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

Archive for August, 2012


Friday, August 31st, 2012

Twelve children have been selected as winners of the national PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest, an initiative designed to promote the advancement of children’s reading skills through hands-on, active learning. The winning entries (first, second and third place from grades K-3) for the Contest, managed by local PBS member station WNED, were chosen from over thousands of submissions from 63 participating stations across the country.

“We are proud of the accomplishments of these talented young writers and illustrators, and offer our thanks to all of the children that participated in this year’s PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS.  “This annual event is one of the ways that PBS KIDS and our local stations help build children’s creativity and improve literacy skills in a fun and engaging way.”

The national Contest winners will be awarded prizes, including tablets, e-readers and MP3 players for their outstanding stories.  For the first time, stories could be digitally submitted to the Contest through a tool developed by new sponsor, StudentPublishing.com.  Every participant that used the tool received a free animated digital book of their story that they can share with others, including parents who can purchase bound copies of the entry as a keepsake for years to come.  As in years past, winning entries in each of the Contest categories will be featured on the site, PBSKIDS.org/writerscontest, and visitors to the Contest site will continue to have the opportunity to create “Story Mashups” with winning stories.

The 2012 national winners include:


1st – The Elephant Ballerina, by Hannah Grace Hammontree, Cohutta, GA – WTCI

2nd – Abby the Talking Giraffe, by Ella Black, North Huntington, PA –WQED

3rd – Fury the Cat Has a Birthday Party, by Alex Beeman, Platte City, MO – KCPT

First Grade

1st – Jim’s Crazy Bus Week, by Edward Krzemienski, Muncie, IN – WIPB

2nd – Clark the Circus Pig, by Rain Vassey, Lincoln, DE – Independent entry

3rd – Tacky Turkey’s BIG Adventure!, by Ehren Collins, Lakewood, OH – WVIZ

Second Grade

1st – Aly’s Great Adventures, by Cheryl Kaye Marshall, Birmingham, AL – WBIQ

2nd – Guinea Pigs Don’t Go to School, by Ella Walker, Watertown, WI – WPNE

3rd – How Jordan the Giraffe Learned to Love, by Finn LeSieur, Newport Beach, CA – PBS SoCal

Third Grade

1st – Scribbles For Fame, by Nikolai Ortiz, Corpus Christie, TX – KEDT

2nd – The Mystery of the Attic Intruder, by Daniel Trimble, Pittsburgh, PA – WQED

3rd – The Lake, by Elliott Feldman, Sturgeon Bay, WI – WPNE

PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest Judges

A diverse panel of prestigious judges, including leading children’s authors, illustrators, producers and content experts, served as the final judges in this year’s Contest. This year’s judges include:

Tony DiTerlizzi – New York Times best-selling co-creator and illustrator of middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles, which has sold millions of copies, been adapted into a feature film, and has been translated in over 30 countries.  He has also created fanciful picture books such as Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure, the Adventure of Meno series (with his wife, Angela) and Caldecott Honor book, The Spider & The Fly.

Lisa Henson – Chief Executive Officer of The Jim Henson Company, Henson serves as an executive producer of Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train, both currently airing daily on PBS KIDS, and Pajanimals, a musical puppet series airing daily on Sprout.

Jewel – Three-time Grammy Award nominated singer, songwriter and author, who recently released her second children’s album, The Merry Goes ‘Round, and will release a children’s book this September titled That’s What I’d Do.

Kate Klimo – As Vice President and Publisher of the Random House/Golden Books Group, she has been responsible for extending the Seuss brand into new formats including board and novelty books, and publishing non-fiction celebrations of Dr. Seuss’s life and works. Klimo has nearly 30 years of experience at Random House; more than 15 of them spent working on All Things Seuss. She is also the production executive of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!

Jarrett Krosoczka – Two-time winner of the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year in the Children’s Choice Book Awards, author and illustrator for sixteen published books – ten picture books and six graphic novels.  He has seen his work recommended by national publications like Newsweek, The New York Times and USA Today. His Punk Farm and Lunch Lady series are also in development to be feature films.

