Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for March, 2008

New and Renewing KIDS FIRST! Members

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

BoogieBubble Productions, Inc. produces a series of children’s dvd’s, titled “Adventures with Connor & Jaden.” The series is designed to send positive messages to children and show how toddlers interact with each other and leave one another feeling happy and content by instilling strong moral and social values.Cinema Werx is a film & video production company based out of Salt Lake City, UT. They strive to offer top quality products that educate and entertain children.Live Wire Media produces and distributes educational media for character education, youth guidance, and life skills. Our materials are designed to help young people become caring, respectful, responsible people who think critically, solve problems non-violently, and make choices based on knowing and doing what’s right.Phil Bransom Productions has been producing award winning media projects since 1988. From the days of 1″ Quad Tape and Linear Editing to the current technologies of digital video and Non-Linear Editing, Phil has worked with major corporations and non-profits to produce communication tools that get results.Raggs LLC is a children’s entertainment company with TV and touring elements.Razzle Bam Boom Productions writes and produces various children music CDs and edu-tainment DVDs. Their newest series of DVDs (and mobile device content) is entitled “The Word Wits.”

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Her Best Move

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Filming is a different sort of ride for race-car champion Norman Hunter. Inspired by his three children, Hunter stepped behind the camera. It’s paying off, too. Hunter’s film, “Her Best Move,” made its debut on screens such as the KIDS FIRST! film festival, and now is picked up for distribution by some major companies and will soon be seen around the world.He shares some of his ride with us below. For more information, check out the film’s website.CP: Could you please give me an idea of why you chose to write a story like this and tell me how it came about?NH: I was shopping my “racing” script in Hollywood (I was a racing driver out of college) and the head of a studio told me that the film was too ambitious for a first-time director and that I should write something I could direct. I was coaching my kids in soccer and a story came to me as the seasons progressed. I always find myself drifting off into the imaginary world – probably because of all the books I read as a kid.CP: Why did you have soccer as a focal sport as opposed to other sports or interests?NH: I played soccer in high school – and I think there is a reason it is know as “the beautiful game.” Although you might not know it by how it is sometimes played today – just you-tube Maradona to see some terrific soccer. And it seems to be the universal family sport as kids grow up, equally accessible to both genders. With 2 daughters and a son, I am way into equal opportunities for girls/women.CP: We are starting to see more intact families in film, while in the past, they tended to be more split. Your film merges the past and present by having a split and reconciliation. Why did you decided to approach it that way?NH: Having been married for almost 25 years, I know enough about the pressures of life to realize that the “perfect” marriage isn’t necessarily the “Leave It To Beaver” model – that people need space and that a relationship can have a natural ebb and flow that doesn’t threaten to destroy it. I actually failed to communicate properly why Gil was spending so much time at work – he had a major fear of failing in his job and resorted to living at his office, but, as is often the case in low-budget (and first-time) films, it got a little lost in the shuffle.CP: Please give me an anecdote from filming that inspired you or made you laugh.NH: Daryl Sabara is enormously talented – like the rest of our cast – and while filming the Cold Stone scenes, his spontaneous ad-libbed lines cracked me up so much I actually fell out of my director’s chair. Unfortunately, most of the stuff was too out-of-character to make the final cut, but it stayed in a long time, it was so good.Another time, Scott Patterson’s character “Gil” was watching a little kids’ soccer game and reflecting on his history with his daughter. You might not know if from watching Gilmore Girls, but Scott has some really deep acting chops. After a particular take, brilliantly nuanced by Scott, I asked for another to really get the character’s state of mind. Scott happily complied, but by his look I know he thought we had already nailed it. Looking at the dailies, my second take was much too obvious – Scott’s original take brought all the emotion you could want from that scene. He is such a talented guy – I learned a lot about acting & performance from him.CP: What projects are you working on now?NH: I have a slate of 8 films – I am just finishing a re-write of my script “In A Heartbeat” , a romance/drama/sports/comedy about a racing driver, a widow and her 10 year old daughter. I also have a girls volleyball movie, a couple of music-themed stories – more sports and flying!CP: Why did you send your film in to the KIDS FIRST! film festival?CP: I long for the days when movies were funny-clever, not funny-raunchy. I also like stories that have heart and some sort of message, particularly those that can be enjoyed by all age groups. Think of Remember The Titans, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Sleepless In Seattle, Mrs. Doubtfire, A League of Their Own, etc, not to mention the classics of the forties. Kids First seems to recognize that films can be entertaining and meaningful while not relying on vulgarity or violence – it just takes imagination!CP: How has KIDS FIRST! helped you?NH: We’ve played in over 30 film festivals, with Kids First instrumental in placing a number of those. It’s nice having the Kids First! “seal of approval” – it’s a way for people to understand what kind of film it is.CP: Is there anything you would like to add?NH: Thanks for providing both the opportunity and the sensibilities that the American public wants. While NOTHING substitutes for good parenting, I think movies can provide role models for kids that we can applaud, so that is my goal.

