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Mary Flynn * Super Star at NCircle Entertainment, 30 Year Veteran of Entertainment Industry

Friday, April 10th, 2020

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Flynn, Vice President of Sales, Content and Acquisitions for NCircle Entertainment, who brings over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry.  “When I started working in the video industry, remote controls were connected by wires to the video players.  Many things have changed since then and being in the industry since it started has been very exciting and rewarding.” 

Mary started her career as a sales person calling on video stores.  The industry has grown from videos to streaming and Mary has been at the forefront of this entertainment evolution. Over the years, Mary was very fortunate to have many opportunities to do different things; sales manager, VP of sales, general manager, just to name a few. 

Before NCircle Entertainment, Flynn was the senior director of business development for Alliance Entertainment, Vice President of Sales for Allumination Filmworks and Vice President of Sales for Apix Entertainment.

In her spare time, Mary enjoys traveling, biking, cooking with her godchildren and adventures with her Dachshund/Papillon dog Wolverine, named by her godson and affectionately called Wolfie.

Founded in 2006, NCircle Entertainment is one of the largest independent distributors of quality children and family entertainment content. NCircle is committed to providing quality children’s entertainment that builds a solid foundation of early learning skills upon which future educational success can be built. NCircle’s award winning brands engage your child in the learning process, using the interdisciplinary STEM approach, teaching reading readiness, science concepts, problem solving tactics, social skills and environmental awareness, while entertaining them with song, dance and laughter. NCircle’s library includes many of the most loved and best-selling children’s brands including The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, Sonic Boom, Gigantosaurus, Llama Llama, The Octonauts, The Floogals, Gumby and many more. 

Interviewed by Nathalia Marie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

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Who is VFX Whizz Scott Ross?

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

In our second C-Suite Interview, KIDS FIRST! introduces you to Scott Ross, a maven of the Visual Effects Industry. Veteran KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. recently met with Scott in his southern California home to discuss the history and future of VFX. Take a look and learn!

Marvel produces films full of actors in green suits running on green treadmills in front of green walls. Yet, audiences never see these films, because of the thousands of people working in an industry called visual effects (VFX), the art of cinematic illusions. VFX ranges from mirrors and double exposure to making ghostly images on film, to complex supercomputers processing 3D models that mimic reality.

Few know the VFX industry better than Scott Ross, former general manager of Industrial Light and Magic as well as co-founder of Digital Domain. His work has garnered an incredible seven Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Technical Achievement Awards and more.

When Scott first entered the VFX industry in the 1980s, computer technology still had years of development ahead. Thus, the industry relied on photochemical processes, optical printers and optical illusions to achieve the desired effects. “Everything was film-oriented, and everything was organic,” Scott explained.

When computers did arrive, the VFX industry had a brand-new issue: “there were no… true artists that understood how to work within a computer.” So, the pioneering VFX artists were computer scientists from top institutions such as UC Berkeley. As expected, mixing computer scientists with traditional cinematic artists, “didn’t work all that well,” Scott commented.

While technology has certainly improved with the release of sophisticated programs like NUKE by Foundry or Adobe After Effects by Adobe Systems, the industry still has many problems to solve. Marvel’s most recent hit, Avengers: Endgame features characters made digitally, worlds made digitally and even the outfits of main characters are made digitally. This has caused many to argue that VFX has become overused as the average film becomes increasingly digitally made. Yet, production companies have a reason to put in as much VFX as possible.

Scott explains that international markets have become an increasingly larger portion of a film’s profit and, “you’re not going to have Driving Miss Daisy [a dialogue-heavy period piece] play very well in Beijing or Shanghai.” Yet, characters turning to dust? Volcanoes erupting? That has far more international promise than a film with two characters talking.

While there may be an ever-growing demand for VFX, VFX companies continue to go out of business due to production companies constantly asking for changes, increasing the time needed to perfect their work. The pressure-riddled VFX artists suffer as they work long hours with little rest due to razor-thin time constraints (Avengers: Endgame finished VFX less than a month before premiering) and, do their work inside in darkness, often across the world from where production takes place. Sometimes, they don’t even appear in the credits of the film.

