Film Festivals | Movie Reviews | Submit a Title | Jurors | About Us | Contact Us | Home

The Newsstand - What's Hot!


Go to the KIDS FIRST!®Home Page

The Newsstand - What's Hot

Christine Pollock, Newsletter Editor
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. -George Bernard Shaw


Subscribe to our monthly E-Zine to stay up to date on KIDS FIRST! initiatives. - FREE -

Your e-mail address:


Turning your TV Time into Quality Time
May 3, 2005 Issue #5
Christine L. Pollock, Editor
Ranny Levy, Publisher
[email protected]

1. Letter from the Editor
Letter from the President
New Juror Graduates
Watch and Create - Crafts and Activities
2. Highlighted Store Titles
3. New Endorsements
4. Festival Titles
Member News
6. New Members/Renewing Members
7. Media News
8. Family and Parenting News
9. Books to Big Screen by Christine L. Pollock
* Permission to forward or reprint the content herein is granted with complete attribution.

Center for Media Literacy Founder, Liz Thoman is interviewed in the January 2005 issue,
click here.

Making Rainbows for Readers - An Interview
with Dr. Twila Liggett

The Inner Workings of Sesame Workshop with Dr. Ed Greene



New: KIDS FIRST! logo store
Your purchase of hats, t-shirts, baby jumpers, bibs, and totes benefit KIDS FIRST!


The Coalition for Quality Children's Media is a national, not-for-profit organization founded in 1991. Because we believe that media profoundly affect children, our mission is to 1) teach children critical viewing skills and 2) to increase the visibility and availability of quality children's programs.

CQCM Newsletter Archive
Jan. 2005 / Feb. 2005 / Mar. 2005 / April 2005
2004 / 2003 / 2002
2001 / 2000 / 1999 / 1998
1997a 1997 b

Welcome to KIDS FIRST!® NEWS. All articles are by Coalition for Quality Children's Media unless otherwise noted.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong attitude." -Thomas Jefferson

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring! This is a time for new beginnings and new discoveries. This year my insect-loving eight-year-old introduced our family to a new adventure. He discovered that praying mantids are a natural way to keep unwanted bugs from the garden. You can order mantid eggs on the internet. They come in pods. According to the web site we purchased the pods from, for the size of our yard we were supposed to order three pods. Each pod has two hundred little mantids in it. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that nature does its thing in survival of the fittest so we don't end out with six hundred mantids swarming around our yard this summer.

Here at KIDS FIRST!®, we have a different sort of new adventure in our very own e-zine-a new section! All you teachers and parents out there, Watch and Create - Crafts and Activities is especially for you! I asked my boys and our neighbors to make one of my favorite crafts for this month's activity, but would love to hear from you. Do you have a craft/activity/snack you have made with your kids or class based on one of our endorsed titles? (If you want to see nearly two thousand titles we have endorsed, go to our web site at Pictures are also welcome. Show me your creativity!

As always, I welcome your input on the e-zine. If you have comments on titles we have endorsed; notices of awards, publications, and products; or suggestions for articles...drop me at line.

Have a wonderful month,

Christine Pollock, Editor

Dear Readers,

May is Filmmaker month at KIDS FIRST!

Mahatma Gandhi is attributed with the quote: "We must be the change we want to see in the world." Violence, sexually explicit images, gender stereotypes, racial bias, profanity, adult bashing and disrespect have brought parents, teachers and politicians out in full force to protest films that promote anti-social behaviors that children replicate. At KIDS FIRST!, we believe that you don't have to replicate these anti-social models and that you can change the world by creating quality media for children.

Great children's films can enhance a child's self-esteem, develop their interpersonal relationships, cognitive skills, and expand a child's career aspirations. Next week, Ann and I will present a workshop at the Moondance Film Festival challenging filmmakers and script-writers to accept the task of creating films for children that make a difference.

Part of KIDS FIRST!'s mission is to make quality media more visible and more readily available. Once you submit a title for evaluation and it receives our endorsement, it qualifies for inclusion in our Film Festival, as a title featured in our online store, as a title we review and feature on our website which gets a million hits a month. We encourage you to register through where our late deadline for our third quarter festivals is May 9 for their members.

