy what’s already been done. Experiment, try things out. Move TV beyond where it is right now. We only add a few new programs a year. I challenge everybody; those who take the challenge get the slot. It’s like adding a show such as “Curious George” - the character is known and loved, but turning it into a show for PBS was a challenge.
RL: What key things are you looking at in terms of programming changes in the next 3 to 5 years?
LS: I see the variety of shows growing. I imagine that anytime you turn PBS on you would see something innovative, interesting and unusual. I feel that “Sesame Street” is the perfect example. It’s not a new show but it’s always innovative. They incorporate new things into their show every year. My goal for PBS is that kids can always find something they would watch. And, the shows would all feel distinctly “PBS.”
RL: You have a two-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. What do they watch on television?
LS: My daughter has just started watching TV. And, she’s fallen in love with “Barney.” I gave her some “Super Why” DVDs and she showed me where she hid them so she could find them later. My son is a big “Fetch” fan. He likes “WordGirl,” particularly the segment where Captain Huggy Face dances. He watches Cartoon Network as well - “Pokemon” and action shows. And he enjoys “SpongeBob.” He’s just discovered the Harry Potter books so we read a lot of that. When he turned seven, I told him that my gift was to read him every Harry Potter book. We’ve been very busy with that.
The network’s latest show, Spy on the Wild, gives viewers up-close-and-personal views of a bunch of animals, and their first offering stars Tilly. On the program’s Website you can stream six videos that show the technological awesomeness of all things eagle-related - stunningly intimate details of Tilly’s wings, tail, and feathers, and how she zeros in on prey and defends herself from a potential aerial attack.
If we had to choose between watching either shaky helmet-cam footage of a NASCAR driver or this bird’s-eye view of an eagle soaring above mountains, it would be no contest. And we can’t wait until they start doing it live, in real time.
Animal Planet’s Spy on the Wild Website
Vuze, the fast-growing online entertainment platform, with an established audience of 11 million viewers, today announced that it has inked a content deal with PBS to provide selected PBS programming on a download-to-own basis.
Vuze is the world’s most popular entertainment platform for high-res digital content, video and games. With an installed base of 11 million unique client downloads in its first nine months, more than 500,000 new viewers joining per week and more than 100 content partners to date, Vuze is experiencing unprecedented organic growth. Vuze attracts and features high quality content from a growing roster of global television networks, premier production studios and thousands of maverick content creators, on the most advanced, most open entertainment platform ever created. Vuze is developed by Azureus Inc., with offices in Palo Alto, Paris, and New York.
PBS is a media television stations and reaches more than 75 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is a leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of other educational services. PBS’ premier kids’ TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online continue to be parents’ and teachers’ most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
A new campaign to challenge and change attitudes towards disability is being launched by Leonard Cheshire Disability this week and is previewed online today.
The charity has teamed up with Aardman Animations to create a highly original campaign called Creature Discomforts. The awareness campaign is based on the much-loved Creature Comforts series but features the hallmark plasticine characters with disabilities, combined with the real voices and experiences of disabled people.
The Aardman Animations team has created new characters for Leonard Cheshire Disability’s campaign including a bull terrier in a wheelchair, a stick insect with a walking stick and a tortoise on crutches. The campaign highlights the disadvantage and discrimination that disabled people experience every day, largely as a result of the ignorance of the wider population.
The animations are based on the genuine voices of disabled people describing in their own words the negative attitudes and barriers they experience, which separate them from society. The Creature Discomforts characters also appear in adverts that will be seen online, in magazines, at bus stops and on the Tube from this Thursday.
One of the four animations addresses a common assumption that people in wheelchairs are not able to speak for themselves. The animation opens with Spud the Slug, who is in an electric wheelchair saying: “…that many people say – oh you’re in a wheelchair – you’re rubbish. You can’t do anything. A lot of it, it is ignorance.”
Peg the Hedgehog appears next, sitting in her wheelchair having a cup of tea. She says: “People have assumed that wheels mean… nothing up here in the brain, you know.” Flash the Sausage Dog appears last, saying: “Because we’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean to say we’re not capable of thinking. Now let’s get things put right. Not just for disabled, for everybody. So we can all work in harmony together.”
Each of the four animations ends with the message “change the way you see disability.” Bryan Dutton, Director General, Leonard Cheshire Disability said: “We want people to change the way they see disability, to think and act differently and to make a positive difference to the lives of disabled people.
“Disabled people experience unnecessary social barriers which are created largely through ignorance. In the twenty-first century it is unacceptable that such negative attitudes to disability still persist. Everyone has a part to play in creating a world in which disabled people are included in every aspect of life.
“Creature Comforts is well known and much-loved for its ability to bring home messages in a simple, everyday way. Our Creature Discomforts campaign builds on this, making a serious point with humour.”
Steve Harding-Hill, the Director of Creature Discomforts at Aardman Animations said: “Leonard Cheshire Disability’s new campaign is an important step towards changing everyone’s attitudes to disability. Working on it has been an amazing experience for us all at Aardman.
“Taking the real voices and experiences of disabled people and creating animated stories that are informative, entertaining and poignant has been an immense but incredibly satisfying challenge.”
For a preview of the campaign visit www.CreatureDiscomforts.org. The characters will also appear in adverts at bus stops, in newspapers, magazines and online. In January, the animations will be aired on ITV.
