Up to date information about children's entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for February, 2008

Ni Ho, Kai-lan Welcomes in Chinese New Year

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Ni Hao, Kai-lan, the new animated series from Nick Jr. is a play-along, think-along series that introduces preschoolers to both the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. The premiere episode, “Dragon Boat Festival,” debuts on Nick Jr. on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. ET, the first day of Chinese New Year.

Ni Hao, Kai-lan is Nick Jr.’s first play-along, think-along series to feature an intergenerational family. Through the eyes of five-year-old Kai-lan, the series explores the colorful aspects of her upbringing and background. The series is based on creator Karen Chau’s memories of growing up in a bicultural and is steeped in her personal experiences from living in a bicultural Chinese-American household. Ni hao means “hi” in Mandarin Chinese. Kai-lan is Ms. Chau’s given name before it was Anglicized to Karen and the character resembles Ms. Chau as a young child. Kai-lan Chau is an exuberant Chinese-American five-year-old who invites viewers to come play with her and her best friends.

Just as Dora and Diego popularized biculturalism for the Latino culture, Kai-lan represents the next generation of preschool programming exploring biculturalism in an expanded way for Chinese-Americans. Kai-lan weaves together being bilingual with being bicultural. The show familiarizes viewers with aspects of Chinese American culture while it introduces its language. At the same time, it celebrates growing up in an intergenerational family and having friends from diverse backgrounds.

Along the way, the show incorporates other concepts important in preschool programming. Ideas such as taking turns, disappointment and jealousy. And, it supports an emotional intelligence curriculum lighting cause and effect thinking in the social/emotional world. The show provides simple coping strategies, often set to catchy simple songs. Every episode follows the adventures of Kai-lan and her friends as they learn to identify their emotions and stop to consider the feelings of others. They tackle issues such as what causes Rintoo to get mad or how patience and practice help Tolee get better at rhyming.

Kai-lan’s world is brimming with magical sights and sounds that are colorfully and simply executed. The animation is based on Ms. Chau’s drawings which are engaging but simple. The characters are also quite charming. YeYe, Kai-lan’s grandpa, is a character whose world is full of Chinese customs and traditions that he wants to pass on to his granddaughter. Tolee is a five-year-old panda-loving koala who is the thinker of the group. Hoho the monkey brings his boundless energy to the group and Rintoo is a rambunctious five-year-old tiger with a thirst for adventure and thrills, but beneath it all is sweet and caring.

The stories range from The Dragon Boat Festival to the big lantern festival which celebrates the end of Chinese New Year. Emotions are explored such as anger, “when you feel too mad, the first thing you do, is calm, calm down.” Or, listening, “I put my hand to my ear that helps me to hear. Ting! I use my eyes to see who’s talking to me. Listen, listen, listen. Ting!” Or, patience, “When waiting is really hard for you, just do something you like to do.”

Interest in learning the Mandarin Chinese language is increasing dramatically in the US where an estimated 50,000 American children are being taught Mandarin in public schools, with an additional 50,000 studying in private settings. At the same time, some 300 million Chinese are learning English – a sign of China’s increasing impact on our global culture. This series, and others like it provide a growing desire for US citizens to learn this somewhat complicated language.

“Good luck Ni Hao Kai-lan – we hope you are a grand success.” From your fans at KIDS FIRST!

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Happy Birthday Elmo!

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Who doesn’t know Elmo, the furry red three and a half-year-old Muppet on Sesame Street who refers to himself in the third person – “Elmo has a question.” Elmo’s World is aimed at toddlers just like him. On his show, he is joined by his goldfish Dorothy and the Noodle Family, Mr. Noodle, Mr. Noodle’s Brother Mr. Noodle, and Mr. Noodle’s Sister Ms. Noodle. His puppeteer is Kevin Clash who serves as Sesame Street Muppet Captain, Director and Co-executive producer. You might remember when, in 1996, an interactive doll called “Tickle Me Elmo” came out at holiday time and was a smashing success with consumers fighting over the limited supply. Elmo has also been in the movies, starring in “Elmo in Grouchland” and “Elmo Saves Christmas and appearing in “Follow That Bird,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” and “A Muppet Family Christmas.” Elmo has been involved in politics, appearing in “The West Wing” and testifying before the U.S. Congress. Elmo appeared on Emeril Lagasse’s show as part of the Food Network’s second annual “Cook With Your Kids Week.” Today is Emo’s birthday and I had a chance to talk with him last week to find out about his birthday plans.