A busy, productive month lies ahead. A big welcome goes out to all our new KIDS FIRST! Film and Video Festival partners including: the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque where we'll be screening titles in Spanish and English and the Betty Brimm Children's Museum in Milwaukee. Congratulations also to the Houston Children's Museum which is offering a sneak preview of Mad Hot Ballroom on June 1 with Radio Disney as their media partner. In Santa Fe, we're launching Saturday morning screenings at the Cinema Café in partnership with the Santa Fe Film Festival. For more information on any of these or our more than 42 partners for this quarter, please visit our Festival location page.

Much love,

Ranny Levy
Founder and President, KIDS FIRST!

Congratulations: New KIDS FIRST! Juror Graduates

JoAnn Detwiler-Johnson- "I am a stay-at-home military wife and mother of a preschooler. In the past, I've been a radio disc jockey and a horseback-riding instructor. My current dreams are to start a small boarding kennel, home-school my daughter, and spend lots of time trail riding. I wanted to become a KIDS FIRST! juror because I've learned so much from the newsletter and web site, and I hoped my participation would help strengthen it in some small way. I'm looking forward to helping my daughter and her friends develop their critical viewing skills (while exercising my own). I love the concept of integrating media literacy into daily life, and I'm excited about the chance to view and review titles that we might otherwise overlook."


Tie-Dyed Butterfly
Complements the KIDS FIRST!® endorsed title Barbie Fairytopia:

Materials: large circular coffee filters, washable magic markers, spray bottles filled with water, "pinch type" clothespins (optional: glue gun, construction paper or pipe cleaners, and "googly" eyes)

Preparation: 5 minutes - cut out antennae, fill water bottles, heat up hot glue gun
Activity time: 15-30 minutes

Give each child a coffee filter and have the child color on the filter with washable markers. Encourage dots and lots of colors. When they are finished coloring, spray the filters with water and watch the colors run together. Pinch the middle together so the filter looks like a bow tie, then fasten with a clothespin.
Cut out antennae from construction paper and glue on to the closed end of the clothespin or twist pipe cleaners into antennae and attach to the closed end of the clothespin. Glue on googly eyes if desired.

Movie information:
BARBIE FAIRYTOPIA - English and Spanish. Starring Barbie as Elina! Just through the rainbow, in the world of Fairytopia, lives Elina, a beautiful flower fairy who longs to have wings. One day Elina wakes to find that her flower home is sick, and that her fairy friends can't fly! She summons the courage to help and embarks on a fantastic journey to find Azura, a Guardian Fairy she thinks can solve the problem. What Elina doesn't know is that the evil Laverna has caused the flying sickness as part of her plan to take power from the Enchantress, ruler of Fairytopia! Elina's journey, on the back of a giant and beautiful butterfly named Hue takes her to amazing and beautiful places. She meets new people who test her courage and teach her the value of true friendship. But can a wingless fairy save all of Fairytopia?



***Baby and Parent Nursery: Ages and Stages Playtime. Adult. Sections for both parents and babies make this a valuable DVD for new parents. Stimulating images and music keep infants entertained, and up-to-date advice is given for parents who wish to maximize the potential in their baby's early development. 100 min. Brightening Minds, Inc. INC.

***Baku the Travel Bug: Making Friends Around the World. Ages 2-5. Baku the Travel Bug says, "Hola! Namaste! And Hello!" Baku is a loveable travel bug who lives inside the travel bag of his best friend and travel partner, Aunt Sydney. When children from the neighborhood visit Aunt Sydney's house, Baku pops out of the bag to share pictures from his magical Scrapbook. As Scrapbook makes the pictures come to life, children visit Mexico, India and Lebanon. Between making tostadas, dressing up in a sari, spinning the Big Globe, and learning to dance - Lebanese style! - kids will love this virtual adventure to faraway places and making friends around the world.


***The Danger Rangers, Mission 657 Safety Rules. Ages 5-8. Introducing The Danger Rangers brought to you by an Emmy & Oscar winning creative team headed by Howard Kazanjian (Star Wars). Empowering safety information is taught to children as they are entertained by the loveable animal superheroes. Top notch. Covers a lot of ground in a short time. Subtle humor adults will enjoy with the kids. Crisp animation with bold colors and lots of action. Upbeat music with creative lyrics. Important emergency and safety information invitingly packaged.