BabyFirstTV the only premium network in the United States dedicated to providing rich, positive content for babies and toddlers, is an honored recipient of an iParenting Media Award for one of the “Greatest Products of the Year for 2006.” After evaluating hundreds of products by their experienced reviewers team, iParenting Media classifies BabyFirstTV as a superior product in the children’s television category among only seven other winners.
“We are proud and delighted to be an iParenting Media Award Winner,” said Sharon Rechter, executive vice president, Business Development and Marketing and one of BabyFirstTV’s founders. “The feedback and recognition we have received from our subscriber base has been incredibly positive and earning this award further demonstrates BabyFirstTV’s mission of providing high-quality, engaging and delightful content for babies and their parents.
With support from its Advisory Board of leading experts in children’s education, psychology and development, BabyFirstTV ensures its programming is of high quality and appropriate for children under the age of three. The Board provides their “stamp of approval” on all BabyFirstTV programs to verify they offer a safe, positive learning environment with no commercials, no violence and no over-sensory stimulants.
Featuring 80 percent original content and programming from popular children’s DVDs, BabyFirstTV provides opportunities for parents to bond, learn and explore with their baby. With interactive subtitles and unique color-coded programming that demonstrates the educational value of each program from language to math to music, BabyFirstTV provides parents with the tools to transform television into an active learning opportunity with their child. The network also offers a series just for parents offering tips and advice on various parenting topics.
“I think this is a fine channel,” said an iParenting Media Award’s reviewer. “Many of the segments are charming and certainly educational. Several of the segments introduced original ways of presenting ideas and the graphics were nice too.”
The network is currently available for $9.99 a month on DirecTV and DISH network and offers hundreds of hours of high-quality original programming including award-winning DVD content for less than the price of a single baby DVD.
BabyFirstTV is the first network in the U.S. dedicated to providing rich, innovative and inspiring content designed to enhance baby’s development in a delightful and engaging way. Supported by leading child development experts, the network is specifically tailored to meet the needs of babies in a safe and engaging commercial-free learning environment. Featuring 80 percent original content, BabyFirstTV offers parents a positive way to bond with baby and help foster learning and development. BabyFirstTV is a distinguished iParenting Media Award winner of one of the “greatest products of the year in 2006.” For more information, go to www.BabyFirstTV.com.
New York, NY (PRWEB) November 6, 2007 — Reaching new audiences nationwide, IFP, the producer of the Gotham Awards announced today that it has signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with The New York Times at the premiere level, which will include the creation and national distribution of an annual eight-page Gotham Awards special advertising section. This year’s awards will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn.
The Gotham Awards honor independent film. The New York Times will preview the 17th Annual Gotham Award nominees, current and past honorees and the public events that are planned leading up to the awards in a special advertising section, to be published in the newspaper on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“The New York Times has been a leading supporter of the Gotham Awards since their inception and we’re thrilled to take this relationship to the next level,” said Michelle Byrd, executive director of IFP. “It’s an exciting opportunity to bring even greater recognition to the best independent films and the people behind them.” “As a major supporter of independent film and filmmakers, The Times is delighted to commit our resources as a premiere sponsor of the Gotham Awards,” said Virginia French, group vice president of advertising, The New York Times.
For the first time, the ceremony will be held in Brooklyn, the heart of New York City’s resurgent film industry. IFP also recently announced new distribution partnerships with Netflix, the Documentary Channel and NYC TV — New York City’s public television station — that will bring this year’s Gotham Awards ceremony to an estimated audience of more than 20 million viewers, the widest ever for the Awards.
Along with moving the award ceremony to Brooklyn, IFP is also launching the Gotham Awards Independent Film Series, a month-long series of public events, including conversations, retrospectives and screenings highlighting Gotham Award nominees and honorees. The events will be held from Nov. 6 to Nov. 27 at leading cultural institutions throughout the city, including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the IFC Center. Nominees for this year’s Gotham Awards, announced on Oct. 22, include Craig Zobel’s “Great World of Sound,” topping the list with three nominations; Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild”; and Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding.”
A total of 28 films received nominations in six categories: Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Director, Breakthrough Actor, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. In addition to the competitive awards, the Gotham Awards will also present Gotham Tributes to six individuals in recognition of their influential work in the film industry.
Sponsors of the Gotham Awards include: Axium, The New York Times, Deluxe, NYC TV, Rainbow Media and Variety. The award ceremony will be broadcast locally via NYC TV during the first week of December. Additional digital content from the show and surrounding public programs related to the Gothams will be carried on IFP’s Web site at http://www.ifp.org/.
IFP’s mission is to nurture and celebrate independent film and filmmakers, and to foster a vibrant and sustainable independent filmmaking community. IFP seeks to empower individuals with the language of film and enrich the world of film with a diversity of voices. It passionately believes that creating opportunities for independent, original and often controversial films to be made and seen is an essential part of a free, open and intellectually curious society. It is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in New York City with 10,000 members throughout the world. More at http://www.ifp.org/.
About The New York Times CompanyThe New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), a leading media company with 2006 revenues of $3.3 billion, includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 15 other daily newspapers, WQXR-FM and more than 30 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com. The Company’s core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.