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

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How to Make a Great Preschool Series – Little Airplane Academy

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Little Airplane Academy will be offering an intensive three-day workshop in February 2010. Participants will learn the fundamentals of creating a preschool series from pitching through writing, character design, directing and producing both live action and animated shows.

During the three day course, participants will get an overview of every step in the process of making a preschool series, from pitching through writing, curriculum development, directing, music, legal and production. The course covers both live-action and animation and features a team of accomplished preschool TV veterans and network executives.

How To Make A Great Preschool Series (New York)

When: Three-Day Intensive February 13 through February 15
Where: 207 Front Street, New York, NY 10038
How much: $1500 (there is no fee to apply)

For questions, please call 212-965-8999 or email: melinda@littleairplane.com

American Library Association Announces Awards for Books, Audiobooks and Videos

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
At its Midwinter Meeting in Boston yesterday The American Library Association (http://www.ala.org/) unveiled its top picks for books, audiobooks and video for kids and young adults, including medal and honor winners for the Caldecott, King, Newbery and Printz awards, among others. Medal winners and honorees are selected by judging committees of librarians and other kid’s literature experts.
* John Newbery Medal – outstanding children’s literature: When You Reach Me; author Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

* Randolph Caldecott Medal – distinguished American picture books for kids: The Lion & the Mouse; illustrator/author Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)

* Michael L. Printz Award – excellence in young adult literature: Going Bovine; author Libba Bray (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House)

* Coretta Scott King Award – recognizes an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal; author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrator R. Gregory Christie (Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)

* Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award: The Rock and the River; author Kekla Magoon (Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)

* Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: My People; illustrator Charles R. Smith Jr., author Langston Hughes (Ginee Seo Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

* Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Walter Dean Myers – author

* The Pura Belpre Award honors Latino author and illustrators celebrating Latino culture: illustrator award – Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros; Illustrator Rafael Lopez, author Pat Mora (Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers); Author award – Return to Sender; author Julia Alvarez (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

* Schneider Family Book Award – books with artistic expression of the disability experience in three age groups: Kids 0-10 years old: Django; author/illustrator Bonnie Christensen (Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press); Tweens 11-13: Anything but Typical; author Nora Raleigh Baskin (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers); Teens 13-18: Marcelo in the Real World; Author Francisco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic)

* William C. Morris Award – book written by a first-time author for young adults: Flash Burnout; author L.K. Madigan (Houghton Mifflin, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

* Odyssey Award – excellence in audiobook production: Live Oak Media – producer of the audiobook Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken; author Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

* Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award – distinguished beginning reader book: Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!; author/illustrator Geoffrey Hayes (Toon Books, a division of RAW Junior)

* Margaret A. Edwards Award – lifetime achievement in writing for young adults: Jim Murphy – author

* Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award – distinguished informational book for children: Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream; author Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press)

* Andrew Carnegie Medal – excellence in children’s video: Paul R. Gagne and Mo Willems of Weston Woods, producers of Don’t Let the Pigeon’s Drive the Bus!; based on author/illustrator Willems’ book of the same name; narrated by Willems and Jon Scieszka with animation by Pete List.

For a complete list, go here: http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2010/january2010/ymawrap2010.cfm

The Big Help: Help Hairi

Monday, January 18th, 2010

For kids looking for ways to help in the ongoing Haiti earthquake relief efforts and express themselves about the disaster, Nickelodeon has launched a new website at http://www.nick.com/helphaiti

The website features message boards for kid discussions about the aftermath, as well as a list of organizations  (Yele Haiti, UNICEF, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Doctors without Borders, American Red Cross, and Kids Care) that kids can encourage their parents to investigate ways to help the people of Haiti.

Additionally, Nick will be airing PSAs on Nick and Nick at
Nite encouraging viewers to get involved.

Announcing the new Discovery/Hasbro Channel, “The Hub” Launching this Fall

Friday, January 15th, 2010
Discovery Communications-Hasbro Joint Venture President and CEO Margaret Loesch unveiled the official brand and logo for the children’s network, set to launch in fall 2010. Moving forward, the network will be known as “The Hub” and will reach approximately 60 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Kids network.

“A hub is a place where great things come together — and that is precisely what The Hub network will be when it launches,” said Loesch. “The Hub will be a fun and transformative destination that brings kids and their families together by presenting clever stories and engaging characters.”

The Hub will offer young viewers and their families novel and compelling content, ranging from new comedies and animated adventures to live-action franchises and game shows — all celebrating the core childhood concepts of fun and play. The network’s tone will be thrilling, modern and dynamic, both on-air and online. These qualities are represented by The Hub’s spiral logo, which symbolizes a catalyst of action and imagination. In addition, the network will benefit from the strong DNA of its two parent companies, Discovery and Hasbro, which share a 50/50 partnership in the venture.

“Under the leadership of Margaret and her team, The Hub will be the next great children’s media brand,” said David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications. “The goal is to create a destination for quality content, and we are confident The Hub can become a strong home for an active and engaged audience.”

“Hasbro is a company built on play, and Discovery was founded on curiosity,” said Brian Goldner, president and CEO of Hasbro. “The Hub will have the resources of both partners as it goes about reimagining the future of children’s entertainment.”

Content on The Hub will feature rich storytelling with active, multidimensional characters and unexpected heroes. The network will tap into the best production talent in the industry for shows that will reinvigorate children’s programming. Additionally, The Hub will incorporate cherished Hasbro properties, including Transformers and My Little Pony, and popular Discovery Kids franchises such as Adventure Camp and Flight 29 Down as a part of a diverse and robust lineup of original and acquired programming. The Hub’s online home, hubworld.com, will become an entertainment destination in its own right, offering kids access to video clips, interactive games and community features that extend the experience of the network’s content.