Video/DVD - Ages 2-5

*** BABYPRO: LET'S PLAY BALL. Features real-life sports imagery, inspiring classical music and
supportive voice-overs to create an engaging introduction to active play. Adult Juror Comments: Great way to introduce young children to baseball, basketball, and soccer. Viewers are exposed to basic sports terms, but nothing too complicated. Shows players of all skill levels, babies who try to put the ball in their mouth, toddlers tying to kick the ball, and older kids making awesome jump shots. Great picture quality. Excellent presentation, words are spoken clearly and images used demonstrate what it's trying to convey. Helps develop language while exposing kids to great classical music. Kid Juror Comments: Encourages kids to think about and become interested in playing sports. Some children were glued to the screen and went out to play ball afterward. They wanted to try some of the drills on their own. Other children were less interested. "I like the balls, the soccer ball and basketball." Kids cheered when the players made shots or goals. DVD. 35 min.; $14.95; Age: 1-4. BABYPRO.

Video/DVD-Ages 5-8

** VEGGIETALES: BOB & LARRY'S HOW TO DRAW. Join Larry the Cucumber and the artists from Big Idea to learn how to draw the VeggieTales characters. Adult Juror Comments: Humorous how-to-draw program. Appealing mix of live action and animation using adorable Veggie Tale characters. Fun music. Simple explanations are suitable for children capable of drawing and following instructions. Shows that everyone can draw. Kid Juror Comments: Drew along as they watched. "It was funny and it got my attention, but it wasn't really a story." Some kids used the techniques they had learned to draw other characters. "I would watch it again because I love to draw." "It was easy to understand." DVD. 90 min.; $9.99; Age: 5-8. BIG IDEA PRODUCTIONS, INC.

** VEGGIETALES: THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JOE. A Wild West Veggie bible yarn that teaches how to keep the faith when facing hardship because, in the end, God can work all things out for good. This is one bible lesson that will make the kids smile. Adult Juror Comments: Creative and funny. Lighthearted western theme makes the story of Joseph very child-friendly. Great animation and be-boppy, toe-tapping music. Balances jealousy and rivalry with optimism and forgiveness. "Shows positive values that everyone can use." Kid Juror Comments: Really enjoyed it. "This was a good one." "It was fun how they copied the Back Street Boys. That was cool." "The dust in the famine looked real." They could not understand why the brothers would do such a thing. "When someone is mean - forgive." DVD. 45 min.; $14.99; Age: 3-8. BIG IDEA PRODUCTIONS, INC.

** THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Inspired by her best-selling book, beloved artist Mary Engelbreit brings Clement C. Moore's classic alive in brilliant CGI animation. Adult Juror Comments: Sweet, funny and smart. Very professional production with worthwhile bonuses. Quality 3-D animation. Terrific sound. Expands a short story into an imaginative adventure that can be confusing. Strong message of consideration, remorse, and forgiveness. Kid Juror Comments: Joyfully danced and sang along to the songs in the story and in the "Sing Along" section. Loved seeing Santa and fairies. Asked a lot of questions. Some didn't understand the force field and other sequences. "Do fairies live in mushrooms?" DVD. 40 min.; $14.95; Age: 2-8. GOODTIMES.

Video/DVD-Ages 8-12

*** SHOW ME THE WILD! FAMILY DVD GAME. Quizzes families on the animal kingdom with more than 1,600 questions and dazzling video clips. A spoof of a survival reality TV show, host John Hurley takes players on a journey, exploring hundreds of fascinating animals. Adult Juror Comments: A great family game. Easy to use, simple-to-follow instructions. Answers are presented in different forms. Fun way to learn about animals. Adjusts for different skill levels and can be played by one to four players. There is no option to pause or exit; you must stop the game. Sometimes locks up and has to be re-started, causing everyone to lose their place. A bit of a guessing game, yet educational. Wonderful film footage of animals in their own surroundings. Kid Juror Comments: Most kids enjoyed playing the game. Those who play other video games found it very simple. Amazing images and cool animals. "It is a good game that tests how much you know about animals. You can play at your own level." "It was slow starting, but the animal videos are good." "The pictures are great, and the man is funny. We learned a lot about animals." "The questions they ask make me want to know more about the animals." DVD. 60 min.; $29.95; Age: 5-12. THE B EQUAL COMPANY.