Susan Meddaugh – Author and illustrator of Martha Speaks, the best-selling book series, as well as a creative producer of the award-winning PBS KIDS series of the same name.

Ozomatli – Grammy award-winning band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers and U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors.

Mo Willems – Recipient of 3 Caldecott Honors, 2 Geisel Medals, 2 Carnegie Medals, 6 Emmys and a Geisel Honor. Having worked in children’s books, animation, television, theater, and bubble gum card painting, his most recent book is Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator, a portrait of the relationship between a girl and her stuffed alligator told in 6-1/2 stories.  Recent and upcoming non-bubble gum card projects include the New York Times bestseller Duckling Gets a Cookie!? and a new Elephant and Piggie book, Listen to My Trumpet!

The Weepies – Deb Talan and Steve Tannen began writing together the night they first met and soon formed The Weepies. The Indie duo has sold more than a million singles and half a million albums. Their simple and direct songwriting has sent them to the top of the folk charts in a dozen countries.

For more information on specific PBS KIDS GO! content supporting literacy, science, math and more, visit PBS.org/pressroom, join their community online on Twitter and Facebook, or visit PBSKIDSGO.org.

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GLEE Season 3 PSA: “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.”

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the State Attorneys General and Consumer Protection Agencies and the Ad Counciljoined with Twentieth Century Fox Television and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to unveil new public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring scenes from season three of Fox’s award-winning television series “Glee” to educate young adult drivers (16-24) of the dangers of texting while driving.

Earlier this year, the Golden Globe winning series made headlines when a pivotal cliffhanger episode ended with a shocking and catastrophic crash due to texting and driving. Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) was driving to her friends’ (Rachel and Finn, played by Lea Michele and Cory Monteith) wedding when a she received a text. She took her eyes off the road to read it and to type the words “On My Way” for a matter of seconds, but in her distraction she swerved out of her lane and was hit in a tragic accident by an oncoming vehicle. It was months before the audience and “Glee’s” millions of young adult viewers would know the fate of her character, but the message was clear: texting and driving can have horrific consequences.

The new television and digital PSAs employ this powerful scene to emphasize that five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting and driving – when driving at 55 miles per hour, that is enough time to cover the length of a football field. The PSAs direct young adult drivers to the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign web site, StopTextsStopWrecks.org, where teens and young adults can find facts about the impact of texting while driving and tips for how to curb the behavior.

NHTSA reports that in 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted driving, which includes texting while driving. The “Glee” PSAs are part of NHSTA, the State Attorneys Generaland Consumer Protection Agencies and the Ad Council’s national Texting and Driving Prevention PSA campaign. Launched in October 2011, this campaign is designed to curb the behavior of young adults who text while driving, address the compulsion of this behavior and demonstrate to overconfident young adult drivers that it is not safe to text while driving.

“Texting and driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, but these crashes are preventable. Distracted driving does not just happen, it’s a choice,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The first line of defense must be personal responsibility by all drivers to put theirwireless devices away and keep their focus on the road, which is why we are working closely with our partners to build public awareness around this important safety issue.”

“This was a story we wanted to tell because we know the influence our show can have in starting conversations and raising awareness,” commented “Glee” executive producer and co-creator Ryan Murphy. “We were inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s campaign encouraging everyone to sign a pledge not to text and drive, which we all signed when we did her show a few yearsago, and we had been looking for an opportunity to tell the story of how a few seconds of carelessness could have a devastating impact on people’s lives. We’ve already heard from thousands of our fans how this story touched them, and we loved the idea of a PSA campaign to keep this important issue front and center.”

“’Glee’ has always told stories that speak to young people in an incredibly entertaining way, provoking conversation and raising awareness in the process,” said Dana Walden and Gary Newman, Chairmen of Twentieth Century Fox Television.  “When Ryan and the producers told us they were going to tackle this issue, we knew that beyond telling agreat, dramatic story about our characters, it could have very real impact on the lives of our viewers. We couldn’t be more proud of the work they and the cast have done on this incredible series.”

