Bappy Hirthday Dr. Seuss!


drseuss

No that’s not a typo, someone at Wired.com came up with the title before I got around to post this. I happened to notice Google had a beautiful tribute logo this morning, and discovered that today would be the 105th birthday of the great children’s author, Dr. Seuss. You can find out all about him on Wikipedia or the link above, but here I want to share what I think is so special about this incredibly unique wordsmith.

To me, wordplay is one of the most intelligent, yet difficult forms of humor to perfect, and Dr. Suess was not only a master of it, but he was able to share his love of words with the youngest of children in a melange of equal parts charm and absurdity. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can remember reading Dr. Seuss’ books aloud, repeating the outlandish words and letting every rhyme roll off the tongue. As adults, there’s something inspiring about the boldness of his experimentation that anyone working creatively should consider. Just because something doesn’t immediately make sense, that doesn’t mean it won’t work, surely?

As I sit and think, the only comparable author with a gift for moulding language, is Roald Dahl. Hopefully when his birthday comes around in September, I’ll be first with a snappy blog title!


Rating the ratings


In case you haven’t read my About section yet, something you should know about me is I originally grew up and worked in London before moving to America last year.

I spent a lot of time in the States in the past, but it’s never quite the same as living in a new place. I don’t yet feel the need to write a Bill Bryson-esque memoir of all the amusing cultural nuances I’ve encountered since living here, but occasionally instances may occur that are relevant in this blog. This explains the odd mix of phrases or terminology I employ – so forgive me if I’m getting in a two and eight here, I’m just covering my bases.

The subject of cultural differences is what brings me to the core of this post, namely ratings of the television kind. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say this – in London I never felt pressured into chasing audience figures for the various shows or websites I worked on. I’m not saying they weren’t important – as part of the bigger picture, they were certainly a major factor, but at that stage of my career I placed most of my focus on delivering content. Combining this with the unique editorial remit of the BBC, namely it being a public service broadcaster, success can’t be judged purely on audience figures, and certainly not on ad revenue.

On the star-spangled side of the pond, however, the situation is completely different. I’m in a world of “prime time” and “syndication” now, and it fascinates me. Not only do I find myself investigating viewing figures more often, but I have begun to think more seriously about the marketability of concepts I plan to pitch. Fear not, I’ve seen Death to Smoochy, and I don’t want to go down the soulless corporate road of no return – I’m purely being realistic, and growing more because of it.

This brings me to the second difference being in the U.S. brings – competition. There’s a lot more of it! Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network to name a few, are formidable competition in the U.K. , but they’re center stage here and the numbers involved, both financially and audience-wise are considerably higher.

On this note, Cartoon Network and the newly-launched Disney XD threw their all into capturing young male audiences last week. Both channels announced positive figures. Cartoon Network announced up to a 29% rise in viewing figures compared to the same time last year, but Disney XD had a record rating of 6.5 million viewers on launch day. This was countered by Cartoon Network holding the number one prime time slot for boys aged 6-11, and so it goes on.

There are obviously a lot of numbers being thrown around here, and a great deal to take in, but it’s valuable information that deserves being discussed. I’ll close for now, but my parting question to everyone is, how much awareness do you have of audience figures and how important are they to the project or concept you’re working on?


Insert token Oscar-related post here


Congratulations to Andrew Stanton for winning the Animated Feature award last night for Wall E.
Will Disney Pixar’s upcoming flick, Up, win next year too or will Dreamworks reign supreme with Monsters Vs. Aliens?


How time flies


Eric and I have been putting together content for this site for a few weeks now, and we’re both amazed by how things have flowed. I’ve surprised myself, both in a good and not-so-good way, and Eric is impressed that I’ve not yet written any “top 10” lists. I am working on it though.

I’ve just finished tightening up the range of Subject Tabs that I use, both to make this place easier to navigate, but more importantly to better focus on the kinds of things I want to use Imaginary Eric for. Over the past few days I’ve been chewing over the question, who am I aiming this site at? Is it people in the kids media industry? What about parents? Maybe just anyone with a casual interest in how children consume media? All of the above? I haven’t found the answer yet, but it’s early days.

Another piece of the wider puzzle I’ve started working on is my Twitter account. This is special for two reasons. Firstly, I intend to use it to fire up a combination of daily creative observation and random thoughts that don’t warrant a full-blown blog post. Secondly, I’m designing a hopefully-cool background image, which contains a range of characters and concepts from brands I’ve pitched in the past or currently have in development. This will be my first piece of personal design since launching Imaginary Eric and is intended as an experiment to determine if the look and feel I’m thinking of would work well as a background style here too.


Disney XD blasts off!


If you’ve spent some time working in the entertainment biz, chances are you’ve done some brainstorming, hopefully guided by audience research. Many teams begin optimistically, using phrases like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” or “What we really need to include is…” but then realities like budget constraints and impending deadlines begin to loom and parts of the bigger picture start fading away.
Disney XD Website
Disney do things differently. They start with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” but then finish on it too. Case in point, the newly launched Disney XD – a website and cable channel aimed at that ever-elusive creature, the tween male.

Replacing Toon Disney, this newly launched boy brand has me in cross-platform heaven. On top of the cable channel, they’ve got the token MySpace and Facebook pages, but even better, there’s downloadable content on both iTunes and Xbox Live, the latter being the icing on the cake for me. A quick look around my living room shows the only electronic product Disney XD isn’t available to me is the clock on the wall – that’s impressive.