** THE HOUSE ON CHRISTMAS STREET. Features four original holiday songs, plus Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the traditional style and the popular schoolyard style. Includes a Christmas tale written and narrated by Judy Pancoast. Adult Juror Comments: Engaging and entertaining for both adults and children. Helps develop good decision making and planning skills. Promotes admiration and love of family and friends. Emphasis on social skills such as accepting others, not teasing, respecting others, making and keeping friends, and helping others. Catchy, upbeat music. Professional music quality. Kid Juror Comments: Kids enjoyed the story and the music. They laughed and sang along. "I really liked it, especially the story, the pickle song, and the Rudolph song." "It shows us that we should help one another." "I really liked the story about the little tree, Freddie, because he was so happy when he finally got to be in someone's house for Christmas." Audio. 28 min.; $14.99; Age: 3-12.


Read more about each title and see many more at

The Berenstain Bears: Bears Mind Their Manners! Animation. Episodic
Please and thank you can make your day. They're as nice to hear as they are to say! Join the Berenstain Bears in a new set of adventures that focus on good manners and kindness to others. Bears Mind Their Manners features the six episodes: Say Please and Thank You, Papa's Pizza, Mighty Milton, Double Dare, The Big Blooper and Get the Gimmies. Close-Captioned. Ages 2-5; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.


Clarissa Explains It All, Season One. 328 min.
This classic Nickelodeon sitcom ran for five seasons, 65 episodes, beginning in 1991. Clarissa Explains it All focuses on the life of teenage Clarissa and her family, consisting of her annoying know-it-all younger brother, Ferguson, her eccentric health-conscious mother, Janet and her architect father, Marshall. In 1994, the series received an Emmy nomination for 'Outstanding Children's Program'. In addition, Melissa Joan Hart, Sean O'Neal, and Jason Zimbler also received multiple Young Artist Award nominations--Melissa won 3 for her role as Clarissa. Close-captioned. Ages 11-14. Paramount/ Nickelodeon.

Dora The Explorer: It's a Party! Animation. 98 min.
Include two main episodes plus two bonus titles. Daisy, La Quinceañera - Dora needs to bring the special crown and shoes to her cousin Daisy's 15th birthday party. Help her ride a robot bike, team up with Diego and Baby Jaguar, watch out for Swiper, and race to the fiesta. The Big Piñata - Step right up to the carnival with Dora and Boots! Help them win the Big piñata by collecting ten yellow tickets when they play carnival games. Just don't forget about Swiper! Two bonus episodes: The Fix It Machine and Surprise! French, Close-captioned. Ages 2-5. Paramount Home Entertainment.

Ghosts of Rwanda. Documentary. 90 minutes
GHOSTS OF RWANDA marks the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide with a documentary chronicling one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In addition to interviews with key government officials and diplomats, this documentary offers groundbreaking, eyewitness accounts of the genocide from those who experienced it firsthand: from Tutsi survivors who recount the horror of seeing their friends and family members slaughtered by neighbors and coworkers, to the diplomats on the scene who struggled to convey the severity of the crisis to Washington, to the UN peacekeepers stationed amid the carnage who were ordered not to intervene, in the slaughter of 800,000 people. Ages 12-18. Paramount Home Entertainment/PBS.

Maya and Miguel. Animation. 28 min.
Lively and colorful, this animated comedy chronicles the adventures of irrepressible 10-year-old twins Maya and Miguel Santos, their loving family, friends, and their bilingual pet parrot Paco. While every episode takes humorous twists and turns, the underlying message is that shared happiness is greater than personal gain. In "The Autograph," Paco unwittingly destroys Miguel's favorite Orlando Cruz baseball card. Maya decides to fix the situation by getting an autograph from Orlando himself, who is coming to town that weekend with his team. What ensues is a series of escapades where the kids try to get ever closer to the star by impersonating a boy-band, vendors, and a big furry mascot. Directed by Tony Kluck. Ages 5-12. Scholastic Entertainment.