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Pucca Comes to DVD

Friday, March 14th, 2008

In Pucca’s wacky wacky world, anything is possible! “Pucca: Kung Fu Kisses” & “Pucca: Ninjas Love Noodles,” from the award-winning international animation sensation finally hit shelves in the U.S. on DVD March 18, 2008, from Shout! Factory.The popular family programming is currently seen on Toon Disney. Serving up fun Kung Fu kicks and loads of laugh-out-loud antics, Pucca and her group of pals including Garu, Tobe, Ring Ring, Abyo, Ching, Uncle Dumpling, Ho, Linguini venture onto two DVD releases with Pucca: Kung Fu Kisses and Pucca: Ninjas Love Noodles this spring!  Shout! Factory, in association with Jetix, will release these first two titles on DVD in stores March 18, 2008. Featuring colorful animation and humorous action adventures, each DVD contains English and Spanish language tracks, special features and a limited edition col! lectible item inside – Ninja license or Pucca sticker! These two U.S. releases are the first of a series of DVDs forthcoming from the award-winning animated series. Geared toward kids 7–12, Pucca follows the adventures of Pucca, the daughter of a Chinese restaurant owner, and her comical and single-minded pursuit of her one true love, Garu. Unfortunately for Pucca, Garu is mmore interested in becoming a ninja than in Pucca and her sole mission is to win the heart of her intended either by her knowledge and expertise of martial arts or by her girlish charms. The recipient of two Leo Awards, celebrating excellence in British Columbian film and television (for Best Screenwriting in Animation Program or Series and for Best Overall Sound in an Animation Program or Series), Pucca is based on the internationally ! renown Pucca merchandise brand and internet short, spawning over 3000 different products in over 150 countries.Shout! Factory is a diversified entertainment company devoted to producing, uncovering and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their careers sharing their music, television and film faves with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory’s DVD offerings serve up classic, contemporary and cult TV series, riveting sports programs, live music, animation and documentaries in lavish packages crammed ! with extras. The company’s audio catalogue boasts GRAMMY®-nominated boxed sets, new releases from storied artists, lovingly assembled album reissues and indispensable “best of” compilations. These riches are the result of a creative acquisitions mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention.  Shout! Factory is based in Santa Monica, Calif.  Its fine products are distributed by Vivendi Visual Entertainment. For more on Shout! Factory, visit http://www.shoutfactory.com/.