While technology continues to improve to make the lives of VFX artists easier, it also invariably has caused the industry to “bifurcate,” making many artists obsolete while only the world-renowned artists maintain demand. For example, take the field of rotoscoping. This animation technique revolves around cutting out objects from the rest of a frame and, based on personal experience, maybe the most monotonous step in the filmmaking process. Because it can be done by anyone, it has been outsourced to countries with cheaper labor like India and China, and has increasingly been replaced by sophisticated computer programs.

Visual Effects continues to be an increasingly important step in filmmaking. Despite the industry being in its infant stage, it has already felt the blunt impact of technological innovation and will continue to do so as lifeless computers become more involved in the emotional process of making cinema.

By Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Oscar Nominated Shorts – Saria, Sisters and Walk Run Cha-Cha

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

While feature films with A-list actors garner the most attention at the Oscars, the award show also has three short film categories that seldom receive the attention they deserve. For that reason, the Malibu Film Society held a free screening for Saria (Nominated, Best Live Action Short), Sister (Nominated, Best Animated Short) and Walk Run Cha-Cha (Nominated, Best Documentary Short). 

Each film coveys wildly different topics but shares a universal goal of showing something that needs to be discussed. Saria’s haunting story shows that outside the developed safety of western nations, there exists corruption, injustice and innocents powerless to defend themselves, with humanitarian disasters occurring frequently that never receive the spotlight of the western world. Sister examines the very real and emotional connection between siblings and forces the audience to carefully consider the value of human life. Walk Run Cha-Cha mixes the passion of dance and shows how love can beat the boundaries of time and space.

Each film deals with loss in its story. Saria follows the true story of a group of children in an orphanage in Guatemala that suffer from constant abuse and their eventual revolt against their abusers, ultimately leading to a tragedy. Sister uses the beautiful expressionism of stop motion animation to creatively show the relationship between a big brother and little sister and by the end, it inspires careful thought about who has a right to be born. Walk Run Cha-Cha tells the story of a couple that falls in love in Vietnam before the Vietnam War, become separated by the political turmoil, only to reconnect a long six years later and have incredible talents as professional dancers.

Saria developed its main characters in a way that ensured the audience connected to the children’s suffering: the film took time to portray its young characters as normal teenagers. They felt jealousies, had their first loves, shared silly rumors and had colorful dreams of the future, which only helped further the pain of seeing such injustices committed against them.

Sisters, made by students at Cal Arts, shows how excellent stop motion can be. The movements look as smooth as digital animation and have as much possibility as digital animation. The short, eight-minute story develops its characters perfectly and feels authentic and relatable to anyone watching. Yet, its large reveal at the end could have been done better – minutes before the narrator unveils the twist, the visuals foreshadow the twist. By having this slow unveiling of the surprise at the end, it lowers its emotional impact on the audience. Yet, it perfectly tackles what can be considered a political topic in a very unbiased way, allowing viewers from any point of view to enjoy it.

Walk Run Cha-Cha perfectly connects the audience to the couple on-screen by examining their lives, habits and most importantly, their story. While the scenes of the couple dancing would warm anyone’s heart, the documentary poorly connects them to the story of how political turmoil separated their love, creating an odd contrast between the film discussing their past and their present love of dance.

All three films have many lessons for adults to learn but may be difficult for younger children to understand, so I recommend all three films for ages 14 to 18. While Saria may be intense for children as young as 14, it should be remembered that the youngest victims in the tragedy were 14 years old. Showing films like this can help children understand early on how people in the west have it much easier, compared to those in other parts of the world. 