Peep and the Big Wide World. Flash Animation. 44 min. 4/11 min. Episodes
Based on characters created by Academy Award nominated animator Kai Pindal (Karate Kids), PEEP combines animation and short live-action interstitials to nurture preschoolers' curiosity about the natural world. Includes: Peep Plants a Seed - Peep discovers a patch of sunflowers and decides to grow one for himself. The Root Problem- There's a snake in Quack's pond! (Fish are one thing, but a snake is completely unacceptable.) Wanderin Beaver - Beaver Boy wants to visit Quack's pond but keeps getting lost. (Quack is just hopeless at giving directions.) Peep's New Friend - Peep befriends a caterpillar, only to discover that some friendships are bound to change. Directed by Rick Marshall. Actors: Joan Cusack (Narrator), Jamie Watson (Quack), Scott Beaudin (Peep), Amanda Soha (Chirp). Ages 2-5. Discovery Kids and WGBH.


Judy Pancoast Hosts the "Playlist" on XM Satellite Radio
Fans of Judy Pancoast heard her in a special show on XM Satellite Radio. Judy, an award winning recording artist and performer, hosted the XM Radio feature show, entitled, "The Playlist," on Friday, April 29. "The Playlist" is a unique XM Radio feature program where renowned artists select some of their favorite songs, including those special songs that influenced their careers. These songs are then played along with current songs from the featured performer to comprise the full program.

Gina D Wins an Award!
Congratulations to Gina D's Kids Club! Produced by MG Studios, the "Gina D's Kids Club, Journey to the Land of Dinosaurs" episode received this years' 2005 Bronze Telly Award for Children's Programming.
The Telly Awards was founded in 1978 by David E. Carter, a past Emmy and Clio® winner, to honor excellence in local, regional, and cable TV commercials. Non-broadcast video and TV program categories were soon added. Today, the Telly is one of the most sought-after awards by industry leaders, from large international firms to local production companies and ad agencies.

Nursery Tap, Hip to Toe Wins a George Foster Peabody Award!
During the awards ceremony on May 16th, this KIDS FIRST!® endorsed title will be the only children's program in the world to receive this award this year. Our congratulations go to Juleen Murray Saw, producer of Nursery Tap. This title is available for purchase at

Home video success led to Real Wheels picked up by Public Television.
Now in its second season, it can be seen in over 40% of the country. Many of the Real Wheels titles are endorsed by KIDS FIRST!® and can be found in our web store at

VeggieTales on Your TV
VeggieTales: Duke and the Great Pie War will begin airing through APT in late April on 57% of the public television market. Check your local listings for times in your area. Then, from June 10-22, VeggieTales will celebrate a new DVD premiere-"Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Sampson's Hairbrush."

VeggieTales Rockin' Tour LIVE
VeggieTales fans should get ready to sing, dance and laugh! The VeggieTales gang is hitting the road to perform their silly songs for audiences nationwide during their 31-city, major market VeggieTales Rockin' Tour LIVE! Fans can experience the silliness at top venues across the country.


For years, the idea of Jimmy Sport wandered through the mind of Deron Brofft. When Deron began coaching his three-year-old son Trevor's soccer team, he was unable to find quality products or other materials available to teach young children about the fun of playing sports and being a team player. Early in 2004, Deron shared his idea of Jimmy Sport with Jim Solinsky. The creative and motivated minds of the two friends and business partners spent hours developing and molding Jimmy Sport into a fun, exciting, and captivating dog. Jimmy Sport and his products promote a positive, healthy, and active image for children ages birth to 8. Jimmy Sport hopes that by using his videos, games, and other products to come, children will learn beneficial life skills and understand that: Playing Sports is Fun!


BABYPRO is an innovative and multi-award-winning children's educational media company that is committed to encouraging active play for infants and toddlers. BABYPRO believes a child's interest in sports and active play should be cultivated from infancy because studies show that babies who play actively are often healthier, have increased motor skills, and greater self-confidence. Finally, BABYPRO hopes that active babies grow up to become active adults, and their slogan reinforces that desire: "Encouraging active play... for a lifetime!"

Nitelite is a home-based company that is dedicated to the betterment of children and families. They realized that children learn through repetition and that routines and rituals are critical in the life of infants and toddlers. They created Volume #1 Helping Little Ones Learn Their ABC's based on the fundamental building blocks of language, the alphabet. Because repetition is key, their videos automatically replay over and over again so children will be exposed to the ABCs all night long. Parents can catch their eight hours, while the alphabet seeps into babies rapidly expanding brains. (Appropriate for daytime learning as well).