Note to parents: Elmo’s new DVD, “Elmo’s World: Opposites” arrives in stores in just two days, on DVD February 5th,

RL: Happy Birthday Elmo! How old are you going to be?
Elmo: Still 3 1/2. In monster years we age very, very slowly.

RL: How will you celebrate your birthday this year: Any big plans?
Elmo: Elmo’s Mommy and Daddy are going to throw him a party with all of Elmo’s friends and family on Sesame Street!!

RL: You have done so MANY things on Sesame Street over the years. What has been one of your favorite experiences?
Elmo: Getting to sing and dance with Chris Brown. He’s a really good dancer but, Elmo kept up with him.

RL: What is the most fun thing that you and your friends have ever done on Sesame Street?
Elmo: One of the most fun things for Elmo is getting to ride Snuffy sometimes and having playdates with Elmo’s friends!!

RL: You appeared on Emeril Lagasse’s show and also made a DVD about eating healthy called “A Magic Cookbook.” What was that like? What was your favorite food that you made with Emeril?

Elmo: He’s a very nice man and a good cook too. We made some yummy food like strawberry ice cream, dinosaur sandwiches, and pizza. Emeril taught me how to BAM on the pizza toppings!

RL: You testified before the United States Congress and appeared on “The West Wing.” Will you be involved in the political campaigns this year at all? What do you think is the most important thing to look for in a presidential candidate?

Elmo: Elmo’s Mommy and Daddy are more into that stuff then Elmo but, when Elmo ask them questions about it they tell Elmo that the most important thing they look for in the next President is how what they want to change will effect Elmo (the children) and if there’s a monster running that year.

RL: What are you up to in 2008?
Elmo: Hopefully having just as much fun as Elmo had in two thousand and seven!!!

RL: Thanks for taking time to chat with me, Elmo. Is there anything else you’d like to add – any message for all the kids reading this? (or being read to)
Elmo: That Elmo loves all of you and happy, happy two thousand and eight!!

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Writers’ Strike Breakthrough?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Word out this weekend is that it looks like there’s an end in sight of the Writer’s Guild of America strike. Apparently, the WGA and the studios came to a happy resolution on Friday and the drafts for contracts were being written up over the weekend. Once everyone agrees, it goes out to vote by the WGA members. The terms concerning the Writers Guild’s key issue about Internet streaming apparently are slightly different from those in the Directors Guild of America agreement but, according all reports – agreeable to both sides.
So, keep your fingers crossed.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Concerned about Social Networking Sites

Monday, February 4th, 2008

In a report released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics expresses concern about social networking sites. Despite the recent focus on restricting access to social networking Web sites to protect children, researchers have found that victimization online is more likely to occur through instant messaging and in chat rooms. The Growing up With Media survey asked nearly 1,600 Internet users between the ages of 10 to 15 about their online experiences over the past year. Fifteen percent reported an unwanted sexual solicitation in that time, with about one-fourth of those occurring on a social networking site. Thirty-three percent reported online harassment, with about one-fourth of the incidents occurring on a social networking site. Among targeted youth, solicitations were reported to be via instant messaging (43 percent of incidents) or in chat rooms (32 percent of incidents). Harassment was more common in instant messaging (55 percent of incidents). The authors suggest that parents should focus on children’s online behaviors and psychosocial issues rather than on restricting use of social networking sites. They also recommend that policy aimed at reducing children’s victimization on the Internet focus on mental health interventions for vulnerable youth, and broad Internet safety education.

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