Because of Saria’s exceptional reenactment of a heart-aching tragedy, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Sisters portrays a real-life relationship between siblings, realistically and maintained and impressively neutral in a deeply partisan political issue but fails in the delivery of the most important twist of the story and so I give it 4 out of 5 stars. While Walk Run Cha-Cha shows the human consequences of global conflicts such as the Vietnam War quite well, it fails to connect its two subplots – the history of the couple’s relationship and their dancing, in a meaningful way. Hence, I give it 3 ½ out of 5 stars. All three are nominated for an Oscar, so keep that in mind when you watch the award’s show on February 2, 2020.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

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Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! * Funny and Filled with Positive Lessons

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

In GIGANTOSAURUS, four dinosaur pals team up for big adventures around their community as they help others, solve problems, and learn about the mysterious Gigantosaurus that lives among them. Often it’s Mazu’s curiosity that leads the group’s charge, and her friends Tiny, Bill, and Rocky eagerly join in her explorations. Whether it’s returning a lost egg to its herd or saving an insect species from extinction, these dinosaurs never give up on a challenge. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this DVD because it is very funny and teaches children different morals.  The moral of Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is about coming together as friends and never give up on any challenge or obstacle that you might find on your path.  These four dinosaur friends defeat every obstacle and challenge without giving up and help their community and other animals in need. Tiana S. adds, “Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is not my favorite DVD, but I can see how younger kids would love it. It’s not really a show that makes you laugh, but there are lots of lessons that can be learned from each episode. I really love how every character has its own unique personality.” Jolleen M. wraps it up with, “I absolutely love this adorable animated series. It is unlike any other animated series I have seen. The dynamics between all the friends is interesting and it is so pleasing seeing how supportive they are of each other.” See their full reviews below.

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All!
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this DVD because it is very funny and teaches children different morals.  Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is approximately 90 minutes long and has eight 11 minute episodes including “Giganto’s Laugh,” “Frozen Giganto,” “The Lost Egg,” “The Island,” “The Biggest Hero,” “Treasure!,” “Seeing Stars” and “Dinosia.” 

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! follows four dinosaur friends – Mazu, Tiny, Bill and Rocky – who team up to help animals in need and to solve their community’s situations or problems.  They also learn about the Gigantosaurus that live among them.  Mazu is the leader of the group and her three friends follow her on different adventures.  The graphics are neat and very colorful.  The landscape is very detailed.  The music is pleasant and appealing in each episode.  The voice-overs match each dinosaur’s personality. 

One of my favorite episodes is “Treasure!”  This episode is about the four dinosaur friends playing on a playground.  Tiny says to get cave moss for Giganto before they leave.  When Rocky gets the cave moss, he falls in some sticky water and Tiny pulls him out.  Tiny notices a little shiny gold pebble.  Mazu takes the gold pebble and brings it home.  Eventually, almost all the dinosaurs are chasing each other for the pebble.  The only one who’s not chasing or fighting over the shiny gold pebble is Giganto.  My other favorite episode is “The Biggest Hero,” because it teaches an important lesson.  This episode is about Rocky and Tiny fighting over who is the best hero.  They compete by solving a ton of problems and trying to help everyone in need.  At the end they are both heroes.


The moral of Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is about coming together as friends and never give up on any challenge or obstacle that you might find on your path.  These four dinosaur friends defeat every obstacle and challenge without giving up and help their community and other animals in need.

I give the DVE Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 5 to 18, plus. This DVD is available now so look for it!

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All!
By Tiana Sirmans, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9 

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is not my favorite DVD, but I can see how younger kids would love it. It’s not really a show that makes you laugh, but there are lots of lessons that can be learned from each episode. I really love how every character has its own unique personality.

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is an animated show based on the book by the same name by Johnny Duddle. The DVD contains eight episodes about four young dinosaurs that go on many adventures. They all work hard to face their own fears and solve problems together on their journeys. While they are on their quests, their frenemy, Gigantosaurus, who is the largest, fiercest dinosaur of all, makes appearances. Sometimes the friends help him and other times he helps them. The four young dinosaurs learn different things about Gigantosaurus during each adventure. 

The main characters are Tiny (Àine Sunderland), Bill (Nicholas Holmes), Rocky (Dylan Schombing) and Mazu (Nahanni Mitchell), which are all dinosaurs. Even though they are all different species, they still treat each other like brothers and sisters. One of the things I felt lacking is more of the stories are not about Gigantosaurus, which is who the show is named for. I expected Gigantosaurus to be the main character, but he only makes a few appearances in each episode. The other characters talk about him a lot and they learn about him, but the four dinosaur friends are the main characters. My favorite part of each episode is how Tiny, Bill, Rocky and Mazu learn to overcome their fears. You can really see their true friendship whenever any of them needs a little help. They are always there to help each other throughout the day. I also love how they never give up.

