Up to date information about children’s entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for March, 2008

New Releases, Kids Choice Winners, The Mom Song

Friday, March 28th, 2008

“Alvin and the Chipmunks” will be released to DVD on April 1st. Funny, mischievous and very adventurous, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to life in this silly family film. “Alvin and the Chipmunks, “originally created in 1958 by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr, have delighted audiences around the world with 16 studio records which have garnered five Grammy Awards, notably with their Christmas perennial favorite “The Chipmunk Song.”

“Animal Planet: Growing Up Wild Cats” also comes out in DVD on April 1st. This is a big cat-themed collection of four complete episodes: “Growing Up Lion,” “Growing Up Tiger,” “Growing Up Cheetah,” and “Growing Up Black Leopard.” Each installment features rescued or orphaned cubs and the compassionate caretakers who nurture them as they venture into adulthood. From bottle feedings, first steps and first bath to learning how to swim, these bold and bouncy babies discover how to adapt to their newly adopted homes while at the same time learning how to survive with other big cats.

Winners of Nickelodeon’s 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards include
Movies
Movie: Alvin and the Chipmunks
Actress: Jessica Alba
Actor: Johnny Depp
Voice in an Animated Movie: Eddie Murphy in Shrek the Third
Animated Movie: Ratatouille

TV
Show: Drake & Josh
Reality Show: American Idol
Actress: Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana)
Actor: Drake Bell (Drake & Josh)
Cartoon: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Music
Music Group: The Jonas Brothers
Female Singer: Miley Cyrus
Male Singer: Chris Brown
Song: Girlfriend (Avril Lavigne)

Sports
Male Athlete: Tony Hawk
Female Athlete: Danica Patrick
Wannabe
Cameron Diaz
Other Categories
Video Game: Madden NFL ’08
Book: Harry Potter (series)

Last, for those of you who haven’t heard it, check out The Mom Song” sung to the William Tell Overture.

Hip Hop Harry – Your Friend and Mine

Friday, March 28th, 2008
Hip Hop Harry is a preschool, dance, musically – based, and live action program designed to entertain, educate and inform children ages 3 to 6. It’s the perfect blend of entertainment and education with a curriculum that addresses social and cognitive learning as well as physical and creative elements. The core tool used in this show is the popular music and dance form known as hip hop.

Hip Hop is one of the major music and dance voices for youth today. Hip Hop includes art, dance, language and music. Equally important, is that it extends across all ethnic, class and gender lines throughout the world. Educators know that children learn more when they are physically engaged and Hip Hop Harry Program does exactly that – using dance and music to reach kids in what I refer to as stealth learning.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with non other than Hip Hop Harry himself. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Ø Hi Hip Hop Harry. You have become quite the TV star, haven’t you. Where do you live?
Ø I live in Los Angeles. Thank you. I can’t believe it. I love everybody’s support. It’s a beautiful thing. We’ve been very blessed and very lucky. We have beautiful kids on the show and beautiful music as well.
Ø Tell me more about your show. How did it first come about.
Ø My good buddy Clark Brookes who created the show realized that the power of hip hop’s call and response goes right into helping kids retain so much knowledge. His nephew was having trouble with his homework. He realized that by putting the lessons into rhymes that he retained the lessons better. So, we use the call and response, lyrics, repetition and dancing all help kids learn things better. It’s amazing what music does. You can look at your textbook with the same information but if you hear it in song, you will retain what that song is telling you. The songs cover everything from hygiene, all the way to sea creatures.
Ø What are your plans for the summer season. Is there anything new coming up? You have a couple of new DVDs that just came out, right?
Ø Yes we do. We have two DVDs in stores right now. One is called “Fun With Friends” and the other is called “Move Those Feet.” We’ve done a string of shows, live tours. I love the live shows – we’ve got a dance called Do the Harry that is something to see when the whole audience is doing it. We’ve got a great summer ahead of us. We’re on Discovery Kids and The Learning Channel still. But this summer – we’ve got more live shows.
Ø I love the dancing on your show. Where did you learn to dance so well?
Ø I like the dancing too. These kids are incredible. They’re keeping me polishing up my own dance techniques. I was always dancing. Felt it as a cub, around the time of break dancing – which I grew up – I loved everything that’s new in dancing I like. It’s a beautiful art form.
Ø Other than the dancing. what is your favorite thing about your show. And why? Being able to help the kids learn so much about life’s beautiful things through hip hop music and being able to show that hip hop is a beautiful thing and has a potential for beauty. It goes beyond stereotypes. And shows that it’s something the youth of today like. To be able to teach through music I can’t ask for more.
Ø Tell me a bit more about the live show.
Ø It’s me and my dancers – some of the hardest working dancers out there. We bring the magic that you see on TV to the stage. The songs from the show are performed live in front of the audience while me and my dancers all dance to them. It’s an incredible feeling to have the energy audience – it’s fun for everyone.
Ø You are such an upbeat personality. What advice do you have for kids today? How can someone keep such a positive attitude towards life like you do?
Ø Life is what you want to make it. I would tell the kids of today, find the good in everything as best as they can. When times call for a smile, smile a good smile. Keep a thirst for education and good music. Then, it’s hard not to smile. And remember to exercise – best done through dance.
Ø Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Ø Usually with radio interviews I come with an improve rhyme. Here is one for you:

“One for the flow, two for the verse,
I’m Hop Hop Harry and I put KIDS FIRST!
Rhymes are food for thought and I eat to live.
And I use these rhymes to teach the kids.”
Lovely, thanks Hip Hop Harry – I hope you can come perform at our KIDS FIRST! Film Festival sometime, in some city.

