Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for June, 2008

Anash Interactive

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Anash Interactive is a free, no-advertising award-winning website where kids create comics, build stories, play games & puzzles, watch webisodes, download podcasts, find out more about the Tlingit people of Canada and read stories & comics created by other online users.  It’s for kids aged 8-13.This site is a new online project from Reel Girls Media, who also worked on the KIDS FIRST! title, WildFiles.TV.

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qubo Goes Out-of-This-World

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

The qubo broadcast blocks on ION Television, NBC and Telemundo will feature a new “Space-Age-Summer” schedule as well as a new animated space series, “THE ZULA PATROL.”  And, everyone’s favorite elephant, “BABAR”, joins the block as well.*** [Please note that the new programming will likely be pre-empted on NBC on Saturday July 5 due to that network’s Wimbledon tennis tournament coverage.  But all of the shows will air on “qubo on NBC” in their regularly scheduled time slots beginning Saturday, July 12.] ***

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Listen Up! Helps Kids be Heard in Mass Media — an interview with Austin Haeberle

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

The mission at Listen Up! is to help youth be heard in the mass media, contributing to a culture of free speech and social responsibility. Listen Up! is a national Youth Media Network that helps youth producers and their adult mentors exchange work, share ideas and learn from one another.What do youth fear? How do they build security in their lives? Check out their Peabody Award-winning short documentaries by youth filmmakers worldwide — Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet. http://listenup.org/beyondborders In this interview with Austin Haeberle, Creative Director at Listen Up!, tells us how his work with Listen Up! affects his own life.

CP: Could you please give me an overview of how your organization works and a sample of a typical day for you?

AH: At the Listen Up! Youth Media Network, we provide technical, organizational and financial support to over 100 organizations that help young people tell important stories through media production. Our mission is to help young video producers and their allies connect to resources, support, and projects to achieve an authentic youth voice in the mass media. While most days seem humdrum in meetings & sending emails, it can be pretty exciting stuff.

I’m producing a worldwide project with 14 youth production teams in nine countries, showing how they interact with the environment and what youth are doing to solve environmental problems.  We’ve had a little luck in the past with similar projects, landing broadcast homes on PBS, the Independent Film Channel and Current TV.  Our last project, “Beyond Borders:  Personal Stories from a Small Planet,” even netted us a George Foster Peabody Award which many consider the highest honor in American Television.  

So, while most days I’m behind a computer screen, helping groups make connections, other days find me working with groups in different parts of the United States or other countries.

CP: Some of the kids’ films I saw dealt with some pretty heavy topics. Do you have counselors on staff that help the kids work through their issues while filming?
AH: You don’t ask easy questions, do you?  Youth filmmaking has a history of dealing with really heavy topics:  suicide, war, homelessness, sexuality, abuse, AIDS & HIV, environmental destruction, etc.  For many youth filmmakers, their films are attempts to work their way through issues that have dogged them from very early ages.  They’re also reaching out and touching other young people who may be experiencing the same types of issues. 

AH: In order for youth to be able to honestly reflect on their own experiences and communicate those experiences in a manner that others will understand, empathize and learn, it takes great mentorship that balances youth development skills and filmmaking talents.  So, while many youth media organizations don’t have counselors for traumatic issues on hand by default, youth media experts are adept at finding resources on the fly — getting help when they need it.  It’s one of the great skills that come with filmmaking — you are very quick at accessing resources that you don’t immediately have at your fingertips. 

CP: Please give me an anecdote of a student whose life has been significantly affected in a positive way through Listen Up!

AH: Meet Mohamed Sidibay, a 15 year-old soccer player going to high school in an affluent New Jersey suburban town. Listen Up! has had a lot of influence on him, but we’re only a part of caring network of individuals worldwide who have made the security and health Mohamed their business.  

He was born to a good family in Sierra Leone, but like so many tragedies there, he was swept into an unthinkable situation.  By the time he was 5 years old his parents and family were killed and he was forcibly recruited into a rebel army to carry weapons and kill.  We met him when he was 10, demobilized only two years prior, and learning computer skills with the iEarn center in Freetown.  Mohamed and his team made a film with us about his life — a film that has been broadcast on TV here in the States, on CNN International and in film festivals worldwide, earning awards along the way.

Mohamed joined us in New York last June to receive the George Foster Peabody Award.  Long story short, he never went back and now has beautiful host family in New Jersey and is doing what he has always wanted to do:  play soccer & go to school.

CP: Please give me an anecdote about a student who changed you and your way of thinking through film.

AH: Youth filmmakers often give me perspectives that I haven’t been able to articulate or they sometimes outright challenge assumptions that I’ve made about what it means to grow up in times of enormous complexity and change.  Usually, youth don’t mince or filter their words, or as they say, they like “keepin’ it real.”   Salim Muslim’s piece “Losing My Way,” which is featured in the Kids First! film selection, keeps it real by dealing directly with Salim’s own bi-polar disorder, his struggle between the “positive and the negative.”  He fits the part of a disenfranchised black youth growing up in Brooklyn, or does he?  Through movement and sound and word, he helps me grasp the enormity of his disorder and what it means to grow up in troubling times.

CP: What advice would you give producers/educators who want to work with kids in film?

AH: Stick with it and be patient.  If you don’t have a high tolerance for “things not going as planned,” youth filmmaking is probably not for you.  There’s usually an element of drama involved in youth filmmaking, and that drama is not always on screen.   With a lot of patience and good spirit, youth will rise to the occasion and meet the high standard of work that you should demand from them.  It will take longer than you planned, but the impact will be on the faces in the audience as well as the kids behind the camera.

CP: Are your daughters involved in this program directly? If so, in what facet?

AH: Don’t get me started with my daughters Anna and Bella who are now nine and six.  Anna and her friend Lily are in pre-production on some sort of docu-drama and have already began to shoot.  At times they ask for input, but most of the time, mum’s the word.  I’m sure I’ll make a fine driver between shoots.  While too young to be a part of Listen Up!, they’re only a few years behind in age and maturity.   

CP: Is there anything you would like to add?

AH: The Listen Up! Youth Media Network is only a small part of a movement that values the ideas, experiences and voices of youth.  The work of organizations like Kids First! and the many venues across our country and around the world that feature youth-made films helps bring our work full circle.  This is valuable work, not just for us, but youth filmmakers and their organizations who are constantly looking to reach new audiences to broaden what it means to be young and live on this planet.

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“Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave” Give-Away

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

The first five readers who go to http://www.kidsfirst.org/contact-us/ and tell us what they love about the “Kenny the Shark Series” will receive their very own copy of “Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave!” Make sure you include your email address so we can let you know you won.Hang ten with Discovery Kids¹ human-friendly shark when “Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave” splashes onto DVD June 3rd from Genius Productsand Discovery Kids. This is the 3rd volume of the “Kenny the Shark” series, which continues to attract fans on the Discovery KidsChannel. A two-time Environmental Media Award Nominee for Children¹sAnimated Series in 2004 and 2005, “Kenny the Shark” allows kids toabsorb a wealth of fun fish facts by sinking their teeth into thedaily adventures of a loveable Tiger Shark. In “Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave,” Kenny and his human friend Kat make waves in and out of the water as they learn how to surf, create home movies and discover special talents. There¹s no telling what exciting things will happen when these two friends get together for some summer fun, with 77 minutes of summer-themed episodes including Kenny¹s Home Movie: Attack of the Flying Sharks featuring real-life shark footage from Discovery¹s³Shark Week² and a special bonus episode of “Growing Up Creepie.” The“Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave” DVD will be available for thesuggested retail price of $12.95.

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Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

CP: Please tell me the story behind Wubbzy. How did it come about and what direction do you see the show taking?SM: Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! is the first television series from told Bolder Media, Inc.. A company I and formed with my partner Fred Siebert. Fred and I combined our experiences in creating entertainment for children (the movie, “Ella Enchanted”; television series “Fairly Odd Parents”, Shari Lewis’ “Lamb Chop”, ‘Powder Puff Girls”). to create a company focused on television, books, digital media and films for young children and their families.Wubbzy was created by Bob Boyle and is based on the story told to him by his then 10-year-old niece Viviana Ogawa. We are in production of our second season (in Burbank, California) and we are introducing exciting new things including a new girl named Daizy, a disco dancing Wubb club and a magical Wubbmobile.CP: What were some of the more difficult elements in animating, and how did you overcome them?SM: Creating a great cartoon takes the work of over 100 people — artists, writers, actors, composers, animators, directors, editors, directors and more. We are lucky to have a great crew, led by Bob Doyle and our supervising producer Kevin Kolde. They manage to keep the creative process moving, while paying attention to team morale, budgets, contracts, computers, deadlines and all else involved in creating a hit cartoon series.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.SM: Our creative team really enjoys the characters of Wuzzkeburg. And one of their favorite things to do is create their own art with Wubbzy and his friends and all kinds of crazy places and poses. A few months ago they sent us a Spiderman version of Wubbzy… red and blue outfit and all. They also create movie posters with our characters based on classic films like “King Kong” and others.CP: In your opinion, with all the great shows out there, what makes Wubbzy so appealing and such a hit with children?SM: Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! has the elements that we think make a children’s television series a hit with children. The three H’s… heart, humor and huggability. Wubbzy is the type of character children can relate to and want to be their friend. Also, Wuzzleburg is such fun-filled place… I know I would love to live there, too.CP: What does it mean to you to have “Wow Wow Wubbzy” in the KIDS FIRST! Festival?SM: It is Wow! Wow! Wonderful! to have Wubbzy and his friends participate at the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival. We hope that children along with their mons, dads, teachers, grandparent have a chance to see our show and get to know Wubbzy and his friends.CP: Is there anything you would like to add?SM: Our show appeals to children all of the world. Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! is currently airing in England, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and throughout Latin America. The show is being dubbed into Spanish, German, Arabic, Hebrew, French and Italian, with many more countries and languages to follow.

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