The message in the movie is: everyone has a different talent that is useful for different things. You should appreciate others’ differences and believe that their talent has a true purpose. Since this is a kid’s movie, there isn’t much for adults to look out for except parts where kids may imitate bragging and scaring people on purpose.

Gigantosaurus, The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! will have younger kids roaring with laughter. I rate it 4 out of 5 stomps and recommend it for ages 3 to 6. You can find it now on DVD.

Gigantosaurus: The Biggest Dinosaur of All!
By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I absolutely love this adorable animated series. It is unlike any other animated series I have seen. The dynamics between all the friends is interesting and it is so pleasing seeing how supportive they are of each other.

Gigantosaurus: The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is centered around four tiny dinosaur friends and their gigantic dinosaur friend, that have a love-hate relationship with. Each of the tiny dinosaurs has a different personality. One is brave, one gets scared but loves food, one’s silly and one is smart. Together they form the perfect team and are able to solve any problem. Their friend Gigantosaurus doesn’t talk, so Gigantosaurus isn’t close with them. Gigantosaurus’ size is beneficial to them because he is protect their herd, but his size can also cause some problems when he walks around. Therefore, the tiny dinosaurs still fear Gigantosaurus and they become cautious whenever he is near.

The voice actors for this series are all ages, to separate the adult dinosaurs from the innocent tiny ones. Even though there is this contrast between the adult voice actors and the younger voice actors, it is hard to tell the difference between the younger voice actors. Even so, the younger voice actors are quite remarkable. They are lively and portray various emotions well.

The animation is pretty detailed and very colorful. It is wonderful to see that the effort put into animating so many different types of dinosaurs, as well as other animals including birds, a rodent and an interesting walking fish. There is a lot of detail in their facial expressions which portray their emotions quite well.

My favorite part of this DVD is that it is so fun and educational. Hidden inside the plot are actual dinosaur facts that kids can learn, which is amazing.

There can be multiple messages in any episode, all of which are extremely valuable. It is great to see how encouraging the dinosaur friends are towards each other, as well as how all the characters are accepted. For example, Gigantosaurus is a large, scary-looking dinosaur, yet he is so caring, protective, and never means any harm. The tiny dinosaur who is considered to be the brave, adventurous one is encouraged by his friends to let out his soft, caring side. Most importantly, this DVD shows kids to look past the stereotypes and accept others, which I love.

Gigantosaurus: The Biggest, Fiercest Dinosaur of All! is a wonderful animated DVD collection which kids will absolutely love and learn a lot from. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 8. It comes out on DVD January 13, 2029, so make sure to pick it up!

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Help KIDS FIRST! Expand Its Training and Audience

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Never did we imagine that …

* Tom Hanks would photo-bomb one of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics at the press junket of Toy Story 4 during her red carpet prep. 

* Morgan Freeman would choose one of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics as his one and only interview at the premiere of his film The LEGO Movie.  

* Oprah Winfrey would select one of our KIDS FIRST! reporters to interview her on the red carpet of The Hundred-Foot Journey.  

* 100,000+ listeners would tune in weekly to our radio show on Voice America and IheartRadio to hear reviews of films and TV shows.     

…when we created KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, a project of the 30-year-old Coalition for Quality Children’s Media (CQCM), a 501-c-3 non-profit.  

Zoe C. and Lin Manuel-Miranda

Help us raise $15,000

to expand KIDS FIRST!’s training and educational opportunities for kids, both nationally and around the world.  (Yes, we’ve had requests to jump borders with KIDS FIRST!) There is no charge for a child to participate as a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and every kid is a volunteer. However, KIDS FIRST! provides coaches, editors, technical personnel and equipment to help our youth reporters develop their skills, talents, dreams and goals. Additionally, we need to expand opportunities to reach a larger audience of kids and families. All those things take money and that’s what we need help in funding.