According to a new, national survey conducted by the Ad Council, there has been progress with the attitudes and behaviors among young adult drivers regarding texting while driving.  Fifty-one percent of young adult drivers report that they are “extremely concerned” about their peers texting while driving, which represents an increase of seven percent since September 2011.  Most notably, in regards to their current behavior, thirty-four percent of respondents said that they never text while driving, a significant increase from twenty-eight percent in 2011.

“Driving is one of the most dangerous activities for young adults. Texting while driving is a distraction that young drivers can live without,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, the father of two teenage boys. “Drivers of any age should be aware that texting while driving may not only jeopardize the safety of themselves and others, but it can violate state motor vehicle laws against distracted driving and result in hefty fines or loss of driving privileges.”

“We are thrilled to join Twentieth Century Fox Television, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and ‘Glee’ to unveil a new series of public service ads to further extend our texting while driving prevention messages to their vast audience of young adult drivers,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our latest research shows a nation that is now on the right track in improving the safety of our roads, but there is still more work to be done. We will continue to broaden our campaign messages to help reduce driver distraction, prevent injuries, and ultimately save lives.”

Since 2006, the Ad Council has partnered with the State Attorneys General to address reckless driving among teens. The “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.” campaign effort has received more than $20 million in donated media support to date.  For more than twenty-five years, the Ad Council and NHTSA have worked together on consumer safety PSA campaigns. Per the Ad Council’s model, all of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

PSA: http://youtu.be/hfvUKq_xkfo

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Interview With Emily Vancamp For The DVD Release Of Revenge: The Complete First Season

Monday, August 20th, 2012

ABC’s popular thriller Revenge follows the story of Emily Thorne [played by Emily VanCamp], a new arrival in the Hamptons. By all appearances, Emily is a friendly and sophisticated ‘girl next door’, whose disarming charm and generosity allow her seamless access to the restricted circles of Hamptons’ high society. But the affluent, exclusive world she’s immersed herself in is tied to a dark family history, and Emily Thorne is anything but what she seems. When Emily was just nine years old, her father was framed for a horrific crime by neighbors he trusted, and was sentenced to life in prison. Emily never saw her father again and spent her childhood consumed by rage, loss and betrayal.

Now, 17 years later, she has returned under an assumed identity with one endgame: REVENGE. Emily’s goal is unwavering, and her sharp mind is always five steps ahead. However, when her past begins to catch up, her true heart may get caught in the crossfire as she prepares to battle with Victoria and Conrad Grayson [played by Madeleine Stowe and Henry Czerny]; the high-brow Hamptons couple that hide many of the secrets about the events that destroyed Emily’s life.

With Revenge: The Complete First Season about to be released on DVD, we catch up with actress Emily VanCamp – who plays Emily Thorne and Amanda Clarke in the show – to find out more…

What attracted you to Revenge?
As soon as I read the script for Revenge, I fell in love with the project. I wanted to do something different from Brothers & Sisters, so I waited for the right show to come along – and Revenge was exactly that. I didn’t want to jump into the next project unless I really felt excited about it, but I was enthralled with Revenge. We had no idea if the audience would respond to the show and we didn’t know if it would do well, but I really wanted to do the pilot and see where it went from there because the script really spoke to me. It was certainly the most challenging role I read that pilot season, and it was the most juicy and exciting part. From the beginning, I could see myself enjoying the show for a very long time.

Is it easy to play a character like this?
A lot of research goes into a role like Emily. It’s a lot less about drawing on my own personal experiences, but drawing on more of the pool of research that I had to do. There was a lot of thinking and a lot of developing the character, which was so much fun for me. I was ready to do that. I really wanted to tackle something different and I really wanted to be challenged. I was really excited.

Have you felt any pressure in being the star of the show?
Absolutely! There’s an immense amount of pressure that came with this role. I never really experienced anything like this before, but I just had to take it day by day. It’s so much about remembering that it’s about the process and just enjoying every moment of being on set and getting to play this great character.

