As the final credits rolled on an episode of Rupert recently, I realized with a start that the culprit who had tuned in the children’s channel had left for summer day camp, and I was supposed to be at the office. Once again, I had been inexorably sucked into the vortex of morning cartoons, oblivious to all else. Later, perusing the copy for our Fall TV report, I became alarmed that wrenching myself away from the new shows as I head into Fall TV Hibernation Mode may be well nigh impossible.
While the summer had much to offer on the movie front, notably Tarzan and Muppets From Space (who knew I would ogle Pepe the King Prawn merchandise), it’s good to be past the TV drought and onto the new season, which promises exponential diversity. Returning series still seem strong, and there’s a mother lode of original and highly creative-not to mention wonderfully quirky-new shows to try out, with a particular emphasis on addressing every niche of the youth market. Innovative animation techniques prevail in this year’s batch of shiny new shows, from the startling cut-outs of Fox Family’s Angela Anaconda, to the photographic backgrounds of Cartoon’s Courage the Cowardly Dog, to the dark CGI/cel hybrid look of Fox Kids’ Spider-Man Unlimited.
This year also sees shifts in emphasis as the nets refine their demographic positioning. Fox Kids is targeting boys even more heavily than last year, Kids’ WB! goes wider in a bid to appeal to more girls, Disney continues to intensify its girl focus, and CBS is reaching up for boys ages seven to 11.
When it comes to network stars, Pokémon continues to be a series to watch, both as the leader on Kids’ WB! and as the inspiration for an anime onslaught. Marketing machines are also putting extra muscle behind newbies such as Fox Kids’ Xyber 9, Nick’s Rocket Power, Disney’s Sabrina the Animated Series, CBS’s Rescue Heroes and Cartoon’s Mike, Lu & Og.
The battle has begun-may the best shows win.
One thing that has emerged is an earlier confidence in the merchandising strength of new shows. Some are moving faster on licensing programs than has historically been the case, and, albeit still cautiously, producers in most markets are hedging towards betting more on the merchandising potential. Heck, in our MIPCOM Jr. report this issue, there’s a story on the BBC sourcing and developing its own merchandise for debuting series Tweenies (see ‘BBC plunges into licensing with both feet,’ page 54).
This heightened activity leads to an explanation of a change in KidScreen this issue. The Retail section has been desegregated. If you are one of our North American retail subscribers and are wondering where the KidScreen Retail wrap-around section of your magazine has gone, flip to page 42. The retail coverage will now appear as a regular section within the magazine each issue, and will be delivered to all subscribers, including our international circulation. The expansion of retail coverage to include the international scene comes at a fortuitous time, just as the global licensing biz seems to be kicking it up a notch at the consumer level (despite kid show merch still being somewhat of a covert operation in France).
Readers interested in what’s happening at retail will also find news in the In Stores section of our new sister publication TeenScreen, which debuts this month. Of course, the stand-alone quarterly also covers film, TV, music, licensing, advertising, the shifting tides of bust sizes in new media offerings, etc.
On the topic of jobs well done, change continues to be afoot; Jocelyn Longworth has been promoted to associate editor of KidScreen and TeenScreen, and Duncan Hood has taken the reins as special reports editor for KidScreen.