Legend of Tillamook’s Gold Opens in Phoenix March 28

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Entertainment media company, Maitland Primrose Group, who operates and owns Moving Pictures Magazine and The Maitland Primrose Film Distribution (MPFD) arm will premiere their first theatrical movie “The Legend of Tillamook’s Gold” in Mesa, Arizona this weekend – March 28 at Harkins’ Superstition Theater in Mesa, Arizona. The film was a huge success at the KIDS FIRST! Film Festivals around the country and features Brian McNamara of Lifetime TV show, “Army Wives.” The film tells the story of teenage sleuth, Julie Kimbell, who searches for a legendary treasure buried in the mountains of Tillamook, Oregon.

Maitland Primrose Group will designate a portion of the proceeds from “The Legend of Tillamook’s Gold” matinee screenings on Saturday, March 29th to Save The Family in Mesa, Arizona and Sunday, March 30’s matinees to the International Cancer Advocacy Network (ICAN.)

Later this year, Maitland Primrose will release “The Legend of Tillamook’s Gold” on DVD through Questar Inc. followed by a premiere TV showing on Starz! Pay Television in October.

VOD Very Pupular with Verizon’s FiOS Users

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Busy parents are using video on demand for safe, affordable, and convenient kids’ entertainment. It seems that the buzz for VOD began over a decade ago and yet, it’s only now that people are seriously turning to it as a viable alternative to traditional forms of accessing media.

Earlier this month, Verizon announced how their customers are increasingly embracing interactive television to find family-friendly entertainment they can enjoy whenever their hectic schedules allow. This home-entertainment trend is reflected in the selections that Verizon FiOS TV subscribers are making from the thousands of titles in the service’s free video-on-demand library. Not surprising that in February, the most popular titles were family fare.

“In February, we saw the continuation of a strong trend of families taking advantage of our free video-on-demand service to access kid-friendly entertainment,” said Shawn Strickland, Verizon vice president of video solutions. “Because we’re delivering FiOS TV over the nation’s most advanced fiber-optic network, straight to customer’s doors, families are now able to access interactive video services that help them save time and money, and enjoy unparalleled picture quality and programming choices for all their TV viewing.”

In February, the most-watched free FiOS TV video-on-demand titles were:
1. The Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place, Season 1: Episode 10: Potion Commotion”
2. The Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana, Season 2: Episode 1: Cuffs Will Keep Us Together”
3. The Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Season 3: Episode 19: Foiled Again”
4. Nickelodeon’s “Backyardigans: Quest for the Flying Rock”
5. Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer: School Pet”
6. Nickelodeon’s “Fairly OddParents: Baby Face”
7. The Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana, Season 2: Episode 20: Bye Bye Ball”
8. Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer: Leon, The Circus Lion”
9. The Disney Channel’s “Minutemen”
10. Nickelodeon’s “Diego: Chito and Rita Spectacled Bears”

Strickland said that three key factors are driving family home-entertainment trends: affordability, safety and convenience. “Families want to break away from video store membership dues, late fees and the hassles of squeezing in those trips to the rental store to pick up and return DVDs,” he said. “They want entertainment that is instantly available, fits their budget and that they can trust to be family-friendly. FiOS TV’s video on demand fits the bill.”
Customers access video on demand simply by pressing the “VOD” or “On Demand” button on their remote control, by using a menu on FiOS TV’s interactive media guide, or selecting the VOD channel.

Verizon’s collection of on-demand programming for children and families is one of the largest in the industry and includes programming from Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids Sprout and others. FiOS TV’s industry-leading video-on-demand family programming also includes free content from the Disney Channel. In addition, FiOS offers parental controls that let parents decide what’s off-limits for their kids.

In addition to family fare, Verizon offers its FiOS TV subscribers more than 10,000 video-on-demand titles each month, 60 percent of which are free. Also, subscribers to HBO, Cinemax or FiOS TV’s Movie Package, which includes Showtime, Starz, the Movie Channel and Encore, automatically have on-demand access to past and present episodes of original programming and movie releases.

Kids’ Social Networking Study

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

How are kids really using social networking services and what does it mean for businesses trying to gain them as customers?

Find out in Grunwald Associates’ latest, ground-breaking national research study, conducted in cooperation with the National School Boards Association and underwritten by MySpace/News Corp, Microsoft, and Verizon.