Gore Launches TV Channel for Young Viewers
Al Gore has a plan for luring the Internet generation back to television: make it more participatory by having viewers contribute their own video. Current, the cable TV channel, will target 18 to 34-year-old viewers with a blend of news, culture, and viewer-produced video.

Brain Games
Look at the video game of the future where smell, taste, and touch are all part of the game. PlayStation maker Sony Corp. has been granted a patent for beaming sensory information directly into the brain.

Mc Donald's Hip Hop Plans
The fast food giant has hired Maven Strategies to entice rappers to write songs that specifically mention the Big Mac, and hopes to have several tracks on the air by this summer. "This campaign undermines McDonald's claim that they are serious about combating childhood obesity," said psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint, of the Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School, who noted hip-hop's enormous popularity with preteens and teens. "Even as McDonald's is drawing praise for pushing salads and apples, they are finding new ways to market high calorie standbys like the Big Mac to children."


New Food Pyramid
Plug in your age, sex, and activity level then find out your average dietary needs for optimal health according to the new food pyramid.

PBS' "History Detectives" Unravels New Mysteries
Providing answers to the familiar query-- "Hey, what's the story with that?"--the critically acclaimed PBS series, "History Detectives" returns for its third season on Monday, June 27 at 9PM ET/PT. Combining the latest forensic technology with old-fashioned, pavement-pounding detective work, the series lifts the lid on intriguing artifacts and objects, family legends, and local folklore in cities and small towns across America.

The Modem and Modern Education- High School Goes Virtual
About 25 percent of K-12 public schools offer some form of virtual instruction, according to the National Education Technology Plan, released by the U.S. Department of Education in January. Within the next decade, the report predicts, almost every state and school will follow.

Books to Big Screen with Buena Vista and Weston Woods
by Christine L. Pollock

"How would you turn this thirty-four-word book into a film?" I asked about eighty 6-to-15-year-olds at the Houghton Homeschool Co-Op last autumn after reading them Chris Raschka's "Yo! Yes?" The kids impressed me with their many suggestions. Then, we watched how one studio, Weston Woods (a subsidiary of Scholastic), did it.

A child raised his hand and asked, "How come they chose that book with so little words?" It was a good question. How do the major studios choose titles and create the films? I turned to two studios, Weston Woods and Buena Vista Motions Pictures Group, to find out.

For more than 50 years Weston Woods Studios has been "the principal innovator in the translation of picture books into the audiovisual media," according to their web site. Linda Lee, vice president of Weston Woods Studios, attributes their success to their dedication to quality in every aspect of the filmmaking process.

Lee's goal at Weston Woods is to produce high-quality films for the young children's market based on captivating material. She believes that kids deserve a chance to experience beautiful artwork and superior music. Children watching the Weston Woods titles experience artwork ranging from pastels to watercolors to full animation. Lee hopes that through their titles, children will want to read the books that inspired the films. "Literacy is the twenty-first century skill that is most important. The easiest way for parents to help their children is to read to them," Lee stresses.

Before a book becomes a film at Weston Woods Studios, it must meet the approval of all members of the selection committee. This committee analyzes books and considers reviews, book sales, awards, and classic titles such as "Where the Wild Things Are." Similar to the KIDS FIRST!® criteria, they look for material that does not contain stereotypes and has universal appeal to children. Morton Schindel, founder of Weston Woods and an Honorary Board member of CQCM, created a system he called the "Five Cornerstones" to guide the selection process:

1. The message itself: Does it have a strong message that will reach the viewers?
2. Audience: Will it grab the viewer without being too simple or too difficult to follow?
3. Objective: What is the book trying to achieve?
4. Context: Will the subject connect to the world of the audience?
5. Medium: What would be the best way to deliver the message of the book? Should they use iconography (panning cameras over the book, simulating movement), cartooning, or real life?

Once a book and the medium are selected, a production team works closely with the author to pick the artist for the medium, the music, and the best voices for the animated characters-. Often celebrities are chosen, like Meryl Streep in "Chrysanthemum" and Cyndi Lauper in "The Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly." The goal is to keep the story as close to the original as possible, using the text verbatim whenever possible.

