This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the kid-serenading Canadian musical trio Sharon, Lois & Bram. But far from resting on their laurels, the three have a new television show, Skinnamarink TV, airing on The Learning Channel (TLC) in the U.S. and Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Skinnamarink TV, which premiered last October, takes its name from the trio’s trademark song, ‘Skinnamarinky-dinky-dink, Skinnamarinky-doo.’ Each episode of the half-hour musical-comedy show for preschoolers is comprised of five or six mini-programs inspired by a typical television channel lineup-a cooking show, an exercise show, sitcoms and newscasts-all merged with Sharon, Lois & Bram’s interpretations of enduring music and original songs. Both TLC and CBC recently gave the go-ahead for another 26 episodes.
The three, who launched their career together in 1978 with the album One Elephant Went Out to Play, went on to record a total of 16 albums, which have sold over three million copies worldwide. In 1983, after a number of stand-alone TV specials, they hit the airwaves with their musical television series The Elephant Show. The series had a five-year run on Nickelodeon, as well as multiyear runs on CBC, YTV, TVO and other Canadian public broacasters.
‘The basic underlying impulse of what we do hasn’t changed,’ says the trio’s Bram Morrison of their two-decade-long career. ‘Our main thrust has always been to delight and entertain.’
The trio’s entertainment may have remained appealingly consistent over the years, yet the business of Sharon, Lois & Bram and Skinnamarink TV is becoming increasingly complex. ‘Ancillary products and licensing have to be part of the mix,’ says the group’s co-manager, Steve McNie. ‘Our approach to licensing through Skinnamarink TV is going to be far more structured and inclusive.’
North American licensing for Skinnamarink TV is handled by Craftsman & Scribes. A master license for Canada has been granted to Motion International, while discussions are under way for several categories with potential U.S. licensees. Stephen Hill, Craftsman & Scribes’ executive vice president of licensing and merchandising, explains that licensing for Skinnamarink TV will follow a niche strategy. ‘We [want to] really focus on what Sharon, Lois & Bram are good at-music.’
Skinnamarink TV was created by Twist Productions for Skinnamarink Entertainment, in association with Craftsman & Scribes Creative Workshop, The Learning Channel and the CBC.
.dMarch 1, 1998
.hGMTV adapts for the competition
LONDON: U.K. breakfast time broadcaster GMTV, which is 25 percent owned by Disney, has unveiled a raft of changes to its weekend schedule designed to sharpen up its offering to four- to nine-year-olds.
Although GMTV currently attracts 39 percent of the four- to 15-year-old market on Saturday mornings, increased competition from the BBC, cable and satellite has encouraged it to pump new money into producing a live magazine format.
GMTV sales and marketing controller Mike Gull says: ‘Currently, we produce the show in batches of four or six. But from March 14, we will be live every Saturday morning and ‘as live’ on Sundays. This will allow us to conduct phone-ins, offer more relevant prizes and invite more guests onto the show. It allows us to adapt to the competition more quickly.’
In a presentation to the U.S. toy trade in New York last month, GMTV also unveiled a raft of new animation. For younger children, it will draw on its links to Disney by scheduling series such as Jungle Cubs, The Little Mermaid and Timon & Pumbaa. It will also continue with preschool strands, such as Barney & Friends and Bananas in Pyjamas.
More significantly, says Gull, GMTV will be aiming to attract a more balanced audience of four- to nine-year-olds with animated shows, such as Pepper Ann and Recess. Although, GMTV has had ratings success with Saban output, the audience has been heavily biased towards boys. The strategic switch is perhaps also an indication of how competitive alignments in the U.K. are being redrawn to reflect the competition of Disney and Fox and Saban in the U.S.
The basic format of the new GMTV morning show will draw on the experience of the ABC network in the U.S., which has gone from being an also-ran to market leader with the magazine show Disney’s One Saturday Morning.
On a commercial front, Gull says that sponsorship of the morning slots will be available for the first time. Spot advertisers will also be available for the first time. In addition, spot advertisers be able to target four- to nine-year-old boys and girls separately for the first time.
ï News Brief
StarToons looks to India
Homewood, Illinois-based StarToons has merged with Heart Studios of India to form StarToons International LLC. The new partnership will enable StarToons to become a full-service animation facility by creating an overseas production arm to handle the cleanup, ink and painting work on projects that would otherwise be shipped to China or Korea for completion. With Heart Studios on board as a partner, StarToons hopes to become a major supplier of animated entertainment to India’s 900 million citizens.