Ms. Loesch is a member of the KIDS FIRST! National Board.

The Spy Next Door Review

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Spy Next Door refers to Bob Ho (Jackie Chan), a square but safe next-door neighbor and boyfriend of Jillian, a single mom with three kids. She is glad to have an honest and dependable guy in her life. The kids are dead set against the relationship because he’s, well, just a big geek. When Mom needs to leave town suddenly, Bob offers to care for them, thinking it will give him a chance to make the kids like him. What no one knows is that Bob is actually an accomplished Chinese spy working with the CIA who has just worked his last job and has retired in the hopes of settling down with Jillian. The kids put Bob thru the ringer, but trouble really starts when the bad Russian guys come after Bob and the kids. Jillian breaks up with Bob when she realizes he has put her kids in danger. In the end, the kids come to his defense, the couple gets married and a new family is born.

What will appeal to a youth audience the most are the action scenes. The good guy spy, with help from the kids, fight the evil Russian baddies. There are lots of martial arts scenes but the action is almost cartoonish and we see no blood and guts. There is only scene where a bad guy gets a bloodied nose.

The heart of the film is delivered by Jackie Chan when he tells his girlfriend’s teenage daughter that family is what you make – who you love and who loves you – not just the blood that runs in your veins. It’s good advice and she grows to accept him as a potential step-father. It also helps her embrace her own family after feeling she didn’t belong.

Watching Bob trying to care for three unruly kids is truly humorous. The emotional arc of the kids letting down their defenses and allow a new man into their lives is something many kids can relate to, whether it’s happened to them or they have seen friends experience similar things.

The film is certainly derivative of other James Bond-for-kids type movies such as Spy Kids but doesn’t really add anything original or memorable. The true appeal of this film is Jackie Chan, who gracefully moves between his two identities – the super square pen salesman who lives next door, and the super cool and capable Chinese spy working with the CIA. Plus, he’s funny. That surprised us.

The siblings fight a lot and say mean things to each other but they do come around in the end. There is no profanity and sometimes Jackie Chan’s accent makes his speech difficult to understand.

KIDS FIRST! recommends this for an audience of 6-12 who will enjoy it for the humor and action.

Movies, TV Episodes Streamed Instantly From Netflix Headed to Nintendo’s Wii Console This Spring

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Nintendo of America Inc. and Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] today announced an agreement that will allow Netflix members who are also owners of Nintendo’s Wii™ home console to instantly watch thousands of movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix directly to their TVs. Netflix is scheduled to go live on the Wii console this spring in the United States at no additional cost to Netflix members who have a plan starting at $8.99 a month, a Wii console and a broadband Internet connection.

The partnership between the two companies will extend the reach of content streamed from Netflix farther than ever before, thanks to the mainstream popularity of the Wii console. Wii remains the fastest-selling home console in history, and reaches more consumers than any other device that currently supports streaming movies from Netflix. In December 2009, Nintendo sold well in excess of 3 million Wii consoles in the United States. Wii is the top-selling home video game system of this generation, and as such brings the Netflix experience to a broad and diverse mass market.

“Our research shows that 86 percent of all U.S. Wii consoles are located in the living room,” said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. “The Wii console is the social hub around which friends and family members gather to play games and have fun. Soon both new and longtime Wii owners will enjoy the benefits of Netflix – and a variety of informational and entertainment options – by being Netflix members and connecting their consoles to the Internet.”

“Our goal is to offer Netflix members as many ways as possible to watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix right to their TVs and to give non-members more and compelling reasons to consider the service,” said Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings. “Joining forces with Nintendo, which has been so immensely popular with consumers since its introduction, is a very meaningful step in that direction.”

With 11.1 million U.S. subscribers as of Sept. 30, 2009, Netflix continues to expand the ways in which its members can watch movies and TV shows streamed directly to TVs via a range of Netflix-ready devices such as the Wii console. Netflix memberships start as low as $8.99 a month, and members also can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. At the same time, consumers continue to demonstrate a preference for Wii consoles, which offer tremendous value, whether measured in fun games, shared experiences or the suggested retail price of just $199.99.

To enable their systems to stream content from Netflix, Wii owners will need a Netflix instant-streaming disc for the Wii console, which will be available at no additional cost to Netflix subscribers. The free disc looks and operates the same as a disc-based Wii game, and the entire user experience will feel natural and intuitive to Wii console owners. Netflix members and Wii console owners can now reserve a free instant-streaming disc by going to www.netflix.com/Wii. Once available in the spring, the discs will be delivered for free by first-class mail.

When the instant-streaming disc is inserted into a member’s Wii system, an array of movie and TV choices will be displayed right on their TV screen. These titles will be conveniently organized into a variety of categories based on members’ personal preferences and will include popular genres, new arrivals and members’ individual instant Queues. Using the Wii Remote™ controller, members will be able to choose a movie or TV episode to watch from their instant Queues or pick one directly from any of the lists. They will also have the ability to read synopses and rate movies, and will have the option of fast-forwarding and rewinding their selection.

Netflix adds another dimension to the Wii console’s diverse online features, which range from downloadable new and classic games in the Wii Shop Channel, to online multiplayer gaming with games like Mario Kart™ Wii, to video highlights and information about titles for the Wii and Nintendo DS™ systems via the Nintendo Channel™.

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