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Flight 29 Down — An Interview With Executive Producer Rann Watamull

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Rann and Gina Watumull knew there was a lot of talent where they lived in Hawaii so back in 2002, they co-founded Hawaii Film Partners. Together, with Discovery Kids and a stellar cast and crew, they brought the world into the world of “Flight 29 Down.”Starring Corbin Bleu, Hallee Hirsh, Johnny Pacar and Lauren Storm, “Flight 29 Down” is full of adventure and ingenuity as students on a school trip are stranded on a deserted island when their plane crashes in a storm. Personalities clash, physical endurance levels reach their limit, and friendships form as teenage plane crash survivors learn how to survive on an island – physically, mentally, and socially. The series delivers crisp cinematography, engaging characters, and realistic survival tips keeping viewers of all ages captivated and wanting to watch more.Rann Watumull, one of the Executive Producers for this series, gives us some background information on the series, demonstrating in part why it is so successful:CP: As a parent I really appreciated the way you took lessons the kids are learning, and putting it on their level (like the democratic process and relationships). What were your goals for the viewers beyond pure entertainment?RM: One of the goals for the show was in addition to providing great entertainment was also to provide a show that included valuable life lessons that the kids would teach themselves. That is why the scripts were written to include the video diaries so we could see what the kids were thinking and feeling and learning as the events unfolded. The writer took extra precautions to ensure that the lessons never came across as preachy or contrived. The kids figured out the right and wrong attitudes and behaviors in a way that seemed real and plausible and often funny. Humor is a great way to reach kids and we have lots of humor in the show.CP: What were some of the more difficult elements in making this series, and how did you overcome them?RM: Perhaps one of the most difficult elements in making the series was the fact that this show was filmed entirely on location, outside, exposed to the elements, without the benefit of a sound stage. When it rained, we got rained on. When it was windy, we had lots of extra noise. We even had a tree crash down on the set right near to us when we experienced near hurricane conditions. In order to work around the weather challenges, the entire cast and crew had to be flexible and creative. For example. We had one very rainy day. Due to scheduling, we could not postpone the shooting. So our writer/director D.J. MacHale rewrote the script at lunch, we copied the scripts, got them to the actors and the afternoon scenes were changed to take place inside the plane that day. We also had a severe storm and a flood hit the set. If you remember the tent scene from the second episode of the first season, that was actually shot in a tent under a tent due to the rain. We also used canopies and other covers to provide some shelter to the actors during filming.CP: Please give me an amusing/interesting anecdote from the filmmaking process that readers can relate to and make them feel like they have a connection and inside scoop to the film.RM: The airplane for which the show is named, was a real plane. I purchased it from a company that had it at the Honolulu International Airport in storage for 10 years. In order to get the plane to the beach, we had to drain all the fluid so it would pose no environmental threat. We then had to cut the wings and tail off in order to transport it to the beach at 2am in the morning so there would be no traffic. We then had to re-assemble the aircraft on the beach in the morning. We had several funny incidents as planes would circle overhead that first day, thinking a real plane had actually crashed on the beach. That old plane has lots of character and we all love it.CP: Why did you choose to have Lex’s father be a widower rather than a divorcee as in the book?RM: My guess would be that it was a little more dramatic for Lex to deal the having lost his mother and being stuck on the island.CP: Can fans expect to see a reunion episode of this cast in this series or was that really the end?RM: Who knows what might happen. I always thought that a reunion showing how the kids would relate to each other and the real world would be a great new show. We will just have to see how it goes.CP: Is there anything you would like to add?RM: Yes, Thank you so much for your interest in the show. You will be pleased to know that all the actors on the set were wonderful people. Everyone developed such close relationships that at the last shot, there were many tears shed by the cast. It was like a high school graduation. Poor Allen Alvarado (Lex) was crying so hard that he made some of our hardened union workers cry also, Allen had spent three years in row filming this show and knew he was going to miss the cast and crew. I am already missing seeing all their smiling faces on the set this year. The kids, including Corbin, were all such great actors and people. They welcomed many visitors to the set including school children, other families, press etc. They would all spend time with the visitors and made everyone feel welcome.Also, you may have heard that about 6 months ago Allen Alvarado and his father were struck by a hit and run car while crossing the street in Los Angeles. Allen was thrown 30 feet in the air and nearly died. He was in a coma for a short time. Thanks to the doctors and prayers, Allen has now made just about a complete recovery. We are so grateful that this amazing little boy is fine and doing great.

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Dr. Michael Levine On Children in the Digital Age

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center takes children’s programming very seriously. Whether it’s going back to its roots where Sesame Street paved the way in children’s programming, or whether it’s in the research showing how to best educate our children, the people at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center show that they not only have smarts, they really care. The Center’s Executive Director, Michael Levine, PhD, took a few minutes to share with us the impact of media in this digital age, especially in regards to their research in “D is for Digital.”CP: According to the press release, a major part of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center will be to see how interactive technologies can be utilized to help accelerate children’s learning. In your opinion, are we going to hit a point soon where children who do not have access to the technology in their pre-school years will be at a disadvantage. Please explain why this is an issue or not.ML: Children in the pre-school years will, over time, like their older peers, be influenced deeply by the ubiquity of interactive technologies in their homes and communities. Whether it is how they will learn their first letters, or math concepts, or be introduced to relatives living in remote places around the globe, most children will begin to listen, talk, and learn in a new media environment beginning shortly after they are born. That does not mean, however, that pre-school youngsters who have limited access to technology will be disadvantaged in any fundamental way, so long as they have the basic elements to grow and develop the affinity for learning all that the world will one day offer. Young children today need the loving support of their parents and caregivers, consistent relationships of intense love and practical support, and the ability to explore diverse types of safe experiences with regularity and purpose.CP: In your opinion, and based on your studies, what should producers be focusing on in order to best help our children viewers?ML: Producers should encourage interactive – and particularly intergenerational – play through their products. The bulk of digital media products currently on the market follow the model of one child per screen, however human relationships and parental involvement are key to a child’s healthy development and success in a global age. The recent success of products such as the Wii indicates that the market is seeking products that they can play together in groups and as a family. Additionally, given that children spend nearly as much time interacting with media as they do in school, producers have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to produce digital media that furthers children’s learning. In the production of media with specific learning objectives, producers should base their products on pedagogy and research, and capitalize on the wealth of knowledge in the academic community, analogous to the model used in developing Sesame Street.CP: What can parents do to provide the best learning atmosphere for children in the multi-media world?ML: Parental involvement is absolutely key in mediating children’s experiences, and this is especially true for children’s digital media interactions. We encourage parents to use digital media with their children, as all of the positive potential of digital media is significantly amplified if a parent or teacher is present to guide the child’s learning experience. In terms of selecting digital media products for their children to consume, parents should look for products that encourage thinking, creativity, problem-solving and interactive play. In judging a product’s educational value they should seek out products based on pedagogy and research. There are a number of public interest groups – such as Common Sense Media and Parent’s Choice – that help guide parents in making decisions about the media that their children consume.CP: In your opinion, is there a time and place for media that is strictly for entertaining purposes or is it better for people to just break from the electronics?ML: There is certainly a time and place for media that is strictly entertaining; there is a time and place for media with specific educational value; and there is a time and place where people should take a break from electronics altogether. The overall message is a balanced diet of fun and engaging media that should not take up too much time in any given day.CP: What is one of the most surprising things you have discovered in your studies regarding children and media?ML: All of the stress and strain that parents feel over what types and how much media content should be the right amount for children in the pre-school years is a surprising debate, given the reality of children’s lives today, that we believe can be addressed by academic research. There is no doubt that we know too little about just what very young children (under age 3) can learn from interactive media, but we believe that there are giant leaps forward that may be possible in the future with interactive media that are mediated through parent and caregiver interactionsOur early research study D is For Digital also found a surprising lack of video games with educational value. We think that the market can be given incentives to change the learning equation for young children over timeCP: If you were not limited by funds or politics, what is one of the biggest changes you would like to see incorporated in upcoming media?ML: Although digital media is ubiquitous in the world children are growing up in today, finding the positive potential of new media to accelerate children’s learning is not yet part of our national conversation. As Joan Ganz Cooney – creator of Sesame Street and namesake of our center – says: “If we can harness media as a powerful teaching tool, we can help children grow-up as literate, responsible global citizens. Now is the time to turn the new media that children have a natural attraction to into learning tools that will build their knowledge and broaden their perspectives.”

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