Before I come across as a total fanboy, let’s talk about some actual content. For starters, you better be into skateboards and secret agents – they’re everywhere on the site. I’m still on the fence over some of the program lineup, particularly flagship show, Aaron Stone. Sure, the whole “schoolboy super-spy” shtick has been done before with Alex Rider and Young Bond, but Canadian production, Aaron Stone seems a little too similar to CBBC’s M.I. High for my liking. There’s got to be a new angle for this kind if thing?

Between the likes of Hannah Montana and the Jo-Bro’s Disney has the girl’s market at this age wrapped up. I’m curious to see if the same thing happens with the male audience here. Right now I’m questioning some of the program output, but Disney’s approach to saturating every content medium, even at this early stage, leaves me awestruck.


The Origin of Muppet Species


muppet_origin

What kind of magic brings together a banjo-playing frog, a pig that defined the term, “Media Darling” when Paris Hilton was still just a hotel in France, and a whole world of other manic, unusual characters? The picture above is a clue, but I’m talking about the Muppets of course.

I have a confession to make. I never quite “got” the Muppets. There was so much going on, and so many characters, it was just too much for me to take in. Now I’m older I have a much greater appreciation for what Jim Henson created, and this article by Stacy Conradt reveals the most intriguing stories behind some of his most beloved characters.

What excites me the most from this series of tales is the seemingly random way all of Henson’s previous work came together. Muppet aficionado’s might prove me wrong, but my impression is there was never an initial plan to create a show where a Scandinavian culinary expert shares screen time with a cannon-crazed blue alien or a dog that plays the piano – through trial and experimentation, previous creations were melded into a rich, diverse world that audiences around the world loved.

This is exactly what I am aiming to do myself, and it’s encouraging to think that somewhere in all of the shows I’ve pitched, doodles I’ve drawn, and characters I’ve written about, there might be a hidden formula lurking around that draws on the very best ideas I have merged into one.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to enjoying my Muppet renaissance.


SpongeBob hits the iPhone


iSpongeBob

Nickelodeon have announced they are releasing a string of iPhone apps based on popular characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and iCarly. If you’re anything like me, I know what you’re thinking – how many kids own iPhones? Cue wavy dream sequence of an eight year old boy carrying a man bag, with white headphones dangling from the top of his designer T-shirt from Threadless… eek!

Wake up, it’s just a dream – for now. There may not be too many iPhone’s appearing in schoolyards yet, but many parents are certain to use these casual games to occupy their little ones on road trips and such like. Case in point, if you pull up behind any kind of car, van or tank with television screens in the back of it, nine times out of ten, SpongeBob is the cartoon that’s being watched. iPhone games are surely a natural progression of this trend.

Competition is set to be expectedly fierce. Disney Interactive have so far launched a couple of iPhone games, with mixed reviews, however there are some cool third party apps available that allow visitors to Disney parks to find their way around and get the most of their visit. As far as gaming is concerned, the iPhone has a lot of functional similarities with the Nintendo DS, so even though direct ports might not be possible, lessons could definitely be learned in terms of playability and user interaction. I’m looking forward to see what comes next.


On the subject of kid’s game shows…


gameshow

Here’s something with a little transatlantic flavor. First, the news. BBC Scotland has just had a new children’s game show commissioned for CBBC. TMi hosts, Sam and Mark will be hosting the series that, “Pits two families against each other in a variety of exciting and captivating tasks which test players’ ability to pass on information.” More info as it happens.

This news brought a lightning bolt of realization to me – shazam! Growing up mostly in England, I can remember a plethora of classic children’s game shows – Philip Schofield hosting The Movie Game, Dave Benson Philips on Get Your Own Back, and the inimitable Tregard – dungeon master of Knightmare. Even these days, British kids are entertained by game shows like Hider in the House and Beat the Boss.

But where are the children’s gameshows in the United States?

Unless I’m unaware of some pretty conclusive audience research, it seems there is no demand for an entire genre of entertainment shows that offer a rock solid format and a goldmine of sponsorship and prize product placement opportunities.

Maybe I’m missing something here. I’m still rapidly absorbing information about all aspects of the children’s television networks here in the States. If anyone has info that can fill in any gaps on the subject, I would love to be enlightened.


The 2009 Annie’s


annies2009

Hollywood hosted the 36th Annual Annie Awards on Friday – the Academy Awards of the animation industry… unless you’re counting the actual Academy Awards that is. Hmmm. Anyway, it’s still an incredibly prestigious award, and this year Kung Fu Panda reigned victorious, beating stiff competition from the likes of Wall E and Bolt.

Don’t get me wrong, KFP checks all the boxes in terms of a delightful family flick, but I would have liked to see Wall E at least get some recognition, based primarily on the fact that mainstream audiences haven’t been treated to something so unique and visually rich in a long time. Pixar, who bare in mind have won the Best Feature award for four of the past five years, left empty handed this time, however what they created in Wall E was both poignant and thought-provoking. That being said, I’ve heard many people say it lacked the charm of previous Pixar creations, and a theme to subtle for young viewers to fully grasp.

Kung Fu Panda is still a highly deserving winner, and now what I’m intrigued to see develop is Director, John Stevenson’s live action debut with a new Masters of the Universe film. Just like Transformers and the soon to be released G.I. Joe movie, He-Man and Co. were childhood-defining brands of mine, and I’m excited to see what happens. Of course that’s what Warner Bros. and Paramount are counting on, aren’t they?


New Tron game – Yay! Job losses – Boo!


Variety video games reporter, Ben Fritz has written a post about Disney Interactive starting to create a new Tron game, at the same time as laying off staff and generally tightening its belt.

I left my two cents in a comment.

There goes my hope of a Pete’s Dragon game being released anytime soon 🙁


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Copyright © 2016 Shane Lindley