On the rare occasions when the text can't be used verbatim, the studio requests permission from the authors to change it. Frequently, the authors will do the re-write themselves. For example, if the book has even one swear word in it, the studio first offers the author the chance to reword it. The films generally take four to nine months to complete, depending on the medium. Weston Woods releases fourteen to sixteen film titles a year.

Lee adds that even though modern film techniques can create eye-catching, breath-taking productions, the point of children's films is to reach and inspire children, not technology mavens. She makes sure films produced by Weston Woods have children's interests as their primary goal.

While sharing the goal of providing quality media for children, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group (a division of Disney) differs from Weston Woods by bringing books for audiences of all ages to the big screen. The studio is currently filming "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," by C. S. Lewis. Nina Jacobson, president of Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, was in London, England, for the premiere of Buena Vista's film version of Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" when we did this interview via telephone.

When Jacobson considers a book for a film, she is looking for a solid story with distinct, strong characters. Often it helps if a book is well known, although that also presents a challenge. Movies such as "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" can be "tough to crack," says Jacobson. It has many dedicated fans who have studied the book and yet it might be new to others.

When a book is selected by Buena Vista Motions Pictures Group to be made into a movie, the studio first looks for a screenwriter. Finding a screenwriter can take a long time as the studios ask several screenwriters to pitch how they would adapt the story for film in order to find the person with the best ideas. The screenwriter distills the essence of the book to a script that is usually no longer than 125 pages, no matter what the length of the original book was.

After the script is finished, a director is chosen. The director chooses actors to be in the film, including voiceover actors if the film is animated. The director is responsible for creating the film with the help of cinematographers, actors, editors, and crew.

Jacobson's task as president is to oversee the production of all titles while honoring her personal goal to preserve the wonder and innocence of childhood. Jacobson believes that there is no need to rush into adulthood. As a mother of two children, she wants families to enjoy watching films without worries. Parents shouldn't be confronted with teaching their children about developmentally inappropriate issues just because the children are asking questions based on a scene they saw in a film.

"We are trying to produce films that make for great conversations in the car ride home," Jacobson adds. Her plan is to create movies that are not disposable, movies that will stand the test of time and that families will want to own on DVD. How many times have you and your family watched "Princess Diaries 2" or "Holes"? Since family time seems harder and harder to achieve, Jacobson, like KIDS FIRST!®, wants to ensure that families have an enjoyable and rewarding viewing experience.

I asked Jacobson what tips she could give an aspiring filmmaker of children's productions. She pointed out that the filmmaker must know that it all starts with a great character-driven story. "Pay attention to real people and identify real emotions. A movie only impacts the audience if they care about the people/creatures in the movie. Don't get discouraged. A great screenplay will take lots of re-writes and revising. Listen to the constructive criticism of others. Remember that filmmaking is the ultimate team sport. Open your mind to other people's ideas."

Those of us who review titles for KIDS FIRST!® applaud the efforts and hard work of Weston Woods and Buena Vista. Many of their titles are endorsed and voted All-Star by our jurors. If you are interested in viewing the titles we endorse, go to our web site ( and do a product search for "Buena Vista" and "Weston Woods." It's wonderful to see these big production studios working hard to put kids first.

KIDS FIRST!® Film and Video Festival Schedule
Join us as we travel around the country with film festivals. Find out when we will be in a town near you. For details read here
Austin Public Library Austin TX
Avalon Theater Washington DC
Belcourt Theater Nashville TN
Betty Brinn Children's Museum Milwaukee WI
Children's Museum of Houston Houston TX
Children's Museum of LaCrosse La Crosse WI
Childress Public Library Childress TX
Cinema Center Fort Wayne IN
Clute Library Clute TX
Community Cinema Spring TX
Coolidge Corner Theater Brookline MA
Crockett County Public Library Ozona TX
Crockett Public Library Crockett TX
Denver Film Society Denver CO
Ector County Library Odessa TX
Explora Science Center Children's Museum Albuquerque NM
F.M. Buck Richards Memorial Library Brady TX
Film Center at the Cinema Cafe Santa Fe NM
Hillsboro City Library Hillsboro TX
LaMarque Public Library LaMarque TX
Little Elm Public Library Little Elm TX
Long Island Children's Museum Garden City NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Los Angeles CA
Los Angeles Zoo* Los Angeles CA
Louisiana Children's Museum New Orleans LA
Moondance Film Festival Boulder CO
National Hispanic Cultural Center Albuquerque NM
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center* Cincinnati OH
Newport Beach Film Festival Newport Beach CA
Oklahoma City Art Museum Oklahoma City OK
Palestine Public Library Palestine TX
PeaceJam Santa Fe NM
Pearland Public Library Pearland TX
Pflugerville Community Library Pflugerville TX
Phoenix Art Museum Phoenix AZ
Phoenix Film Festival Phoenix AZ
Prince Music Theater Philadelphia PA
Round Rock Public Library Round Rock TX
Santa Barbara International Film Festival* Santa Barbara CA
Schleicher Co. Public Library Eldorado TX
USA Film Festival - Dallas Dallas TX
Van Alstyne Public Library Van Alstyne TX