Is it easy to deal with the pressure?
People are either going to like the show or not. You can’t obsess about it too much or you’ll drive yourself crazy. Now that the show has become popular, we can breathe a little bit and I feel like the weight has lifted. That makes it much more fun to work on. I can relax a little, at least for a little while.

How much do you rely on your cast mates for support?
To be honest, this really is an ensemble cast. We all like being around each other and we all want to make the best show possible. We’re also really appreciative and glad to be here. For me, there are a lot of long hours involved in creating Revenge – but it certainly doesn’t feel like that because I’m incredibly happy. The show focuses on this one girl’s journey of revenge, but we’re all doing this together. We’re all in the grind together. Plus, there are so many other storylines explored as well, which makes it that much more interesting for everyone involved. They’ve all been wonderful.

What can you tell us about Emily’s feelings for Daniel Grayson at the start of Season One?
I think Emily struggles with this person that she’s become and, ultimately, that little girl that she longs to feel like again. It’s a major struggle, and at the end of the day she’s still a young woman who does have the potential to feel love. At the start of the season, she’s really shutting that part of herself off – but Daniel is not who she thought he was and she is torn.

In what way is Daniel different?
Emily imagined it would be much easier to infiltrate the family through this guy because she thought he was just another high-society boy. In fact, he turns out to be the opposite and he’s actually really good. That’s why she struggles with whether or not she has feelings for him, and whether she’s taking this too far with him. The lines are really going to blur between what she truly feels for him and how much she’s using him. She struggles with that, and also with her relationship with Jack. It’s a constant struggle for Emily.

Do you feel there are more questions to be answered about Emily?
Definitely. How many people were involved in the framing of her father and what else has she done? Where did she go for those eight years where she learned the art of revenge? What did she do? Was she in the military? Those are fun questions to answer – and I hope they get answered soon.

Do you believe in revenge?
If it’s justified, I suppose I believe in revenge – but I’m more into the idea of positivity and forgiveness. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of fun to play and to live all these feelings through the character, but she’s definitely not like me.

Why did you decide to sign up for another television show?
Every time I finish a show, I always say that I’m going to leave that part of the business alone for a while and tackle other things – but I’m always drawn to it. To be honest, I absolutely love doing television. It’s a huge attraction for me.

What is the attraction of TV?
I love building a character that hopefully has longevity; that I can take through a long journey. I love feeling connected to my characters in that way and TV really allows that. I feel like I’m constantly practicing my craft, but I also love the stability of it. I love this character. It was really important for me to choose something wisely because I know how long you can be connected to a show. This is the character that I know I will have so much fun with for a very long time.

Is there a specific genre of television show that you’d like to try next?
I’d love to try everything. I’m open to it all. I haven’t done comedy yet. Well, not much of it – but I think that would be fun to tackle. I’d also love to do a zombie movie. I’m obsessed with the zombie genre, so that’s definitely on the list.

You started your career as a ballet dancer. Why did you move to acting?
I always knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to pursue ballet as my career. I thought about it, but in order to be a ballerina, you have to love it so much because it becomes your life. When I started taking acting classes, it gave me a different sense of excitement and freedom and joy that I wasn’t getting from ballet, so it was an easy transition. Once I started working more steadily as an actress, I knew that part of my life was over. I was fine with it.

How do you stay fit and trim?
Pilates has been one of my favorite activities. I’m also outside all the time, so I love hiking and I love to do just about anything outside. The other day, someone told me about a big camping trip around New Zealand, which is supposed to be a really lovely journey. At some point, I’ll definitely make that happen, too. I just need to finish the next season of Revenge first. I can’t wait.

DVD Release Date: August 21, 2012

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Hollywood Classics Return to the Big Screen at Cinemark Theatres During August and September

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Cinemark Theatres announced that the “Fall Classics Series,” featuring six legendary Hollywood movies, will  take place in over 150 Cinemark theatres across the country.  All of these digitally restored movies are scheduled to play each Thursday, during the months of August and September, at two separate show times, 2 pm and 7pm.