This comprehensive investigation of kids’ social networking will give you valuable insights into kids use and attitudes regarding various social networking services, the most popular features and content, safety-related issues, advertising and premium service product opportunities as well as parents’ and school districts’ reactions and responses.

The Study
The study is comprised of three parallel national surveys with Kids ages 9-17, Parents and School District Decision Makers with carefully constructed, nationally representative samples of 1,000 teens/children, 1,000 parents and 250 school districts. Data preview available now. Request sample data slides and cross-tabs.

Following are some examples of the key strategic questions addressed in this study:

What social networking (SN) sites are kids really using and what are they doing there?
What features and content attracts kids to visit some sites frequently and what makes them stop using others?
What do kids really want to talk about?
How are kids using handhelds and cell phones for social networking?
What are kids’ attitudes about advertising and ad placement in social networking sites? What do their parents think?
What are kids’ attitudes, reactions and expectations regarding branded content? How do parents feel about premium service options?
How are kids and parents using SN technologies to communicate with each other?
How is social networking use interacting with other media use, especially television?
What safety issues or problems have kids encountered?
Are kids aware of online safety behaviors and where do they learn these behaviors?
Which kids are breaking the rules and what are they doing?
Do families and schools communicate with kids about their use of the Internet, social networking sites and potential safety issues?
How do parents feel about school policies regarding their children’s use of the Internet and social networking sites?
What social networking technologies are used in the classroom?
What role do educators see social networking playing as an educational tool, now and in the future?
How strongly are educators pushing home SN activities and other home Internet use today?
Click here for detailed topic lists for kids, parents and school district administrators.

Remembering Harrison Apar – A True Hero

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Bruce Apar, author of the following article and Dad to Harrison who passed away five years ago, is a long-time board member of KIDS FIRST! Bruce always put his kids first and continues to do so. Bruce’s retelling his tale brings tears and a smile to my face at the same time. His love of family and life are as refreshing as spring. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do and see the promise of new life.

I remember this week. I remember it five years ago.

It was another birthday. It was spring in the air. It was the madness of NCAA tournament hoops. It was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was the birth of a legacy that every day emboldens my soul.

When Harrison needed his third open heart surgery in 2003, the first open date at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was March 20. It is the same city where, in 1987, Harrison sprang to life from Elyse at Pennsylvania Hospital, the place Rocky’s son was born, in the movies.

Fifteen years later, we sensed serendipity in returning to the city of Harrison’s birth for a critical operation, scheduled on my birthday, no less.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” wrote 18th Century poet Alexander Pope. In that spirit, tethered to the oxygen tank that let both him and us breathe easier while he was quarantined in our home for the prior 11 weeks, Harrison walked purposefully to his appointment with destiny, full of the same combative confidence as his Philadelphia soulmate of the silver screen.

Where our son and Rocky were worlds apart is in physicality. Whatever form of undiagnosed dwarfism visited Harrison, it severely stunted his growth short of even the legendary Tom Thumb, of P.T. Barnum fame.

What we grew to admire with parental pride is a fortitude, self-esteem and charisma that belied his 37-inch, 37-pound frame.

Thanks to Harrison’s passion for sports — he briefly competed against peers virtually twice his size — I learned the inner resolve it takes to hold your head high even when low to the ground.

Thanks to his academic honors and way with words, I learned — as he addressed classmates at the 2001 Mildred E. Strang Middle School graduation — “Dreams do not come easily, but if you stretch enough, nothing is out of reach.”

Starting a secret diary the eve before his surgery, Harrison believed it inevitable that, the next day, he would “… give my dad a refreshing birthday gift wrapped in flesh — a son’s healthy heart.” Less than 24 hours after authoring that, Harrison emerged from the operating room with his dad’s birthday gift pulsing like new. Then, the next day, came cardiac arrest. The best efforts of six doctors huddled over him were not enough: Harrison was gone.

“Will daddy ever be happy again?” our daughter Elissa asked Elyse three days later.

At first, you are not sure, and wonder forlornly if hope, as Pope poeticized, ever again will spring eternal.

Yet, just as spring always returns, so, somehow, does the prospect of better times ahead.

At the foot of the flagpole at Harrison Apar Field of Dreams in Yorktown Heights, a plaque is posted three-feet from the ground, the same height as Harrison, to remind kids and adults alike that the true measure of a person is never in inches. It is in character.

Such is the legacy of a little person who continues to influence those who knew him, and those who never met him.

As the rites of spring are renewed, I revel in the return of kids like Harrison making the joyful noise of bat on ball and giddily cheering on their teammates.

I can hear that tiny umpire voice right now, uttering his two favorite words: Play ball!

For the rest of my March 20s, I want but one thing: That Harrison knows he came through on his birthday promise by giving me the gift of a lifetime: His.

Bruce Apar is the guest of Ed Ciffone’s UTY Watchdog Report, on Yorktown Cablevision channel 74, Friday, March 21, at 9:30 p.m. Read his blog at

NCNlocal.com.
Please consider making a contribution to the Foundation named in Harrison’s honor which makes possible the “Field of Dreams.”
Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
[email protected]

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