Other Events:
May 6, Manchester, New Hampshire: From 10:30-11 am, award winning children's recording artist, Judy Pancoast, will perform a free 30-minute concert at the annual Week of the Child celebration in downtown Manchester at Victory Park. It is sponsored by the Manchester Childcare Committee and is designed to raise awareness of the need for quality care for young children. More information at

June 6-11, Taos, New Mexico: The Taos Teen Media Camp. The conference will offer 3 week-long media workshops for high school age students from Taos County. The workshops will teach production skills for video, radio, and print media. A total of 30 students will be accepted with 10 in each workshop.

June 25-28, San Francisco: "Giving Voice to a Diverse Nation." The Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA) is committed to promoting media literacy education that is focused on critical inquiry, learning, and skill-building.

August 1-4, Albuquerque, NM: Summer 2005 Catalyst Institute. An intensive four-day training experience in media literacy concepts and skills. Participants are led in workshops, exercises, video screenings and discussions designed to deepen understanding of media issues and provide a solid foundation for media activism.

September 28-October 2, Las Vegas, Nevada: The 27th National Media Market will be at the newly renovated Alexis Park Resort. The National Media Market presents an exceptional opportunity for media professionals who purchase for public libraries, universities, media/technology centers, and educational broadcasting to screen the newest and best quality motion media from more than fifty prominent producers and distributors. KIDS FIRST! President, Ranny Levy, is a panelist on 'building library collections.' For more information email [email protected], or visit the website,

Become a Coalition for Quality Children's Media Member

If you've found our e-zine and web site helpful, please consider becoming a member of KIDS FIRST!® Members help underwrite the various projects of this organization. The Coalition for Quality Children's Media's relies on the generous support of its members and donors to support its programs. An individual/family membership is only $25/year. An organizational membership is $100/year. An independent producer membership is $200. To join, go to: or contact our office at 505.989.8076.

VISIT OUR MEMBERS' SITES ******************
Please visit our website for an up-to-date list of Coalition members by clicking here:



To SUBSCRIBE to our free e-zine, KIDS FIRST!® NEWS: Send e-mail to [email protected] Or fill out the simple form at: To leave this list, send e-mail to [email protected] or use the link below:

This newsletter may be reprinted with permission. Write to: [email protected]
Copyright 2002 by Coalition for Quality Children's Media,

KIDS FIRST!® is the not-for-profit Coalition for Quality Children's Media's initiative that evaluates and rates children's media - videotapes, CD-ROMs and television - using a highly acclaimed method that has been praised by parents and educators alike. It utilizes professionally designed criteria and evaluation tools and engages a volunteer jury comprising child development professionals, teachers and parents nationwide and children of diverse geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. KIDS FIRST!® endorsed titles appeal to people around the world and include many programs on topics important to children's development. KIDS FIRST!®-endorsed titles are available on CQCM's award-winning Internet site, in the KIDS FIRST!® Film and Video Festival and in reviews we provide to more than 75 publications.

CQCM evaluates feature films, television programs, videos, CD-ROM, DVDs and audio recordings. For an application form and application deadlines, visit our website at, call our office (505.989.8076)

Coalition for Quality Children's Media, 112 W. San Francisco St., Suite 305A, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

CQCM Newsletter Archive
2004 / 2003 / 2002
2001 / 2000 / 1999 / 1998
1997a 1997 b
Subscribe to KIDS FIRST! free monthly e-zine for news and specials: