Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for July, 2009

Congratulations to KIDS FIRST! producer William VanDerKloot

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

This producer of KIDS FIRST! titles such as The Big Airshow  is winning awards with his title, “Flying the Secret Sky.” The Story of the RAF Ferry Command has recently been honored with awards at a number of prestigious film festivals.  The program most recently won Best Feature Documentary at CinegearExpo in Los Angeles, where it was screened at Paramount Studios.

The film also won the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival, and the Special Jury Award at the Worldfest Houston Independent International Film Festival.  At the Las Vegas Festival, there were over 2000 entries from 20 countries, and at Worldfest Houston there were over 4500 category entries from 37 countries.

Earlier this year, “Flying the Secret Sky” won the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle for feature-length documentary.

Flying the Secret Sky tells a story of passionate risk-taking, of young men braving dangerous flights in primitive aircraft.  These “cowboys of the air” are forgotten heroes of the war, who flew without guns and embodied an improvisational spirit that was key to Allied victory.  Their story includes the American civilian chosen to fly Winston Churchill to secret wartime meetings, during the darkest days of WW II.

The documentary special was filmed in HD on-location in the US, Canada and the UK. It has aired nationally on PBS.  WGBH – Boston is the Television distributor, and PBS Video distributes a feature-length version on DVD, which is available now.  The program is also distributed  worldwide by PBS International.

The story is told by the veteran aviators themselves, including Air Commodore Taffy Powell, Kirk Kerkorian, and Bill VanDerKloot, the American civilian pilot who flew Winston Churchill during the war.  Included is never-before-seen home movie footage of Churchill in the American-built B-24 that safely delivered him to vital war conferences and secret meetings.   Also included is rare footage of Ferry Command aircraft and crews from archives around the world, as well as original footage and CGI.

Before the U.S entered the War, most of the Ferry Command pilots were American civilians who pioneered the global air routes we use today.  Theirs is one of the great unknown stories of the war and of aviation history.

For more information go to www.flyingthesecretsky.com.

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Learn to Make Puppets From Award-Winning Professionals for Free

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Through a workshop especially designed for classrooms, Dog & Rooster Productions brings you “Hollywood and the Art of Puppetry.” Renowned puppeteer Greg Aronowitz educates kids on the history of animatronic puppets in filmmaking, and then shows them step-by-step how to make their own puppets with simple art supplies. Ideally suited for children ages 5-12.
The Labou team has completed over 50 of these workshops to much critical success with several non-profit organizations including Easter Seals as well as local schools, museums and libraries across the nation.

The workshop is now downloadable for free from www.LabouStuff.com under “Free Stuff”.  It has a video that teaches kids about the history of puppets in Hollywood, and the accompanying puppet cut-out sheets.  The kids love it!

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Bedtime With Elmo – An Interview With Elmo

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Bedtime should be a special time for any child according to our friends at Sesame Street. And no one understands this more than Elmo himself. As I watched “Sesame Street: Bedtime With Elmo,” I recognized many of the issues children around the world face when it’s time to get some rest in the evening. A few days after watching the title, I had a chance to speak with Elmo himself.

According to Elmo, one of his favorite parts of going to sleep is listening to his dad’s lullaby. He finds it’s very important to have a routine. For example, he brushes his fur, then brushes his teeth and reads a book and gets tucked in. When I asked Elmo what his best piece of advice was for children having a hard time going to sleep, he suggested that they sleep a something special. He sleeps with Baby David.

When Elmo’s friend Abby came to visit him, he learned that she was scared to go to sleep because of the dark. Elmo said he thought it was fun helping others, like when he helped Abby play a game with the light so she would get used to shadows and realize that light comes from all around us — from things like street lights and the moon.

Browsing through the Bonus section of “Sesame Street: Bedtime with Elmo,” I  enjoyed looking through picture books and listening to Andrea Bocelli sing with Elmo. This was also a highlight for our little red, furry friend.  He giggles about the experience and exclaims about how wonderful it was, because, “He’s (Bocelli) so nice!”

Elmo asked me to leave children with the message that it’s important to sleep. Or even have some quiet time. It should be a time that you can enjoy.

Enter the KIDS FIRST! Sweepstakes to win your own copy of “Sesame Street: Bedtime With Elmo.” Your entry must be received no later than July 31st, 2009, 12:00am. Odds of winning are based on the number of entries.

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qubo Highlights Kid Film Winners

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

In response to the phenomenally successful first round of quboPic premieres that aired this past winter, qubo, the TV and online entertainment service for children and families, will debut a second round of user-generated animated short films on qubo Channel as well as on qubo’s broadcast blocks on ION Television, NBC and Telemundo beginning Thursday, July 16.

Thousands of young animators from across the country logged on to qubo.com to create short animated films using an innovative storytelling web application called “Zimmer Twins”.  qubo selected fourteen films to be to be converted into fully animated mini-movies for national broadcast.  qubo producers will re-master each film, converting it to high-resolution video with broadcast quality color, music and sound effects.  qubo has also enlisted character actors to record the dialogue  and narration written by the animators in their text bubble scripts.

The “Zimmer Twins”, Edgar and Eva, are animated characters featured in interactive cartoons that kids can create from scratch, modify and share with their friends in a rich, safe web environment. The “Zimmer Twins” section on qubo.com includes storytelling tools, pre-made animated clips and simple editing instructions that tap into kids’ inherent love of stories.  The clips and storytelling prompts explore classic kid themes like science, animals, magic and adventure.  The animation interface is designed around the basic elements of sentence structure, and reinforces reading, grammar, and writing techniques. After creating their stories, users can post and share their creations and even vote for their favorite user-created submissions online.  In 2007, the “Zimmer Twins” won the International Interactive Emmy® Award.

“We were thrilled with the response to our first round of quboPic premieres and can’t think of a better way to honor and thank our viewers than by launching a second effort, “said  Rick Rodriguez, president and general manager, qubo.  “We are proud to showcase the creativity of these talented children on our air. The “Zimmer Twins” helps reinforce qubo’s mission of engaging children’s minds while promoting reading and literacy.”

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Zula Patrol: Animal Adventures in Space an Interview With Deb Manchester

Monday, July 13th, 2009

“The Zula Patrol: Animal Adventures in Space!” follows the intrepid team Zula in humor-filled stories that begin with a challenge, and end with a resolution, as they explore how insects, reptiles, mammals, plants and rocks form and interact with each other. Creator Deb Manchester, an audiologist turned filmmaker tells us about creating this title.

CP: You took topics (metamorphosis and ecosystems) that have been covered several times and made them fresh, fun and interesting. How did you do this?

DM: We try to put ourselves in kid’s mind. It’s fun to play with this topic. How would kids react? We take in the nature of kids reactions to make sure that it feels genuine. To make it fun and interesting — that’s where the villains come in. Our villains are not bright. They always foil things. They’re not aware of information and knowledge. Kids learn what the villains don’t know and the villains never understand. The kids get it when the villains don’t.

CP: How do you decide the songs and song styles that go into each

DM:  I wanted a retro sound like the Jetsons or Flintstones. I love the big band sound, especially for the theme song, so we hired a real band. The lyrics are written by head writers, a husband and wife team, and they make the lyrics so funny that the composer is motivated to write music to match it. We cover a gamut of music. I originally asked Jeff Daniels to work with us because I loved his music in another kid’s show. He has four kids who also loved the show.

CP: Please give an example of an obstacle you had to overcome while
producing this title and tell us how you overcame that obstacle.

DM: You take a topic and it seems simple at first, but it’s a fine balance getting enough real science without cheating the topic. For example, we might do an episode on planets that are talking. How far can you go with the imagination, but keep it true? Kids have a great sense of understanding what’s real and what’s not, but a main theme of ours is that we don’t teach the topic. We want it to be organic/real make sure that comes through. It’s difficult to keep true in a fantasy show.

CP: How have you grown as a producer while creating this title?

DM: When I first started producing this I was in the entry-level. I have learned so much in many areas. How much goes into the writing — we have incredible writers. A show needs to have good writings before it goes any further. Without the writing, it won’t make it. Music is also very important. I learned that we need to set goals for education without overdoing it. At first we started with three or four major goals, but we’ve learned that it’s better off doing one or two major learning objectives and maybe one or two minor objectives. This helps you develop a topic into a nice story. I also learned about working with animation studios overseas and working with cultural differences. Episodes 1-26 were filmed in South Korea and the episodes after 26 were filmed in China, and there were many cultural differences we had to overcome. I also saw how important was to have the right actors. Making a movie involves a huge team that pulls together.

CP: Please give an example of something funny or inspiring that happened
during development.

DM: After the show was released, a parent sent in a video of a five-year-old son who was dressed as a stage of a frog. He was singing the title song with a homemade microphone. Right at the end of the song, the microphone broke and the look on his face was precious. It was so cute to see him so excited about singing, and that he was so absorbed in the show that he wanted to be a tadpole.

CP: What do you hope viewers will come away with after watching this

DM: We think we found the formula for making learning fun. Now we have an educational web site that makes learning fun. Targeted at ages five through 10, children learn while going on fun missions and playing games. Parents and educators also love the technological components that complement the school kits. This is a very exciting time for the company as we launch Zula World. We do have some episodes up on the site in our theater section.

Check out the fun interactive Zula Patrol website and look for “Zula Patrol: Animal Adventures in Space” in stores near you. In “Larvae or Leave Me “(the first episode), Skip the grasshopper can’t find his friend Wriggly the caterpillar – until he discovers, with help from The Zula Patrol, that Wriggly has transformed into a beautiful butterfly! Four additional stories on the DVD are:  “Egg Hunt,” “There Goes the Neighborhood,” “Choosing Sides” and “Camp Worm.”

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