At the heart of KIDS FIRST! is our commitment to putting kids, ages 8 to 21, front and center reviewing films, TV shows, DVDs and digital media geared for a youth and family market. Rather than having adults tell kids (and parents) what to see, hear and read, KIDS FIRST! invites kids to tell other kids what is, and is not, important, excellent, interesting, engaging and worth spending your own money on. An important part of our coaching is teaching our reporters how to think critically about the information they receive via media.

You know the importance of learning to recognize excellence. You know the importance of communicating excellence. And you know the fundamental significance of being taken seriously and recognized as a contributor in the entertainment world. We give kids a voice! KIDS FIRST! trains kids to stand side by side with seasoned entertainment reporters and become accomplished critics, interviewers and influencers among their peers.  

We would never have gotten to where we are without the help of kind people like you. Today I am asking you to help us amp up our training and publicity opportunities so we can help kids tell other kids how to choose media that enhances, not detracts from their lives. Our reporters speak honestly about the films, TV shows and digital media they view and we make sure that their reviews reach millions of kids and families every month.  Donate at: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/helpkidsfirstexpandtrainingandaudience

Know That: 100% of your donation supports our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics training and implementation.

Be a part of the future. KIDS FIRST! Film Critics are unique and a first in examining entertainment from a youth point of view. When the kids win, everyone wins! Smarter kids make smarter consumers. To inspire you, take a look at what some of our reporters and their parents say about KIDS FIRST!  And below that, what the industry leader have to say about us.

I found KIDS FIRST! by online research and never imagined it was going to be a total life-changing experience for my daughter. After a whole year, KIDS FIRST! is not just a way of living for us and is a great experience for all the other kids that are part of this organization. As a media member, I understand the hard work required to be a film journalist and to work in the entertainment industry. I’m grateful that Ranny gave us such a warm welcome. We share our love for films and she encourages us everyday to be better. Mariana Medina Cannella, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic parent

Thank you doesn’t even begin to describe how thankful Nathalia and I are. What an amazing experience KIDS FIRST! has been for us. I highly recommend KIDS FIRST! to others interested in becoming a film critics. My daughter Nathalia’s written and oral communication has developed and continues to evolve, with help from the KIDS FIRST! staff. Their training program has provided Nathalia the necessary tools to help her articulate her views, share and exchange her impressions and have fun while learning. 

More about what KIDS FIRST! parents think about their child’s involvement with KIDS FIRST!

Of course, we could not do all that we do without the support of the industry professionals. All the major studios support our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics through invitations to press screenings, press junkets, red carpets and other special events including Disney, Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount plus NCircle Entertainment, Shout! Factory and Wow Now Entertainment. Most studio employees are not allowed to give KIDS FIRST! a letter of support, but some have which you can see below as well as the terrific PR people who represent the studios.

“I like working with the KIDS FIRST! reporters. I have worked with them for some time- they do their research, are pleasant to be around and conduct good interviews. I hope to see KIDS FIRST! continue to grow and look forward to working with them again.” Alan Meier, Paramount Home Entertainment

The KIDS FIRST! team does an outstanding job with promoting our content through all of their online platforms, banner ads and social media outreach.  I am very pleased with the lift in monthly impressions that NCircle receives as a result of the focused effort from KIDS FIRST! Mary Flynn, VP Sales, Content and Acquisitions, NCircle Entertainment

“We absolutely love working with KIDS FIRST! and their youth reporters. They are always reliable and professional and also steal the show (in a good way!) at our junkets and events. The entire KIDS FIRST! team has been a joy to work with for years, and it is so important to us to be able to engage directly with our audience for these films. Plus, they have reporters all over the country!” – Mandy Rodgers, VP, Client Services – Think Jam 

“KIDS FIRST! is an organization I wish I knew about sooner! Each young reporter astonishes me in the best way! They are all wildly intelligent, impressively polite, timely, and fun to be around! Kids and teens deserve more credit and KIDS FIRST! has made me excited for the future. I know each reporter will go far in any industry they desire!” – Megan McRae, Family Publicity, TeamClick

See what other Media Professionals have to say about KIDS FIRST!

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