“Cinemark’s Classic Film Series has proven to be a fan favorite for movie lovers of all ages,” states James Meredith, VP of Marketing & Communications for Cinemark. “Customers are taking advantage of this great opportunity to see some of Hollywood’s legendary films in crystal clear digital projection and incredible surround sound. Some of our locations will be featuring these titles on our Cinemark XD Extreme Digital Cinema screen!”

Cinemark has selected six titles that were visionary films at their time of release, and still stand as true “classics” in every sense of the word. The list of films and dates of their presentation are:

  • August 23            Jaws (1975)                                        Rated PG
  • August 30            High Noon (1952)                                Not Rated
  • September 6        Doctor Zhivago (1965)                          Rated PG-13
  • September 13      Chinatown (1974)                                 Rated R
  • September 20      The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)       Rated PG
  • September 27      The African Queen (1951)                      Not Rated

A full list of participating Cinemark locations, advance ticket purchases and show time information can be found at www.cinemark.com.

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Polls Open for Scholastic Student Vote: Kids across the Country Cast their Vote for the Next President

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Kids can vote in the 2012 Presidential Election through the Scholastic Student Vote. The vote, which is live now at www.scholastic.com/vote, is a longstanding tradition for Scholastic News® classroom magazines. The Scholastic Student Vote was launched during the 1940 Presidential election, and has continued every election year since then with the outcome reflecting that of the General Election in every contest but two (in 1948 when students chose Thomas E. Dewey over Harry S. Truman and in 1960 when more students voted for Richard M. Nixon than John F. Kennedy).

This year, kids will choose between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor and presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, to become the next President of the United States. In addition to the online vote, students who receive fall issues of Scholastic Classroom Magazines at school will have the option of casting their vote via paper ballot. The deadline to vote online is October 10th.

“The Scholastic Student Vote has a rich history and plays an important role in educating students in the United States about our nation’s democratic process,” said Suzanne McCabe, Editor-at-Large, Scholastic Classroom Magazines. “We’re excited to see who the students choose as their next President in this mock election, and hope that teachers will take this opportunity to teach an important civics lesson about why every eligible voter should exercise his or her right to vote.”

Before voting, kids can check out the Scholastic 2012 Election site. Launched in the early days of campaigning, the site houses news articles, free resources, games and interactive maps that can help kids better understand the electoral process. The site also features campaign coverage by the Scholastic News Kid Reporters, a team of more than 50 student journalists from across the country who report “news for kids, by kids.”  In addition to covering the candidates on the campaign trail, the reporters are examining the issues that matter most to kids   during this election. Coverage will continue through Election Day.

For more information on Classroom Magazines, visit the media room.

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Tablet Use on the Rise by Kids Ages 4-14.

Monday, August 13th, 2012

According to Kids and Consumer Electronics: 2012 Edition, the latest report from leading market research company, The NPD Group, when compared to 2011, portable and console video game (VG) systems continue to have the highest usage levels among kids ages 4-14, but media tablets experienced the highest increase in usage at 13 percent in 2012 vs. only 3 percent in 2011.

While usage of more sophisticated devices such as computers and VG devices tend to increase as kids get older, tablet usage is highest among younger children, which highlights how important it is for manufacturers to make their devices easy to use.

According to the report, households with kids ages 4 – 14 own an average of 10 different devices, with kids using an average of five of those devices.

Televisions, computers and cell/smartphones continued to maintain the highest household ownership. Household ownership of console and portable VG systems, media tablets, and digital video cameras experienced the most significant increases.

Portable VG systems are the most popular devices personally owned by kids ages 4-14, with six years of age being the average age of adoption; this is slightly younger than 2011 where the average age was 6.4.

“Kids are using tablets to game, watch movies and TV shows, read books and listen to music-even occasionally for taking pictures- so they have embraced the utility of these devices quite rapidly,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president, industry analysis, The NPD Group. “Older kids also use the tablets for social media and communication, which squarely places these devices at the center for discovery and evangelism of new services and applications, as well as for brands and entertainment of all sorts.”

For more information, go to NPD Group.

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